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Bengal BJP asked members not to make adverse remark against Abhijit Banerjee: Party leader


KOLKATA: The West Bengal BJP is in a fix over the adverse comments made by a section of its leaders against Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee, a senior functionary said on Monday, maintaining that the party's state unit has asked them to refrain from making any such remark again.

Unwarranted statements against the Kolkata-born economist would have a negative impact on BJP's image in the state, where the party is making an all-out effort to unseat the TMC and seize power in 2021 assembly polls, he said.

According to state BJP sources, the "unsavoury" comments made by a section of state and central leaders have not gone down well with the people of Bengal. The criticism has been perceived as an attempt to fuel "anti-Bengali" sentiments, they said.

"We have asked our party members and leaders not to make any unwarranted comment against Abhijit Banerjee.  As per the feedback we have been receiving, it has not gone down well with a large section of population, who are very sensitive about their icons".

"Abhijit Banerjee, after winning the Nobel prize, has achieved a cult status in Bengal, and we should not try to swim against the tide," the senior BJP leader said on the condition of anonymity.

Echoing similar sentiments, another saffron leader said the party will be branded "anti-Bengali" if it continues to attack Banerjee for his criticism of central policies.

Recalling that the "Bengali-non-Bengali" issue had cost the BJP dear during the final phase of Lok Sabha polls in West Bengal, another senior party leader said it had drawn a blank in the nine seats that went to polls on May 19.

Union Commerce minister Piyush Goyal, at a media briefing in Pune, recently described Banerjee as a "Left- leaning" person.

Goyal on Friday also said that Banerjee's suggestion of a minimum income scheme has been rejected by Indian voters and there was no need to "accept what he thinks".

Sharing his view, Rahul Sinha, a national secretary of the BJP, also claimed that Banerjee's economic theories have not been proved on the ground in India.

Dilip Ghosh, the party's state unit president, however, distanced himself from the remarks made by his party leaders, saying people may have divergent views about the acclaimed economist.

"He is a big personality and has made a huge achievement. Many people are expressing their views, they are all entitled to their opinion. I am sure he will give valuable suggestions for overcoming the economic crisis that the country, as well as the entire world, is going through," Ghosh had said.

Banerjee, an Indian-born American professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has jointly won the Nobel Prize in economics along with wife Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer for his "experimental approach to alleviating global poverty".

Known for his criticism of economic policies of the Modi government, he has been on the firing line of a section of BJP leaders since he won the coveted prize.

The criticism has drawn sharp reactions from various political parties in Bengal who said such statements reflect the "narrow" mindset of the BJP.

"The statement by BJP leaders against Abhijit Banerjee, who has made Bengal and the entire country proud, is a reflection of the narrow mindset of the BJP and the saffron camp.

The lesser they (BJP) speak on Banerjee, the better," TMC secretary-general Partha Chatterjee had said.