Former Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Sunday targeted the Bharatiya Janata Party for criticising Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee for his role in helping the Opposition party develop its proposed Nyuntam Aay Yojana, or minimum income scheme NYAY. On Saturday, Banerjee had said he would have helped the saffron party had it asked.

“Dear Mr Banerjee, these bigots are blinded by hatred and have no idea what a professional is,” Gandhi tweeted. “You cannot explain it to them, even if you tried for a decade. Please be certain that millions of Indians are proud of your work.”

Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal on Friday praised the economist for winning the Nobel Prize along with Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer but questioned his work for the NYAY programme and his political leaning. Goyal said Banerjee’s views were Left-leaning, and claimed that people had rejected his NYAY scheme as the Congress won a mere 52 seats in the Lok Sabha elections held in April and May.

BJP National Secretary Rahul Sinha made a disparaging remark about Banerjee, saying people whose second wives are foreigners win the Nobel Prize. “I don’t know whether it is a degree for getting the Nobel,” he added. Banerjee is married to Esther Duflo.

The Nobel laureate told The Wire that the personal criticism was upsetting. In an interview to NDTV, the economist pointed out that he had worked with parties across the political spectrum. “I feel what’s not helpful in that kind of comment is more the questioning of my profession or our professionalism,” he said. “I think the reason we were given this prize is partly because we are professionals.”

Banerjee told The Times of India that controlling “the spin people give to things” was beyond him. “But I also don’t feel like living my life thinking of every possible spin people can give to my actions,” he added. “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.”


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