- RBI chief has worked tirelessly to restore relations with government
- The two sides no longer spar in public, say finance ministry officials
- Central bank paid a record $24 billion to government coffers in August
Soon after taking over as RBI governor almost a year ago, Shaktikanta Das decorated his 18th floor office overlooking the Arabian Sea with two statues of Lord Jagannath, a form of the Hindu god Vishnu.
Revered in Mr Das’s native Odisha state, Jagannath is depicted with round, lidless eyes that are always watching over the welfare of devotees. It’s an appropriate adornment.
Mr Das, overseeing what was until recently the world’s fastest-growing major economy, has worked tirelessly to restore relations with the government after a bitter public spat led his predecessor Urjit Patel to quit. Colleagues say Mr Das usually tucks papers under his arms at the end of the work day to continue plugging away from home.
He’s paid a hefty dividend to the finance ministry, swung into stimulus mode and eased up on bank lending restrictions — all of which Mr Patel resisted in the face of government pressure. But there’s still much to do: the economy is losing steam on many fronts, the banking sector remains saddled with one of the world’s worst bad-debt loads and the government’s fiscal targets are slipping by the day.
Insiders say Mr Das has turned around the mood in the bank’s Mumbai headquarters with an affable, plain-spoken approach. As one official said: He listens to everyone and then sticks to his own decision.
Among the RBI rank and file, the more academically-decorated predecessors of Mr Patel and Raghuram Rajan were considered outsiders due to their long stints in American academia. Long-timers were put offside as in-house talent was often bypassed in senior appointments. Not with Mr Das: in the job posting for a deputy in-charge of monetary policy, at least 25 years of government experience within India tops the priority list among requirements for the role.