Was extremely critical about UPA too: Abhijit Banerjee

Last Updated 20 October 2019, 07:25 IST

Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee on Saturday gave a spate of interviews in the country, coming out exclusively for the first time after the announcement of his Nobel prize for economics on October 14.

Among other things, the 58-year-old Indian-origin economist was seen responding to allegations about him being critical about the current BJP regime in the country.

"I think they should go back and read on my pronouncements on the past governments. I was extremely critical of the previous governments too," Banerjee said in an interview with India Today.

Banerjee, an alumnus of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), had expressed concerns about the prevalent issues faced by the Indian economy currently and had said that it was on shaky grounds.

"Unlike the last five to seven years when there was an assurance that even as the environment was being damaged, the growth of the economy will continue. Now even that assurance is gone,” Banerjee had said while speaking with a private news channel over the phone, days after winning the award.

Read: Indian economy on shaky ground: Abhijit Banerjee

Union Minister Piyush Goyal had then come out and called him 'left-leaning'. Goyal further added that Banerjee's ideology was rejected by the people of India. He was referring to the Congress' 2019 Lok Sabha manifesto's highlight NYAY (Nyuntam Aay Yojana), a minimum income guarantee scheme which promised Rs 72,000 to 20 per cent families in the poorest of the poor category yearly, which Banerjee had assisted the Grand Old Party with.

Also Read: Abhijit Banerjee's thinking is Left-leaning: Goyal

Another BJP MP Anantkumar Hegde had tweeted -- “Yes, the man who recommended inflation & tax rates to be raised for our country via Pappu, has been recognized and awarded Nobel Prize 2019. Pappu can really feel proud of his #NYAY proponent while the poor nation missed out the benefits!”

In an interview with CNN-News, Banerjee clarified his take on the scheme. He said that his role was not to design the scheme but only to provide information that could be used by the party to make choices. He also said that he felt it wasn't 'particularly well designed' and that even if the UPA would have come to power, they would have had to change it owing to political pressure or economic pressure.

“I don’t take responsibility for it as nobody asked me whether that’s how it should be designed. So I don’t think it’s a question of whether the time for the scheme had come or not. I think it was an idea, which even if politically supported, may not have been the best design scheme," Banerjee told CNN-News.

Speaking with NDTV, Banerjee said that Goyal was raising questions on his professionalism and added that he wasn't partisan in his economic thinking.

Read: Who is Indian-origin Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee?

"If the BJP government, like the Congress party, had asked what were the numbers on the fraction of people under a particular income, would I have not told them the truth? I would have told them exactly, I would have been as willing. In terms of being a professional, I want to be professional with everyone," Banerjee told NDTV.

Banerjee also said that he worked with a number of state governments and a bunch of them have been BJP-led states. Citing an example of his work with the Gujarat pollution board under then-Chief Minister Narendra Modi, he said that his experience was excellent.

"I would say that they were willing to engage with the evidence and they implemented policies that followed with that experience," Banerjee told NDTV.

A Ford Foundation International Professor of Economics at the US-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Abhijit Banerjee was awarded the Nobel Prize for Economics on October 14. He shared the award with his French-American wife Esther Duflo and another American economist Michael Kremer for their "experimental approach to alleviating global poverty."

(Published 20 October 2019, 07:05 IST)

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