Thursday, July 25, 2013

Amartya Sen episode shows just how intolerant BJP is….

The venerable Noble prize winner Amartya Sen is under attack. For what? Not for disagreeing with his brand of economics – the “redistribution” of wealth ideology that happens to align with the Congress’s thinking (it also does with the Left’s thinking) – but because he doesn’t think that Modi is the right person to be PM. The BJP – as I had predicted on 23rd July – is up in arms doing what it does best. Threatening him of retribution, attacking him personally, and in short showing how intolerant it is even to non-political academic geniuses.

Amartya Sen by the way, did not say that he wouldn’t like to see a BJP government at the center. For all I know, he may well do that. But for thick skinned BJP leaders like Chandan Mitra (who makes Sen’s belief of the Indian being Argumentative feel so mild; maybe his book should have been titled the Argumentative and Thick Skinned Indian!), who are used to commenting before even developing an understanding, that comment of Sen’s on Modi was enough.

Just as I had predicted, the BJP (Chandan Mitra, Kirti Azad – two makes a party!) has called the world acclaimed Sen a Congress stooge. (From my post of 23rd July: Now BJP trolls will attack Amartya Sen the same way they do anybody who opposes them or Modi. Poor Amartya Sen – a mere economics and philosophy professor – will now see his every credential being shredded by the BJP. He will even be called a Congressi). Can someone please tell these jokers how to treat senior intelletuals? Can someone please teach them some basic manners and courtesy and “sanskruti” as they like to call it in RSS’s Hindu-lingo? Or is this their idea of “equally brutal treatment to all (their version of secularism, even after they butcher and target a particular community!).

Of course both leaders (?) also said that Sen’s Bharat Ratna should be taken back if the NDA comes to power. What these two don’t realize is that Indian are far more gentle than they are. These kind of statements will ensure the NDA never comes to power! But consider how low the BJP can get. Threatening someone who they themselves rewarded with the glory (during the Vajpayee regime) with a withdrawal of the honor. What does one make these people? Churlish charlatans? Untrustworthy morons? Fickle jokers? You choose!

Besides, when Sen promptly agreed to return the honor if Vajpayee made the same demand, didn’t the honorable professor truly snub the entire party? In one stinging statement, didn’t he hit a huge stick on the rears of the entire party leadership? Didn’t he say what the entire country has been saying to the BJP – give us a Vajpayee like leader? Not the jokers that you are fronting? Didn’t he get the upper hand by showing the entire BJP leadership (which now doesn’t include Advani) as being below par in stature?

The BJP has to understand this. People have different points of view. They can disagree with their ideologies (which are few I believe!). That doesn’t make them enemies. That may make them a political opponent (which in this case isn’t true for Sen is hardly a politician) but not an enemy. The BJP repeatedly forgets this. In fact, its not in its DNA to understand that in a democracy, people can have different points of view. Yashwant Sinha is not an enemy because he doesn’t agree with Modi, he is only one who has a different point of view. Ram Jethmalani isn’t an enemy of Advani (though he is a bit of a bafoon!), though he prefers Modi as PM. When will the BJP get this? In the past as well, the BJP has accused the Congress of having differences within itself. Of course, it will. It’s a democratic party for god’s sakes! The Congress is not moulded the same way as the BJP where, if anyone opposes Modi, he is considered anti-party!

Coming back to academicians, they are intellectually far superior to anyone in the BJP. Take Bhagwati and Panagariya, who the BJP believes support Modi’s style of economics. They are way too brilliant for anyone in the BJP, especially Modi, to even start to understand. Their support for a brand of economics doesn’t mean they endorse the politician who appears to be heeding that model. Incidentally, they have clarified that they are not supporting Modi. They don’t even know him enough! Academic geniuses will also often fight amongst themselves (although I must admit, the scuffle this time has gotten too heated, and personalized). But they know how to resolve their differences and focus on the issue and not the personality. Politicians in general – and BJP ones in particular – always go for the personality, not the issue.

I think both sets of economists have been misunderstood by our below-par (intellectually) politicians. When Bhagwati and Panagariya say that they prefer growth, they do not mean that they don’t agree with redistribution of wealth and subsidies. When Sen says that he prefers redistribution, he doesn’t mean he doesn’t agree with growth. Both sets of economists understand much better than you and me that without growth, there can be no opportunity to redistribute. Incidentally, the Congress believes in precisely that. That’s why there is an economist PM who is more in the Bhagwati/Panagariya mould, and a party President who is more like Sen. The two together make sure that the country grows rapidly (despite the current decline, which is so much because of global factors – all countries have seen a decline), and then it redistributes its wealth. This is why the poverty has come down by 2% a year in the last 10 years. The BJP on the other hand appears to shun redistribution (they are urban middle class focused after all) and chase only growth. So the scuffle between Sen and Bhagwati/Panagariya could also be seen as a scuffle between two political models – one that is followed by the Congress (a combination of the Sen as well as Bhagwati/Panagariya models) and the other by the BJP (the Bhagwati/Panagariya model exclusively). Let’s enjoy this diversity of opinion people. Let’s not kill it.

The real truth is that thick skinned and moronic that BJP leaders are in general (and Chandan Mitra is in particular), they cannot be expected to be tolerant of divergent points of view. Amartya Sen only happens to be the last victim of this intolerance. There have been many, including most bloggers who disagree with the BJP’s ideology, who have been panned and personally attacked in the past….

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