BJP and Amartya Sen!

Nobel Laureate and Bharat Ratna recipient Mr. Amartya Sen while acknowledging that Gujarat Chief Minister Mr. Narendra Modi had performed well in building infrastructure in his state felt that he had not done enough in the social sector to uplift the poor. He also criticized Mr. Modi for creating distrust in the minority community for which reason he said he did not want to see Mr. Modi as Prime Minister. These views could be challenged but were no more than criticism voiced by one individual, however famous or distinguished he might be.

Now consider the reaction to Mr. Amartya Sen voiced by BJP leaders.

Rajya Sabha MP and distinguished editor Mr. Chandan Mitra was first off the mark. He tweeted on the Internet: “Is Sen even a voter in India? Next NDA government must strip him of his Bharat Ratna.” Addressing Mr. Sen he tweeted: “Don’t peddle your unsolicited comments on India. We know you as an economist who sells Congress line for a living.” As a senior journalist he must know that the last observation could perhaps even be deemed defamatory. But the gem from Mr. Mitra was: “Those who are upset with my suggestion about Mr. Sen and Bharat Ratna, can you show me examples of others who do party politics after getting BR?”

Firstly, even by the wildest imagination Mr. Sen’s remarks cannot be construed as “doing party politics”. Secondly, after C Rajagopalachari received the Bharat Ratna in 1954 he formed the Swatantra Party. Pandit Nehru as Prime Minister continued with party politics long after receiving the Bharat Ratna in 1955. So did Indira Gandhi after receiving the Bharat Ratna in 1971.

Surely Mr. Mitra as a senior journalist would know this?

It might be recalled that it was the NDA government led by Mr. Atal Behari Vajpayee that conferred the Bharat Ratna to Mr. Sen. Is it the contention of Mr. Mitra that the honor was conferred in the expectation that Mr. Sen would behave like a BJP party loyalist thereafter? Does he imply that anyone challenging the BJP view deserves a punitive response? To this writer it was simply astounding that a journalist of Mr. Mitra’s distinction and caliber would voice such views.

The suspicion arose. Was this outburst inspired by party higher ups and delivered by Mr. Mitra as one faction’s loyalist?

The suspicion that it was a factional decision despite Mr. Mitra’s assertion that he was only expressing personal opinion was heightened by other BJP leaders jumping into the fray. BJP spokesperson Mr. Shahnawaz Hussain chimed in: “The Vajpayee government had impartially awarded him for the name he earned for himself at the global level… BJP disagrees with his remarks and he should not become a tool in the hands of the Congress.” BJP spokesperson Mrs. Meenakshi Lekhi endorsed Mr. Hussain: “Sen’s credentials are now being questioned by many economists… we do not expect the present government to take action because they are using Sen as a political worker.”

If a Bharat Ratna recipient expresses a political opinion does that warrant some “action” by the government? Further criticism of Mr. Sen for his failure to endorse Mr. Modi as Prime Minister was voiced by BJP MP Mr. Kirti Azad. Mr. Subramaniam Swamy disclosed that he had been against conferring the Bharat Ratna to Mr. Sen in the first place.

What has led to all this hysteria among BJP leaders in response to one man’s opinion? The biggest criticism against Mr. Modi voiced by his opponents is that he is dictatorial and a threat to individual freedom. Does not this belligerent reaction to Mr. Amartya Sen’s views strengthen fears that Mr. Modi becoming Prime Minister would threaten the very continuance of democracy? Anyone having the faintest acquaintance with basic democratic norms would know that the BJP reaction is anything but democratic. Does this response therefore reflect plain stupidity or is there something deeper?

Consider what Mr. Narendra Modi himself said about criticism in an interview given to the Reuters news agency on July 12, 2013: Responding to a question about his attitude to criticism Mr. Modi said:

“I always say the strength of democracy lies in criticism. If there is no criticism that means there is no democracy. And if you want to grow, you must invite criticism. And I want to grow, I want to invite criticism. But I’m against allegations. There is a vast difference between criticism and allegations. For criticism, you have to research, you’ll have to compare things, you’ll have to come with data, factual information, and then you can criticize. Now no one is ready to do the hard work. So the simple way is to make allegations. In a democracy, allegations will never improve situations. So, I’m against allegations but I always welcome criticism.”

Mr. Modi should tell the public whether what Mr. Amartya Sen said was criticism or an allegation. If the former, let him by all means rebut the criticism with his own arguments. One is certain he has plenty.

That is what democracy is all about.

That is how Mr. Modi described democracy to the Reuters news agency. Let him respond not only to Mr. Sen’s views if he considers them politically significant. More importantly, he should pull up his party colleagues who by their hysteria are doing untold harm to his prospects. In conclusion, let him carefully appraise the reaction of his party colleagues to Mr. Sen’s remarks in the light of the Byzantine intrigues that beset Indian politics today.

Then let him decide: Do these reactions reflect sickening sycophancy or silent sabotage? Both motives could prove to be equally damaging to his poll prospects.


More by :  Dr. Rajinder Puri

Top | Analysis

Views: 3371      Comments: 10

Comment BJP reaction to Mr.Sen's comments is indeed ridiculous and unwarranted. But in my opinion why even consider what Sen said.

Allegation: Amartya Sen is a pseudo secular

Criticism: Mr. Sen is one hyped economist and that got me as well when I bought a book of his titled "The Argumentative Indian". An utter crap, full of flaws and was indeed a waste of my hard earned money.

30-Jul-2013 23:09 PM

The BJP's reaction to Mr. Amartya Sen's statement is exceedingly preposterous. Anybody who believes in democratic values will condemn this type of outburst against Mr. Sen's personal opinion. Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion about the political leadership, irrespective of the fact whether he/she is as distinguished as Mr.Sen or not. Mr. Mitra is a very respectable journalist, hence his outburst looks most unfortunate. In India, we have heard political rhetoric for nearly seven decades now, starting with Nehru. The nation needs absolute honesty and truthfulness from its leaders, with clear comprehension of the Indian ground realities of cultural, linguistic and religious heterogeneity. Mr. Modi has to prove his vision for the entire country, not merely being glorified for his much-hyped performance in Gujarat. Whether, it is acceptable to the BJP or not; Mr. Modi so far has not demonstrated any outstanding traits as a leader of national reckoning. The BJP has to make meticulous homework on Mr. Modi's national stature as a leader before reacting so vociferously to an individual's comment; even if, he is Mr. Amartya Sen.

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Taraprasad Mishra
30-Jul-2013 07:29 AM

Comment Dr. Mrs Sushma Joiya Pandit is spot on.All this misconceived thinking on poverty alleviation has only made poor people to beg and scrape the officialdom.I consider the corruption that has gripped india is putrefying the country and if continued unabated, it will destroy totally the society.

29-Jul-2013 10:01 AM

Comment Just as Sen has commented on Modi, Mitra and Dr Swamy too commented.why do the so called english media journalists make a big hue and cry over the nay sayers?If Sen as a migratory bird has an opinion on modi,mitra/Drswamy too have opinions whether Bharath rathna should have been given to him.The problem with so called educated Indians especially the english speaking ones think that dissent is dirty/ugly and a dumb driven unquestioned mind is nuanced.Bunch of vegetables dogging our media.It is another matter Mitra apologised shows lack of courage in his convictions.Another example of mediocre mind.

29-Jul-2013 09:56 AM

Comment This entire debate is so meaningless and everybody seems to have an opinion on this. Why don't people realize that what Dr. Sen said was in response to a question posed to him. It was not unsolicited. Every individual has right to his opinion and it should be left at that. Either like it or ignore it. Period. I agree with Rajivji. I think linking his seminal works in economics to this comment and trashing it is childish and actually shows the poverty of our levels of intellect. Why talk about him not living in India. Neither does Bhagwati. On the other hand, those who live in India and boasts about knowing India inside out believes in manipulating statistics to show improvement irrespective of whether the plight of the people improves or not.

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Kunal Kumar Kundu
29-Jul-2013 08:30 AM

Comment Integrated Congress of Women Entrepreneurs is a National Trust working under the guidelines of Ministry of MSME to eradicate poverty through entrepreneurship.
I have deeply studied the statements of all the economists and gone through the article by Shri Arvind Panagariya and came to the conclusion that India is a vast country having a number of planners sitting in Planning Commission. All have their different views of eradicating poverty from the country.

In the opinion of my organisation, we must make a poor person economically strong. If a poor person is economically strong, he can easily look after the health of his children. If he is economically strong he himself can repair his house. If he is economically strong he can easily keep his wife happy.
But the planners are misusing the money by distributing the revenue to the beneficiaries through cash subsidies, by free school vouchers,by providing free insurance, free health and allow them to decide whether they want to buy food out of this subsidy or to spend it for the education of their children.

Mr Arvind Panagariya asks as to how the Government should deliver nutrition, education and health to the poor................ In this context, with due applology, I would like to STRESS that if a poor is made economically strong then he himself can deliver nutrition, education to his family without the assistance of Government. It is not understood that why we are not putting our attention to make the poor and needy economically strong through entrepreneurship. Teach the poor- how to earn money for the family.
Keep away the SUBSIDIES away from the poor because this SUBSIDY is making them beggars.They are poor by birth and we are asking them to beg for subsidy.
In the end I will requests all the economists including the Hon'ble Prim,e Minister of India to eliminate SUBSIDY from the field of development.
Teach the poor how to earn mony through entrepreneurship.

Dr. Mrs Sushma Joiya Pandit
29-Jul-2013 01:33 AM

Comment First of all these two characters never have anything in common. Modi has not commented, I hope about the Nobel Prize to Amartya Sen. But, the Nobel Laureate has commented. Secondly, how many years Amartya Sen have lived in our Country? According to his expressions, he has considered the Famine he witnessed in his childhood as a traumatic experience. Does he have anything more to add to it? Kindly enlighten. I am neither pro towards either Modi or Amartya Sen but, these two characters are way apart and just because Amartya Sen quoted about Modi, I feel it is not even worthy enough to find something in that dimension. My view is that, Amartya Sen is also another pseudo character who baked his food in the name of poverty in India. Had he returned to our Country and utilized his potentiality to uplift the spiritual, moral, cultural & socio-economic conditions of our Country, we could have accepted his views & expressions. What is his contribution? Books? How does that bring in any constructive dimensions in reality?

[Indian Journalists Group: Linkedin]

Vasan KSS
28-Jul-2013 14:14 PM

Comment So many people - academics, journalists, artists, industrialists, etc. from India criticized Modi. BJP never reacted so violently. Then why such reaction against Sen? The reason is he a professor from a foreign country. BJP is obsessed with anything foreign.

[Indian Journalists Group: Linkedin]

PV Rajeev
28-Jul-2013 06:19 AM

Comment Nicely expressed article!
BJP leaders quite often comment in childish manner as illustrated in the article but it is not restricted to this party only. Modi should set an example of criticism which is not merely allegation or sloganeering or populist fiction.

Harihar Rai Jha
28-Jul-2013 00:45 AM

Comment You are Right Mr Puri! Well articulated!

G Swaminathan
27-Jul-2013 07:32 AM

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