West Bengal Bharatiya Janata Party chief Dilip Ghosh on Saturday said people like economist Amartya Sen could be “purchased or sold, and can stoop to any level”, PTI reported on Sunday. Addressing a gathering Kolkata, Ghosh questioned the Nobel Economics Prize-winner’s contributions to the state and country and said no one in West Bengal could “understand him”.

“He is in extreme pain because he was removed as the Chancellor of Nalanda University,” Ghosh alleged. The politician was criticised for his remarks, with former Lok Sabha MP Krishna Bose calling them “an indecent attack on Sen”. West Bengal Congress chief AR Chowdhary also condemned the remarks, calling them the result of the “culture of the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh”. “They cannot think beyond Deendayal Upadhyay, Veer Savarkar and the person who killed Mahatma Gandhi,” Chowdhary said.

On Sunday, Ghosh defended his remarks, saying he had questioned all of Bengal’s intellectuals, and no one person in particular, Hindustan Times reported. “At a time when Bengal is burning, teachers are being beaten up, students clash inside campuses, Bengal’s most celebrated intellectuals remain silent,” he said. “I said intellectuals are looking for rewards and therefore remain silent.”

Meanwhile, Sen said he had “no reason to object” to Ghosh’s remarks, IANS reported. “Whatever he has felt is right, he has said. He definitely has the right to say so,” Sen said, adding that it was necessary for the public to “discuss all issues”. “If he [Ghosh] feels this is also a matter for discussion, then he should do it,” the Nobel Laureate said.

Sen, a critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policies, withdrew his candidature for a second term as Nalanda University Chancellor in February 2015. “The [Modi] government can turn an academic issue into a matter of political dispensation if it feels unrestrained about interfering,” he had said in a letter to the members of the Governing Board.