Bhagwati and Panagariya disgrace themselves further

I reproduce in full below, their letter to the editor on The Economist

Controversial Modi

SIR – Your leader on Narendra Modi, the front-runner to be India’s next prime minister, repeated accusations that have been thoroughly investigated and found to be without basis by no less than a Special Investigation Team (SIT) appointed by the Indian Supreme Court (“Would Modi save India or wreck it?”, December 14th).

Professors at Columbia University
New York

This completely unnecessary intervention is flawed at so many levels that it is amazing that this comes from professors of economics at Columbia….or perhaps I am the only one shocked at the depths that these amoral economists have plumbed. In sequence below:

  • “Narendra Modi, the front-runner to be India’s next prime minister”: The professors choose to side with fawning editors and rabble rousing politicians and turn out like blind cheerleaders when they declare Modi to be the front-runner. Not only is is likely that the BJP is bound to struggle to secure a significant number in the Indian parliament in 2014, it also appears to political observers that even if the BJP manages a good tally, it will struggle to cobble up an alliance that might have a shot at a majority in the house. In any case, irrespective of the electoral verdict, a person’s calling card is not his defence against a crime.
  • “what you call a pogrom was in fact a “communal riot””: A pogrom is a violent communal riot against a targeted opponent. In this case, there is plenty of evidence that Muslims bore the brunt of much of the violence in 2002. Whether this was in response to the Godhra train fire or not is material, but not a justification for the targeted violence that followed. See here for research on how this targeted violence would have benefited the BJP in the subsequent elections. It is important to note that it is the BJP and it religious extremist ideologues that are accused of having plotted these attacks. By no means does this political party and its fringe fundamentalists represent the majority of the liberal Hindu in India.
  • “more numerous 1984 killing of Sikhs”: this is the favourite bogey of those who think Modi and BJP are no more guilty of any sin than their archrivals, the Congress party. While this response works in television studios, this is hardly an argument expected from an academic/researcher. And all this response means is this: “we both killed innocents – so why accuse only us?” – hardly a position that the “eminent” professors should be supporting
  • “With not a single charge against Mr Modi standing up to the SIT’s scrutiny, it is absurd to ask him to atone”: Whatever blunders Manmohan Singh may have made or not in his 3rd Jan press conference, he was spot on when he said the following where he made it clear that Modi’s culpability is not just legal, but moral and political:

by “strong Prime Minister”, you mean that you preside over a mass massacre of innocent citizens on the streets of Ahmedabad, that is the measure of strength, I do not believe that sort of strength this country needs, least of all, in its Prime Minister

And, the SIT may have made its submission to the courts that pronounced its verdict on Modi. This merely implies that there was no evidence of acts of commission by Modi – but does nothing to absolve him of acts of omission and gross administrative failure.

Finally, this intervention by Bhagwati and Panagariya follow on their rich tradition where they have been crass in their comments on Amartya Sen – completely distasteful language. This can only add up to the most blatant suck-up by an academic, hoping for a suitable reward/position from a possible BJP government if and when it comes to power in future.

Other than an administrative climate where Modi ensures speedy clearances for corporate investment plans, it would be a strain for anyone to identify anything that makes Modi or the BJP appear to support politics any different from the Congress. In the recent food security bill debates, Modi actually argued that the bill was not comprehensive enough and pointed to the BJP’s successes in Chattisgarh where the state government delivered rice at cheaper rates to a larger section of the population. And so on and so forth…but these have been analysed threadbare elsewhere that Bhagwati and Panagariya seem to have wilfully ignored for the sake of their sycophantic worship of Narendra Modi


One Reply to “Bhagwati and Panagariya disgrace themselves further”

  1. at the risk of sounding ignorant and recognising that i could have looked some of this up for myself but… i think your (suvo’s) argument could have been stronger.

    1. whether or not the 2002 violence was a “pogrom” or “communal riot” would benefit from a definition of each and the key distinction between them. is it numbers? intention? etc. neither justifies the violence but if people want to haggle about terms and which applies (and why it matters), they should be precise.

    2. the argument about sikhs shouldn’t hold up anywhere — it’s about a different time and place and sin isn’t usually an argument of relativity. if you argue for your relative innocence because someone else did worse, it sounds like an admission of guilt to me.

    3. Modi’s sins might be of a moral and political nature as well but if there are also questions about the legal process, then the question of culpability on that front should be more firmly kept open, regardless of the ‘no less than’ SIT.


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