Economics Nobel goes to a cook
Columns, Point of View

Economics Nobel goes to a cook

October 30, 2019

By T.J.S. George

Let us say I am picked for the Nobel Prize for writing the finest newspaper column since printing began.  Should I feel happy about it or dejected? That is a dilemma peculiar to India. In any other country, a citizen getting a Nobel will be an occasion for rejoicing.  In our country the laureate will have to pass patriotism tests before decisions are taken about rejoicing. When I am chosen, for example, the nationalists among us must analyse the shape of my nose, the brand of the pen I use and the clothes I wear before reacting to the choice. They might finally decide to condemn the Nobel people for choosing an Indian with a foreign-made pacemaker instead of a genuine swadeshi heart.

The Nobel Committee is unaware of the importance India attaches to separating nationalism from anti-nationalism.  Everything, from cricket board appointments to Nobel choices, must clear the test of nationalism before they can be accepted as worthy of India.  Abhijit Banerjee, for instance, may be a US citizen. But as long as he is a Banerjee, he is at our mercy and must pass the test. That is why our alert Minister Piyush Goyal quickly tested him and rejected him as “totally Left-leaning.”  The way he put it, there was no greater evil in the world than being Left-leaning. It was left to the BJP’s National Secretary Rahul Sinha to remind everyone that there was indeed something worse. With a twinkle in the eye he asked: “Only those who have foreigners as their second wife can get Nobel?”

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The ugly truth now stood exposed.  Banerjee not only has a foreigner as his wife; she is his second wife.  What a barbarous background. How Un-Indian. Totally in violation of all the values we have cherished for 5,000 years and reinforced by the morally responsible government now in control.  How could a man with such a double disqualification speak about Indian economy? He not only spoke about it; he said Indian economy was going into a tailspin and “doing very badly.”

As a nationalist, our Finance Minister Nirmala Sitaraman would have reacted strongly to that but she let it pass because she and Banerjee were contemporaries at JNU.  She breathed fire over other criticisms, though. Unexpectedly, her husband Parakala Prabhakar published an article in which he asked the BJP Government to embrace the Narasimha Rao-Manmohan Singh economic policies. This was disloyalty, Pahala Varg. Sitaraman really exploded thereafter, not at Prabhakar, but at Manmohan Singh and Raghuram Rajan, her predecessors at policy making.  The banking sector went through its worst phase when Singh was in power, she said. (The old line: I’m bad? But you are worse.) Manmohan had a good reply. There were weaknesses during his tenure, he said, but surely five-and-a-half years were ample time for the BJP Government to set things right. Sitaraman expressed her anger even before a foreign audience in America. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

When Abhijit Banerjee was scorned, he smiled.  Actually it is a learning experience to watch the facial expressions of people when they make public speeches.  Manmohan Singh’s lips and facial muscles hardly move, but the words somehow come out. It is like watching a mannequin talking. The exact opposite is Narendra Modi who speaks with his whole body in spectacular movement.  When Piyush Goyal and Nirmala Sitaraman speak, their faces reflect the burden of having to save the country from anti-nationals. When Abhijit Banerjee faces his attackers, he tries to keep the sunny side up.

Apparently, this man is a talented cook and he went on record with the statement “I think of food all the time.”  Worse, he said economics was a “kind of sideshow” for him. The Nobel Prize for a sideshow? More outrageous was the fact that he had a jail record.  At JNU he had joined anti-nationals and landed in Tihar. There, too, he got into a fight over prisoners’ right to eat bhindi.         Incorrigible character.

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When he spoke seriously, the danger was clear for all to see.  “The core message earlier was that India is doing great. Now that we are obviously not doing so great, and since the Government cannot sell the economic message, there are other messages to sell to win elections.” 

Other messages? What is the sinister hint here?  India hears only one message and it comes out loud and clear at our Prime Minister’s roadshows.  Now, those amazing roadshows, the way the world is stirred by our Prime Minister. Is the Nobel Committee missing something obvious? 

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