Roxna Swamy, wife of economist-turned-politician Subramanian Swamy, has written a fascinating book on her life with him, titled Evolving with Subramanian Swamy: A Roller Coaster Ride. A mathematician-turned-lawyer who practices in the Supreme Court, Roxna has helped Swamy with a large number of public service litigation cases that he has filed in the apex court during his political innings. Roxna spoke with Firstpost about her book, and its subject. She told us the book's editor wanted her to add the "roller coaster ride" bit to the title, to "spice it up" — and it seemed apt, considering that there was "nothing even" about life with her spouse; it had been full of ups and downs. Edited excerpts follow:
Why was Swamy dismissed from IIT?
Even though Swamy had a professorship at Harvard, he returned to India with the best of intentions. He wanted to pursue a life of academia and do research. When he was teaching at the Delhi School of Economics, he also began to give lectures on the market economy and the need for a Hindu renaissance at the Delhi University campus. At that time he realised the extent to which Delhi University and the Delhi School of Economics was dominated by left wing politics. The students were thrilled to listen to his lectures and they turned up in large numbers.
This was not liked by KN Raj, the then vice chancellor of Delhi University, who was subsequently thrown out; but it was people like him who dominated the scene then. Indira Gandhi had split the Congress and she was kept in power with Communist support. Dr Amartya Sen, who was with us at Harvard, had told him, "You have to be realistic, Swamy, the Left is all powerful in India."
Swamy’s views were right wing. He wrote an article on how India could become a nuclear power and could produce an atom bomb and delivery system for just a few lakhs. The article was published in Blitz newspaper. The Jan Sangh sat up and asked who is this man and they invited him to address their parliamentary board.
Swamy was invited to Delhi University to fill a certain chair but instead of offering him the chair, they offered him a readership. IIT Delhi invited him for lectures and then offered him a professorship which he accepted. But as usually happens in India, he started talking to students and employees and soon realised just how much corruption there was. The then director of the IIT was a PWD engineer who had helped build Chandigarh. He had no academic qualifications. His wife used to teach ikebana to Indira Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi. Swamy raised some uncomfortable questions and the director was determined that Swamy not be confirmed (in his job). Things reached a point when the director was determined that the selection committee comprising nine people would be left-leaning in their ideology. Unfortunately for him, Prof Leon Hurwitz was selected, as was Prof Manmohan Singh. When Prof Hurwitz realised that Swamy had co-authored a paper with economist Paul Samuelson, he said, "That is something I would give my left arm for; of course he must be selected!" So Swamy was unanimously appointed to hold the professorship.
But soon the IIT employees started an agitation against corruption, and meanwhile Swamy had worked out an economic plan for the Jan Sangh titled 'The Swadeshi Plan — An Alternative Approach To Socialism'. Swamy ended up earning the ire of both Indira Gandhi and the director of IIT and within two years of joining, he was dismissed from the IIT with one month’s salary in lieu of notice.
But why would Indira Gandhi object to him writing a paper for the Jan Sangh?
It is not so surprising that she reacted the way she did. In 1969-71, she had an agenda to keep the Congress (O) out and she was dependent on the Left.
You showed presence of mind in moving all the furniture from the drawing and dining rooms to stop IIT officials from forcing you out of the house, after they served an eviction notice...
Swamy was not one to throw in the towel and had got a stay order from the courts permitting him to occupy the IIT flat, but the IIT authorities were determined to use force to evict us. I had the option of either walking out peacefully or else shutting the door on their force — which is what we did by pushing all the furniture against the door.
Later, the police came and told the IIT people, 'Don’t be foolish; they have got a stay order from the court'. The IIT authorities claimed that they had not received the summons. When the despatch book was brought, someone had thrown ink over the signature (indicating receipt of the summons).
You mentioned how at one time, Swamy — during his tenure at Harvard — was a favourite of Lutyen’s Delhi. But on your return to Delhi from Harvard, both of you found yourselves being boycotted by that same circle.
I have nothing but contempt for these people. Every year, when we came from Harvard, we would be invited for dinner, to give lectures and people would coo over us. After all, Harvard was Harvard. I was then 25-30 years old. But most of the people who boycotted us are all dead.
Do you believe Indira Gandhi had some kind of personal vendetta against Swamy?
Not to start with. In her later years, she had a guarded relationship with Swamy. She went out of her way to be cordial to him. One day at Rashtrapati Bhawan, Swamy turned me around and there was Indira Gandhi, with whom we had a cordial exchange. Politically he had different views from her. At one time, Indira Gandhi was using Swamy to talk to the Chinese. China was encouraging Northeast insurgents and she told Swamy, 'Do something for the country and talk to the Chinese to halt this'. The result was that these people were disowned.
What was your reaction to the Emergency?
I hated it. I had to put up with the police following me around. I had to put up with my house being raided. But what was very upsetting was when my father’s house was raided. He was suffering from cancer then. All this did affect the children too.
How did Swamy show up inside Parliament House at the height of the Emergency?
All that has been documented in detail in the book and has already been written about extensively. He managed his appearance and disappearance very well. He entered the Rajya Sabha lobby when the chairman, vice president BD Jatti, was reading out the obituaries, to which Swamy interjected and said, 'You have made a notable omission by leaving out the demise of democracy' to which Jatti said, 'No point of order to be recorded'. Swamy’s reply to this was: 'I am walking out in protest'. He walked out to his waiting car and drove out unchecked to Birla Mandir, from where he took a rickshaw to New Delhi railway station.
You have very strong views against Atal Behari Vajpayee...
I hated him. He systematically cut out Swamy year after year. He cut out Nanaji Deshmukh, and Dattopant Thengadi. They were both from RSS and the founding fathers of the BJP. Thengadi built up the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh. Vajpayee did not want them in the BJP and they quietly moved out. Vajpayee was determined to have only his chamchas around him. The animosity in the BJP against Swamy continued for more than 30 years. Even after Vajpayee was felled by a stroke in 2009, the animosity against Swamy was continued and stoked by Vajpayee’s sidekicks.
Your book does not have a good word for Yashwant Sinha either, who you point out was responsible for the participatory note. What are you referring to ?
The participatory note is when the black money within the country is shipped abroad. A participatory note is given to a foreign consultancy company who can invest this money in the stock market there to buy stocks. This way the money becomes perfectly legitimate.
At one point, Swamy had good relations with Sonia Gandhi but now he has turned completely against her. What caused this falling out — given that he considered Rajiv Gandhi a friend?
[After a pause] Let Swamy reveal the reasons for their fallout in his own memoirs. All I will say is that she has a deep contempt for Indians. They (Gandhis) have been in a position of power and they are mis(u)sing that position.
Swamy, Sonia Gandhi and Jayalalithaa joined hands to bring down the Vajpayee government in 1999. But Swamy has also had a love-hate relationship with Jayalalithaa.
His relationship with Jayalalithaa went through three stages. Before 1990, they were good friends. Their interests did not clash. The second stage was when she became chief minister and corruption spiralled within her state.
In the book I have described it as "the temperature of Swamy’s relationship with Jayalalithaa continually veered crazily from one extreme to another: it started with the friendliness of the 1980s and early 1990s, descended to the rancour of the mid-1990s, when Swamy initiated a series of successful but not conclusive prosecutions against Jayalalithaa for various acts of corruption and AIADMK goons made violent attacks on Swamy, to the political alliance of the late 1990s".
But the most spectacular of the lot was the disproportionate assets case of 1996 wherein Jayalalithaa was convicted by the trial court and sentenced to several years in jail and fines amounting to Rs 100 crores.
Updated Date: Oct 07, 2017 11:34 AM