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Regional Parties To Have Important Role In 2024 General Elections: Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen

Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen said the BJP has narrowed the understanding of India as just Hindu India and as a Hindi-speaking India.

Nobel laureate Amartya Sen
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Economist and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen has said regional parties will have an important role in 2024 general elections. 

In an interview with PTI in Kolkata, Sen said it “would be a mistake” to think that the 2024 general elections would be a one-horse race in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). 

Sen, a critic of the Narendra Modi-led Union government, felt that the role of a number of regional parties would be “clearly important” for the upcoming general election. He furter said that though Trinamool Congress (TMC) supremo Mamata Banerjee has the ability to be the next Prime Minister of India, it is yet to be established whether she could be able to pull the forces of public dismay against the BJP.

He said, "I think a number of regional parties are clearly important. I think the DMK is an important party, the TMC is certainly important and the Samajwadi Party (SP) has some standing but whether that could be extended 

"I do not know. I think it would be a mistake to take the dismissive view that there is no other party that can take the place of BJP since it has established itself as a party with a vision that is inclined in the direction of Hindus over the rest of the country." 

Sen was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1998 for his work on welfare economics. His work concerned the question of most fundamental and important resources in a society and their division.

"One focus of Amartya Sen's research is how individuals' values can be considered in collective decision-making and how welfare and poverty can be measured. His efforts stem from his interest in questions of distribution and, in particular, the lot of society's poorest members. Sen's studies have included famines, to create a deeper understanding of the economic reasons behind famine and poverty," notes the Nobel Prize website. 

Sen's comment come at a time when a number of Opposition leaders have pitched for a united opposition to the BJP. Leaders of several parties, including the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Janata Dal-United (JD-U), have called for a new alliance including the Congress for the Lok Sabha polls in 2024. They have emphasised that a bipolar contest will ensure the BJP's defeat.

Sen told PTI, "The BJP has substantially reduced the vision of India. It has narrowed the understanding of India as just Hindu India and as a Hindi-speaking India in such a strong way that it would be sad if there is no alternative to the BJP in India today. 

"If the BJP looks strong and powerful, it has a good deal of weakness too. So, I think other political parties will be able to come to a debate if they really try. I do not know enough to be able to dismiss the anti-BJP parties together."

On whether Banerjee could be the country's next PM, Sen said she has the ability. 

He said, "It's not that she does not have the ability to do it. She clearly has the ability. On the other hand, it's yet not established that Mamata can pull the forces of public dismay against the BJP in an integrated way to make it possible for her to have the leadership to put an end to the fractionalisation in India."

Regional parties led by Banerjee's TMC, K Chandrashekar Rao's Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), and Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), had formed the Federal Front (FF) in the run-up to the 2019 general election. In January of that year, talks were held among the leaders gathered in Kolkata at a grand meeting organised by the TMC supremo. 

Among those present were JD(S) leader and then Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy, former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda, Arvind Kejriwal (AAP),  former UP Chief Ministers Akhilesh Yadav (SP), MK Stalin (DMK) of Tamil Nadu, Sharad Pawar of Maharashtra, Omar Abdullah and Farooq Abdullah of Jammu and Kashmir, and Gegong Apang of Arunachal Pradesh.

Sen expressed doubts about the Congress' ability to win the 2024 elections, which he believes has "weakened". He, however, said that it is the only party to provide an all-India vision.  

He said, "The Congress seems to have weakened a lot and I do not know how much somebody can rely on Congress. On the other hand, Congress certainly provides an all-India vision which no other party can take over. Then again, there are divisions within the Congress."

Sen has been critical of the Modi government in the past as well.

In 2018, Sen said India has taken a "quantum jump in the wrong direction" since 2014.

"Things have gone pretty badly wrong…It has taken a quantum jump in the wrong direction since 2014. We are getting backwards in the fastest-growing economy," said Sen at the time, as per The Indian Express.

In 2020, Sen voiced anguish over the "shrinking space" for debate and dissent in the country where people are jailed without trial through arbitrarily imposed charge of sedition. He also backed the farmers protests against the Union government's three farm laws which were later withdrawn.

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He had said, "A person whom the government does not like may be declared by the government to be a terrorist and imprisoned. Many opportunities of public protest and free discussion have been curtailed or closed. The space for dissent and debate is shrinking. People are jailed without trial through arbitrarily imposed charge of sedition.

"Rather than treating young and visionary leaders, committed to peaceful and non-violent ways like Kanhaiya or Khalid or Shehla Rashid as political assets who should be given the opportunity to pursue their pro-poor initiatives in a peaceful way they are often treated as enemies to be suppressed."

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Sen was awarded the Bharat Ratna, the highest Indian civilian honour, in 1999 by the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led BJP government in 1999.

(With PTI inputs)

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