Bengal BJP Leaders Told Not to Attack Abhijit Banerjee, May Have Negative Impact in State Polls
Abhijit Banerjee, one of the three winners of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Economics, at a news conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, U.S, October 14, 2019. (Reuters photo)
Kolkata: Notwithstanding the criticism of Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee by a section of its leaders, the BJP in West Bengal has asked its members to refrain from making any "unwarranted" remark against the economist, who has achieved a cult status in the state for his rare feat.
A senior functionary of the Bengal BJP said on Monday that the derogatory statements made against the economist, who has his roots in Kolkata, would have a negative impact on the party in the state where it is making an all-out effort to unseat the TMC and seize power in the 2021 assembly polls.
According to state BJP sources, the "unsavoury" comments by a section of state and central leaders against Banerjee have not gone down well with the people of Bengal. The criticism has been perceived as an attempt to fuel "anti-Bengali" sentiments, they maintained.
Nirmala Banerjee, the mother of the Nobel laureate, on monday said detractors won't be able to prove their point of view simply by badmouthing her son.
Reacting to a disparaging comment on the Nobel prize winner's marital status, she said, "They are talking about hispersonal life and second marriage.
"If they think getting married to a foreigner ensures a Nobel, why don't they do it themselves? That way, we will have many more Nobel prize winners around."
Banerjee, an Indian-born American professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has won Nobel in economics, jointly with wife Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer, for "experimental approach to alleviating global poverty".
"I don't want to comment on the statements made against my son. It is their prerogative, their freedom of speech. But such comments won't help them prove their own point of view," Nirmala Banerjee told reporters.
Union commerce minister Piyush Goyal, at a recent media briefing in Pune, had described the Nobel laureate as a "Left-leaning" person. He also said that Banerjee's suggestion of a minimum income scheme has been rejected by Indian voters and there was no need to "accept what he thinks".
Sharing his view, Rahul Sinha, a national secretary of the BJP, also claimed that Banerjee's economic theories have not been proved on the ground in India. A noted economist herself, Nirmala Banerjee insisted that those criticizing him should also realise that others enjoy the same rights.
Realising that Banerjee's criticism would not augur well for the party, a senior BJP leader said, "We have asked our party members and leaders not to make any unwarranted comment against Abhijit Banerjee. As per the feedback we have received, it has not gone down well with a large section of population, who are sensitive about their icons."
"Abhijit Banerjee, after winning the Nobel prize, has achieved a cult status in Bengal, and we should not try to swim against the tide," he said on the condition of anonymity.
Echoing similar sentiments, another saffron leader said the party will be branded "anti-Bengali" if it continues to attack Banerjee for his criticism of central policies.
Recalling that the "Bengali-non-Bengali" issue had cost the BJP dear during the final phase of Lok Sabha polls in West Bengal, a third leader said it had drawn a blank in the nine seats that went to polls on May 19.
Dilip Ghosh, BJP's Bengal unit president, has distanced himself from the remarks made by his party leaders, saying people may have divergent views about the economist.
"He has made a huge achievement. Many people are expressing their views, they are entitled to their opinion. I am sure he will give valuable suggestions for overcoming the economic crisis that the country as well as the entire world is going through," Ghosh had said.
The ruling TMC has lapped up the issue to attack the saffron party, which has emerged as its main challenger in the state after winning 18 out of a total 42 Lok Sabha seats, only four less than the Trinamool Congress.
"The statement by BJP leaders against Abhijit Banerjee, who has made Bengal and the entire country proud, is a reflection of the narrow mindset of the BJP and the saffron camp. The lesser they (BJP) speak on Banerjee, the better," TMC secretary general Partha Chatterjee said.