‘WB shouldn’t choose powers with defective record’

Kolkata, Apr 19 (PTI):
Bengal should not be a party to the “national degeneration” by choosing to be governed by central leaders instead of the local ones as that would strengthen the concentration of power in the hands of those whose record on economic policy and social justice are “seriously defective”, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen said.
Lauding the Mamata Banerjee government for its welfare programmes, especially the ones meant for girls, the beneficial expansion of rural infrastructure and assurance of food security, the renowned economist, however, stressed that corruption issues in the state have to be addressed.
In an interview with PTI, Sen rued the fact that identity politics has reared its ugly head in Bengal’s political landscape and blamed the flag-bearers of Hindutva for sharpening the communal divisions something that Bengali luminaries — from Rabindranath Tagore to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose — had “worked hard to replace with a peaceful understanding”.
“If Bengal ends up being governed by central rulers, not local leaders, it will vastly strengthen the concentration of power in India in the hands of those whose conception of minority rights is extremely limited and whose record on economic policy and social justice seems seriously defective.
“Bengal should not have to be a party to that national degeneration,” Sen said when asked whether the outcome of the assembly elections will have a bearing on national politics.
He emphasised that Bengal wants unity, not divisions.
“It is not surprising that identity issues will tend to come into electoral propaganda. However, the focus has often been much narrower than the Indian identity or the Bengali identity. It has gone further than Bengali sub- nationalism.
“The fanning of the dangerous flames of communal divisions has not occurred as strongly in Bengal since 1946, as it is happening now.”
Sen, a fierce critic of the Narendra Modi government, further said, “What Mahatma Gandhi did in the 1940s can be undone with a huge cost and sacrifice in Bengal, and this evil negation has unfortunately received much encouragement in this election. Bengal wants unity, not divisions — as Gandhiji so clearly explained.”
Asked to comment on the ‘insider-outsider’ debate launched by the TMC, Sen said it is “certainly a bad thing” as Bengal has had, historically, been tolerant to outsiders.
“There have never been movements against, say, Tamil or Malayali immigration into Bengal, unlike what happened in, say, Bombay. It is always unfortunate if anti-outsider criticisms have to be used — it is certainly a bad thing,” he said.
In the same breath, Sen slammed the BJP for “trying to portray Bengali Muslims as less deserving while deriving their strength from the support of Hindu activists who are not originally from Bengal”.

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