Dr. Subramanian Swamy, born 15 September 1939, is a well-known Indian politician and economist who serves as a member of the Rajya Sabha. Five time parliamentarian, two-time Union Minister Subramanian Swamy can be introduced as a beloved teacher, world-known economist, brilliant mathematician, shrewd politician, born rebel, crusader, Emergency-era hero, multilingual, dog lover, a staunch Hindu was born into a family of intellectuals and much more. Not one to let go a fight and not one who forgets easily, forgives with big heart when apologized, survivor and loner, Swamy has bounced back to cast an imprint on contemporary history that few individuals in India can lay claim to. Usually referred as a one man army, Swamy is today one the most revered politicians in Indian history after Independence. He has written on foreign affairs of India dealing largely with China, Pakistan and Israel. He is also called as Chanakya of Indian Politics in Kaliyuga by his followers.
His Father, Sitaram Subramanian was a Well Known Mathematician and was at one time director of the Central Statistical Institute. Swamy graduated from the prestigious Hindu College in B.A. (Hon.) in Mathematics, finishing 3rd in the Delhi University. Did his Post Graduation in Indian Statistical Institute (ISI), Kolkata.
Fearless fighter from start:
When Swamy enrolled for post-graduation, Indian Statistical institute was headed by PC Mahalanobis who happened to be a professional rival of Swamy’s father. So when Mahalanobis learnt about Swamy, the latter began to get lower grades. The director was constantly failing him in examinations despite him being a sharp student.
Mahalanobis was the brain behind setting up of the Planning Commission and very close confident of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. He was the kind of person that no one (at least not someone studying at his institute) would want to develop animosity with. Swamy’s paper ‘Notes on Fractile Graphical Analysis’ published in Econometrica, 1963 had questioned a Mahalanobis statistical analysis method as not being original but only a differentiated form of an older equation, was an early expression of the rebel that Swamy is, a trait that has found expression both as an intellectual and as a politician. The young mathematician not only avenged his loss, but also gained an offer from the prestigious Harvard University as a spin-off for his doggedness.
Swamy was recommended to Harvard:
Having demonstrated his ability for research, Hendrik S Houthakker, the American economist who was the referee for the paper published in Econometrica, recommended Swamy’s admission to Harvard. Backed by a full Rockefeller scholarship, in two and a half years, Swamy at the age of 24 completed his PhD in 1964 in Economics under Nobel Laureate Simon Kuznets. And by the age of 27 he was a teacher at Harvard! Swamy co-authored a paper on theory of index numbers with Paul Samuelson (published in 1974) who was the 1st American Who Won Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. Because he proposed to deprive Indian Muslims from voting unless they acknowledge belonging to a Hindu ancestry, Harvard University dropped his two summer economics courses taught by Swami from its curriculum.
Expert on the Chinese Economy:
In 1975, Swamy wrote a book titled “Economic Growth in China and India, 1952–70: A Comparative Appraisal”. He learnt Chinese/Mandarin language in just 3 months when someone challenged him to learn this tough-language-to-learn in a year. Till today, Swamy is considered an authority on the Chinese economy and especially comparative analysis of Indian and China.
Made it Possible for Indians to Access the Kailash Mansarovar:
Subramanian Swamy played an important role in making it possible for people of Hindu faith in India to access the Kailash Mansarovar religious pilgrimage route. To make it happen, he had met Deng Xiaoping China’s top authority of the time (April 1981) and the pilgrimage route was re-opened.
Invited by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen to Join Delhi School of Economics:
Invited by Amartya Sen to join Delhi School of Economics (DSE) but offered only a reader’s chair instead of full professorial chair on Chinese studies, because of his pro-market views. As an advocate of free markets economy, much before Manmohan Singh’s 1991 budget made it fashionable, Swamy’s market friendly views after moving from Harvard to Delhi School of Economics in 1968 were simply too radical and not palatable with Indira Gandhi’s socialist ‘Garibi Hatao’ India slogans.
Moved to IIT Delhi in 1969:
Swamy taught economics to students at the IIT. He would often meet students at the hostels and discuss political and international views. He suggested that India ought to do away with Five Year Plans and stop relying on foreign aid. According to him, it was possible to achieve 10% growth.
Establishment Goes After Swamy:
Indira, one of India’s most powerful prime ministers, in a 1970 budget debate dismissed Swamy as a “Santa Claus with unrealistic ideas.” Swamy continued with his work nonetheless and it started the power centres to go crazy against him. The hostility cost him his IIT job from where he and his wife were unceremoniously sacked in December 1972. Swamy in 1973 sued the prestigious institute for wrongful dismissal. He won the suit in 1991 and to prove his point, he joined only for a day before resigning. This proves again his fighting spirit against injustice.
Political Inning begins in 1974:
With a young wife, a new born daughter and no job, Swamy was contemplating heading back to America when fate intervened and launched him into politics. A phone call by Jan Sangh stalwart Nanaji Deshmukh picking Swamy to represent the party in the Rajya Sabha had him elected to parliament in 1974.
In November 1978, Swamy was member of the Group of Eminent persons called to Geneva to prepare a report of the United Nations (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD)) on Economic Co-operation between Developing countries (ECDC).
Heroics during the Emergency Days:
Independence and the gross human tragedy that unfolded after partition, was something that a young Swamy saw up close. He was witness to the partition survivors’ daily struggle taking place just outside the house at Turkman Gate, Delhi. During India’s emergency days under the rule of Indira Gandhi, when almost every leader, whom the state (read Indira Gandhi) considered a threat for its existence, was put forcibly in jail or house arrest. The emergency (1975-77) made a political hero out of him. During Emergency, arrest warrants were issued against ministers including Swamy. Swamy defied and evaded arrest warrants for the entire 19 month period. He managed to escape from India and flew to Colombo and onward to USA. His most daring act during emergency was coming into India from America when arrest orders were out in his name, and all national airports were intimated to arrest Swamy on sight, , breaking through security cordons of parliament, attending a Lok Sabha session on 10th August 1976, took everyone by surprise in the House and once again, donning a Sardar (Sikh), he managed to flee India without getting trapped by security forces. This tells a lot about the courage this man had.
Founding Member of the Party that Won Elections after Emergency:
Swamy was one of the founding members of the Janata Party that swept the Indira Gandhi emergency regime out of power in 1977. Though the party splintered but Swamy stuck on and was its president since 1990 till the party was merged with BJP in 11 August, 2013.
Swamy’s Blueprint – A Guiding Light for Manmohan Singh in Early 1990s:
Swamy was a member of Planning Commission during the period of 1990-91. As Union Minister of Commerce and Law during Chandra Shekhar’s brief term as Prime Minister in 1990-91, Swamy laid the foundations of economic reforms in India by creating a blue print. The same blue print was later picked up by finance minister Manmohan Singh under Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao to deliver the country of Nehruvian socialism.
Given a Cabinet Rank When in Opposition:
Swamy also simplified trade procedures and formulated a new export strategy which became the forerunner of trade reform adopted subsequently. Being president of Janta Party and an opposition leader, Swamy has the distinction of being handed out a cabinet rank by the ruling party. Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao in 1994 appointed Swamy as Chairman of the Commission on Labor Standards and International Trade with a cabinet rank.
An Academician Turned Lawyer:
Contrary to what most Indians believe, Swamy is a mathematician by education. It was the turn of events in his life that turned him to politics and law. He has also served as chairman of the Board of Governors of the SCMS Group of Educational Institutions in Kerala.
There was this guy at IIT Delhi who was the topper of his batch and was placed at ITC Kolkata, considered to be a very prestigious offer in those days, but surprisingly he didn’t want to join it. He then went to Swamy and told him about this. He then mentioned to Swamy that he wanted to pursue MBA from Harvard, rather than do the job. Swamy then encouraged him to get on with MBA. Swami called his friends at Harvard and recommended him for the MBA program. The guy went on to become the first non-American CEO of a global firm. Yes, the firm was McKinsey. The boy was, Mr. Rajat Gupta, IIT JEE AIR-15.
Played a Crucial Role in Exposing 2G Scam:
Swamy writing to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2008 seeking permission to prosecute A Raja over illegal allotment of mobile spectrum bands unraveled the colossal 2G Scam. He moved to the Supreme Court after the government didn’t heed him and this finally led to the arrest of former telecom minister and DMK leader A Raja for the 2G spectrum scam during UPA regime which caused a loss of Rs. 1.76 lakh crore to the national exchequer, according to a CAG report.
The National Herald case:
Swamy filed a case in Jan 2013 against Sonia and Rahul Gandhi accusing them of cheating and misappropriation of funds in acquiring ownership of now-defunct English daily National Herald. Indian National Congress party president Sonia Gandhi, and party VP Rahul Gandhi, Moti Lal Vohra and Oscar Fernandez are facing the trial. Swamy accused the Gandhis of setting up another company named Young India Company to pay the debt using Congress’ party funds. Currently Sonia and Rahul Gandhi are out on bail and facing the trail in the court.
Fighting to bring the black money back in India:
Swamy has founded “Action Committee Against Corruption in India (ACACI)” with former RSS ideologue K.N. Govindacharya and S. Gurumurthy. After spending many years fighting to get the Indian black money stashed away in Swiss banks back into the country, ACACI has the specific agenda of fighting against corruption in high places and getting the black money back.
Relation with Gandhi family:
- Swamy is a massive fan of Rajiv Gandhi since he became Prime Minister and that affection didn’t end after his assassination till today.
- Swamy’s first head-but with Sonia Gandhi happened long before she entered politics. Indira Gandhi was then the prime minister and on a major anti-corruption crusade. Swamy cornered Indira Gandhi in Parliament providing documentary evidence that Sonia, then just the elder daughter-in-law, was at the time functioning as a benami insurance agent for Oriental Fire and General Insurance Company, and had in fact given her office address as 1, Safdarjung Road (the prime minister’s official residence). Indira Gandhi was forced to get Sonia to give up that ‘employment’.
- When A B Vajpayee-led coalition NDA goverment collapsed where Swamy was instrumental, he credited this victory to three great lady politicians Sonia Gandhi, J Jayalalitha and Mayawati describing them as Lakshmi, Saraswati and Durga. It is believed that Swamy was angered for not being given Finance Minister post and lead to topple Vajpayee Government with the support of opposition Congress and NDS constituents Jayalalitha and Mayawati! (Swamy also blamed Vajpayee for denying him the finance minister post in the Morarji Desai government.)
- He alleges that the Bofors kickbacks went to Sonia Gandhi’s family not to Rajiv. In 2011 he filed a 206-page petition with Manmohan Singh seeking permission to prosecute Sonia Gandhi.
- In 2004, when Congress-led UPA was voted to power, Sonia Gandhi had put forward her name to the then President APJ Abdul Kalam for prime ministership. But according to Swamy, it was his letter to the President that made Kalam to persuade Sonia to not make her a Prime Minister. However, Kalam had refuted Swamy’s claim.
- Swamy filed a court case claiming that Sonia Gandhi made a false affidavit that she had a diploma from Cambridge University whereas she learnt English from a “teaching shop” called Lennox School (now defunct) in Cambridge town. He had a letter from Cambridge University saying there was not such student ever studied. When Sonia admitted the spelling mistake, the high court justice asked Swamy to be generous, be lion hearted and leave the matter. So after that subsequently Sonia dropped those things from her affidavit.
- Swamy allegs that Sonia Gandhi has connection with KGB (Russian intelligence agency). He further claims that Rajiv Gandhi & his family were a regular recipient of KGB money & they are paid through company setup by a family. Its all written in a book by Dr. Yevgenia Albats (the noted Russian scholar and journalist, and was a member of the KGB Commission set up by President Yeltsin in August 1991.)
- He is famous for his trademark broadsides against the Nehru-Gandhi parivar. Swamy claims that Sonia Gandhi received $2 billion according to the respected Swiss magazine, Schweitzer Illustrate [November 1991 issue]. Rajiv Gandhi had about $2 billion in numbered Swiss bank accounts, which Sonia inherited upon his assassination.
- Swamy has accused Sonia Gandhi of antique smuggling. He claims that Indian temple sculpture of gods and goddesses, antiques, pichwai paintings, shatoosh shawls, coins, and many other items were transported to Italy to be first displayed in two shops owned by her sister [i.e., Anuskha alias Alessandra]. These shops located in blue-collar areas of Rivolta [shop name: Etnica] and Orbassano [shop name: Ganpati] did little business because which blue collar Italian wants Indian antiques? The shops were to make false bills, and thereafter these treasures were taken to London for auction by Sotheby’s and Christies. Some of this ill-gotten money from auction went into Rahul Gandhi’s National Westminster Bank and Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank, London accounts, but most of it found it’s way into the Gandhi family account in the Bank of America in Cayman Islands.
- When Swamy was asked for motives behind complaint against the Gandhis in the National Herald case, he told that his goal is not only to eliminate corruption but instill courage in ordinary citizen and fear in the high and mighty
Security of EVMs (Electronic Voting Machines):
In January 2012, Swamy filed a PIL questioning the security of EVMs. While the case was earlier dismissed in the High Court, sometime in 2013 there was a news item (it was a probably report of a Supreme Court judgement) admitting that EVMs are not tamper-proof.
Fan following aborad:
Swamy applauds overseas Indians particularly in USA for a major role in restoration of democracy during the period of emergency. Swamy is founder of many organisations like ‘Friends of India International’ which were formed to gather overseas Indians and their support for well fare of India. NRIs across the world do write to him and invite him. He has big followings across the world and hold many seminars in and outside India. He is one of the most respected speakers across the globe. He has worked with Sikh Awareness Society UK to create awareness about Love Jihad and is highly respected among Sikh community in the UK & Canada for his contribution to the society. ‘Virat Hindu Sanghatan’, established by Dr. Swamy, works in community life through its charitable work across the globe.
Communal or Secular:
While studying at Harvard, Swamy met Roxna, an Indian lady of Parsi ethnicity who was studying PhD in mathematics at Harvard. They were married in in June 1966. Shortly afterwards, Roxna abandoned mathematics for law and became an advocate at the Supreme Court of India. Swamys have two daughters. The elder daughter, Gitanjali Sarma, is the wife of Sanjay Sarma, a professor at MIT who is the son of E.A.S Sarma, a retired IAS officer and former secretary to the government of India. The younger daughter, Suhasini Haider, is a print and television journalist married to Nadeem Haider, the son of former Indian foreign secretary Salman Haider.
Swamy is called by many as merchant of hate or Hindu-Muslim devide. People who make such claims completely ignore that one of his son-in-law is Muslim, his brother-in-law is Jewish, his sister-in-law Christian and his wife Parsi. A true Hindu and true secular Swamy! Do you know any such person in Indian Politics? For all his brilliance, which most admit instantly, Swamy is painted in a negative light, as a destroyer rather than a builder.
Timeline History of Subramanian Swamy:
- 1939: Born to Sitaram Subramanian, a civil servant, in Chennai
- 1956: Doesn’t join St Stephen’s “because I felt like a foreigner there”
- 1964: PhD in Economics at Harvard under Nobel Laureate Simon Kuznets. Authors paper with Paul A. Samuelson.
- 1966: Marries Roxna Kapadia
- 1969: Invited by Amartya Sen to join Delhi School of Economics (DSE) but offered only a reader’s chair instead of full professorial chair on Chinese studies, because of his pro-market views. Joins IIT-Delhi as economics professor.
- 1970: During Parliament debate on budget, Indira Gandhi calls him “Santa Claus with unrealistic ideas” (for his claims that 10 per cent growth rates, agricultural exports and a bigger defence budget were possible)
- 1972: Swamy and wife both sacked from IIT; wins court case in 1991
- 1975: Flees to US during Emergency (via Chennai and Sri Lanka) disguised as a Sikh. Joins Harvard as visiting professor.
- 1976: Stuns Rajya Sabha by reappearing briefly: “I have a point of order. There is no obituary reference for democracy. It has also died.” Flees again.
- 1977: Elected to Lok Sabha. Morarji Desai proposes his name as finance minister, which is vetoed by A.B. Vajpayee.
- 1980: Re-elected to Lok Sabha. Persuades Deng Xiaoping to open Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet to Hindu pilgrims from India a year later.
- 1990-91: Cabinet minister for commerce, law and justice in Chandra Shekhar government.
- 1994-96: Chairman with cabinet minister rank of labour and trade mission during PVN era
- 1998: Re-elected to 12th Lok Sabha from Madurai, Tamil Nadu (3rd term)
- 1999: Loses Lok Sabha elections
- 2004: Forms Rashtriya Swabhiman Manch
- 2008: Writes first of five letters to Manmohan Singh seeking permission to prosecute A. Raja in 2G scam
- 2011: Filed 206-page-long petition with Singh seeking permission to prosecute Sonia Gandhi2011: Harvard removes his course after a controversial article in DNA advocating disenfranchising Muslims.
- Jan 2012: SC accepts Swamy’s plea against PMO in 2G case
- Feb 2012: SC cancels 122 2G licences of telecom companies on the petition filed by the CPIL and Swamy/ Trial court dismisses plea to make P. Chidambaram a co-accused in 2G scam.
Swamy’s Pet Themes:
- China: Chinese economy scholar. Negotiated with Chinese govt to allow Indian pilgrims to visit Kailash Mansarovar.
- Israel: Early advocate of strong ties with Israel. Played key role in India establishing diplomatic relationship.
- LTTE: Viewed Tamil Tigers striving for separate Eelam in Sri Lanka as part of problem, not solution. Wants LTTE ban to stay.
- Sethu: Opposed to Indo-Lanka link project. Says it hurts sentiments of those who believe Rama walked the strip.
- EVMs: Believes Congress and UPA are winning elections only because electronic voting machines are being rigged.
- Income Tax: Has consistently argued that personal income tax should be scrapped, saying it generates black money.
Subramanian Swamy is most famous as a fearless political and a crusader against black money and corruption. Swamy is surely a man of substance whose achievements are of a somewhat different nature than others.
Read more: In Conversation With Subramanian Swamy
Update: More than 11,000 readers appreciated the blog and I pleased with satisfaction when Dr. Swamy’s attention was brought to this blog and he appreciated by re-tweeting it.