Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee has said that he does not regret advising the Congress Party on the Nyutam Aay Yojana, or NYAY scheme, and added that he would have also helped the Bharatiya Janata Party if it had asked, The Times of India reported on Saturday.
Banerjee’s remarks came following criticism by BJP leaders, who, while praising the economist for his Nobel Prize, questioned his work for the NYAY programme and his political leanings. On Friday, Union minister Piyush Goyal had said that Banerjee’s political views are left-leaning, and that people had rejected his NYAY scheme, as the Congress won a mere 52 seats in the Lok Sabha elections held in May.
“You can’t control the spin people give to things but I also don’t feel like living my life thinking of every possible spin people can give to my actions,” Banerjee said. “They [Congress] asked me a perfectly legitimate question – how much money would it take to implement a guaranteed income... If the BJP had asked me for the same numbers, I would have given it to them. I absolutely don’t believe in restricting good policy out of political prejudice.”
Esther Duflo, who won the Nobel Prize in Economics with Banerjee and Michael Kremer, said that the three of them have been working with various state governments – Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab and Tamil Nadu – across the political spectrum. “In our work, we are not fighting ideological battles,” she added.
Banerjee said that the economic slowdown in India is a reality and the government is “gradually accepting it”. “Five per cent is now good and soon there will be even less,” he said. “The core message earlier was that India is doing great. Now that we are obviously not doing so great, then the danger is that since the government can’t sell the economic message, there are other messages to sell to win elections.”
Duflo said that the economic slowdown is not restricted to India, as even China has been hit by it. She said there are fears of recession in Europe and the United States.
Banerjee asserted that Indian Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s decision to cut corporate tax rates from 35% to 22% will not have any impact on growth. Instead, the government should focus on putting money in the hands of the poor. Banerjee also said that while a salary cap on corporate leaders is a good idea, it is a difficult one to implement. Instead, higher taxes should be imposed at high incomes.
Another BJP leader mocks Banerjee
BJP National Secretary Rahul Sinha said on Friday that people whose second wives are foreigners are mostly getting the Nobel Prize, News18 reported. He also wondered whether having a second wife was a “degree” for getting the Nobel Prize.
Sinha, who is a former West Bengal BJP chief, backed Goyal’s comments. “Piyush Goyal is right because these people have daubed economics in the colours of the Leftist policies,” Sinha said. “They want to run economics through the Leftist road. But Leftist policies have become redundant in this country.”
Priyanka Gandhi attacks Goyal
Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi lashed out at Goyal, asserting that the government’s job was to improve the “collapsing economy” and not to run a “comedy circus”. Gandhi said in a tweet that instead of doing their work, BJP leaders are trying to belittle the achievements of others. Abhijit Banerjee did his work honestly and earned a Nobel Prize, Gandhi asserted.
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