By Jeff Glekin
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.
Pranab Mukherjee’s reign as Indian finance minister was stained by economic meddling and political favouritism. Now he is gone, and some of his excesses are being reversed. An enemy has been pardoned and a friend has not received a plum job. This could be the beginning of a better era.
Imagine if Tim Geithner had been accused of putting pressure on the securities regulator to protect some political friends. The U.S. Treasury Secretary would be in serious hot water. But when the former number two at the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) accused Mukherjee of something similar – putting pressure on the SEBI chairman to “manage” some high-profile corporate cases – there was little attention.
Rather, in a move that was all too typical of the Mukherjee regime, the finance ministry countered with allegations against the whistle-blower, K.M. Abraham. But the post-Mukherjee government is different. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has cleared Abraham.
In another development, the board of UTI, Asia’s oldest asset management company, is set to appoint a new chief executive. The position has been vacant for the past year and a half as the finance minister put pressure on the company, 26 percent owned by U.S. fund manager T. Rowe Price, to appoint the brother of one of Mukherjee’s most powerful advisors. The former political favourite, Jitesh Khosla, hasn’t made the new shortlist.