Indian politics a disappointing spectacle for Amartya Sen

Congress has fallen short of people’s expectations, country does not need BJP today

GN Bureau | April 23, 2014




Amartya Sen finds Indian politics a “disappointing spectacle”. In an interview with the Belgian news site Mondiaal Nieuws this month, the Nobel laureate economist and India’s preeminent public intellectual speaks about the Indian elections.

On Congress/UPA

“The Untied Progressive Alliance (UPA), led by Congress, has fallen short of people’s expectations. And on top of that, they are extremely bad at communicating whatever they did accomplish for the people. Why is the government not boasting about the end of polio in India? Or about the right to employment for the rural poor? About the Right to Food Act?”

On BJP

‘There is one thing the BJP does better than Congress and that is campaigning. But that does not make them any less the sectarian hindu-communal party they have always been. And I seriously doubt whether that is what India needs today.' [The interviewer adds: “Afterwards, he would qualify that by saying the BJP does all that it can to shed that sectarian image and replace it with an image of a party that will provide good, efficient and corruption-free government.”] “That is a party profile that would serve them much better than the saffron propaganda from the past. And as for efficient government: the Europeans would remember the claim that trains ran strictly on time under the fascist government of Benito Mussolini.”

On Aam Aadmi Party

“On itself, this is a wonderful realisation. They won the elections without taking recourse to communal identities such as caste or religion. Their only programme was the fight against corruption. At the same time, that shows how their idea of good governance remains limited to middle class worries. They want cheap electricity, for instance, instead of a connection to the grid for the 30 percent of Indians that lack every access to electricity altogether.”

On communist parties

“The main issue for the communists continues to be their anti-Americanism. It is an echo from the past, really. Russia, China and Vietnam have reformed quickly and successfully into market economies, so what is the problem for Indian communists? On top of their antiquated anti-imperialism, they focus on the needs of middle class voters rather than on the needs of the impoverished majority. Why should a communist party stand up for diesel subsidies while the majority of the poor cannot even afford a motorised vehicle?”

* * *
Also read fellow liberal Arundhati Roy’s views on Indian elections.

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