Modiís BJP blues

No proof is needed that other than Narendra Modi, the BJP has nothing new to offer. And yet, proof of the pathetic bankruptcy of our main opposition party comes almost every week. It comes in the form of one stupid statement or other from senior leaders who should have learned to keep their mouths shut. Some of the utterances of these senior leaders are so very stupid that it sometimes seems as if they are being made deliberately with the idea of ruining whatever chances Modi has of saving the party from yet another ignominious defeat.

Even by the high standards that BJP leaders have set in stupid statements, the demand last week that Amartya Sen's Bharat Ratna be confiscated raised the bar. I am no fan of Dr Sen's economic ideas and have said before in this column that all he offers by way of 'new' ideas are ideas that have failed in our socialist past. So I am delighted that economists like Jagdish Bhagwati and Arvind Panagariya have taken him on. The debate between these distinguished economists should be welcomed, encouraged and amplified.

Dr Sen must be asked to explain why he believes that all that is needed to save our abysmal public schools and hospitals is more investment. He must be asked why he thinks economic growth is somehow in conflict with higher standards of education and healthcare. He must be asked why he believes that pouring thousands of tonnes of food grain into a broken public distribution system is the solution to malnutrition in Indian children.

What he does not need to be questioned about is why he thinks Narendra Modi is not fit to be prime minister. He has a right to support whoever he wants, and he clearly thinks that Rahul Gandhi is more 'likable' and so more suited for this job. By demanding that his Bharat Ratna be taken away because he does not like Modi, the BJP shows an intolerance that is worthy of the Taliban. Whenever this kind of intolerance becomes public, because of some new stupid statement, the BJP loses those who may want to vote for the party in 2014 because of the dismal straits to which the Sonia-Manmohan government has brought India in the past nine years.

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