Meghalaya Governor Tathagata Roy stoked a row this week by raising questions over Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee’s Indian roots. The governor asked where the economist was born and why his middle name was “Vinayak”. Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer won the 2019 Nobel Prize in economics “for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty.”

“I have two fundamental questions,” he posted in a tweet in Bengali on Tuesday. “Where was Abhijit Banerjee born? Many are saying Kolkata, others saying Dhule in Maharashtra. His mother is Marathi and father Bengali, late Dipak Banerjee. The tradition in Maharashtra is to use father’s name as the middle name. Then his [Dipak Banerjee’s] middle name should have been Dipak [then] why is it Vinayak?”

On Monday, hours after Banerjee was announced as one of the recipients of the Nobel Prize, Roy had posted a congratulatory tweet, saying that he felt “proud as an Indian and Kolkatan”. In another post, the governor said he had never heard of Banerjee before, but it could be because Roy was not an economist.

He said that the Nobel laureate’s “Indian blood” made him proud. “After all, even Zionist Jews are proud of Karl Marx!” he tweeted. Socialist revolutionary Marx, who was ethnically a Jew, had anti-Semitic views.

Roy also used it as an opportunity to criticise the Congress’ minimum income guarantee scheme called NYAY (Nyuntam Aay Yojana), which Banerjee helped conceptualise. “Thankfully Banerjee and Duflo did not get the prize for NYAY. I am told he got it for some good experimental work, not anything fundamental,” the Meghalaya governor said, adding that he believed NYAY was a “crazy and harebrained” scheme. “Even the progenitor of that scheme isn’t mentioning it any more,” he added.

Roy’s questions irked social media users, who described it as a “bit immature”.

Also read:

  1. ’NYAY or not, we are not taxing the economy enough,’ says economist Abhijit Banerjee
  2. Explainer: What’s unique about Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo’s method – and why it is criticised
  3. ‘Bengalis collectively won Nobel’: Abhijit Banerjee’s prize sets off identity debates in India

Now, follow and debate the day’s most significant stories on Scroll Exchange.