Amartya Sen’s article in New York Times and ‘interesting’ interpretation of Modi supporters to vilify the Nobel laureate


Rifat Jawaid

Supporters of BJP in general and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in particular have often received flak for morphing photos and spreading wrong information to misrepresent facts in a bid to cause favourable perception for the saffron party.

Saturday was no different when one saffron brigade launched a tirade against Amartya Sen for his intelligent and thought-provoking piece in the New York Times.

Writing for the the US-based newspaper, Sen along with another Nobel laureate, Eric Maskin, felt how majority rule may have stopped Donald Trump in the ongoing primaries, where the controversial business tycoon turned Republican leader is seeking Presidential nomination.

Sen and Maskin concluded the piece by drawing a parallel with the India’s first-past-the-post electoral system.

They wrote, “Replacing plurality rule with majority rule would improve American primaries. More broadly, an understanding of the critical difference between a plurality and a majority could improve politics around the world. In an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in India, Gopal Gandhi, Mahatma’s grandson, wrote that ’69 percent of the voters did not see you as their savior,’ adding that they also “disagreed on what, actually, constitutes our desh (our country).”

However, Sadanand Dhume, a journalist based in America, and a perceived BJP supporter was quick to interpret as if the Nobel laureates’ were questioning the legitimacy of Narendra Modi since he had come to power garnering only 31 percent votes.

Sen and Maskin had essentially quoted excerpts from Gandhi’s article without concluding that they too held those views but Dhume didn’t spend time in attributing the assertion to the Indian Nobel laureate.

Dhume wrote, “Amartya Sen thinks Modi government lacks legitimacy because BJP won only 31.3% of the vote. [But fine for Manmohan/Sonia to rule w/ 28.6%.]”

While the supporters of BJP were nimble-footed in widely sharing Dhume’s interpretation, the journalist was also questioned by many, which led to quite a quirky conversation on Twitter.

Journalist and former editor of Business World Tony Joseph asked Dhume, “But where does he say that? In fact, this is what he says: ‘…which is fair enough, given the electoral system.'”

Joseph elaborated his argument further through second tweet, “The piece isn’t about India, but electoral systems globally & ‘the difference between a plurality and a majority’. Applies to all.”

In the midst of this conversation between Joseph and Dhume, others were quick to butt in adding the much needed humourous criticism for the latter’s ability to ‘read Sen’s mind’ to arrive at a favourable conclusion.

Sushant Sinha, a PhD scholar at University of Michigan wrote, “You misread @dhume. He is saying what ‘Amartya Sen thinks’ and not what ‘he says.'”

Feigning ignorance, Joseph asked, “How does one get inside Sen’s head to know what he thinks, rather than writes/says?”

Pat came the reply, “no idea but certainly an award winning skill :)”

User BN Sahoo made his interjection with this tweet, “Sir, You too just be a little prejudiced, and you will also be blessed with the skill to know what others think. ;)”

In a truly ‘non-conformist’ style, user Sunil Raina said, “That’s perhaps vedic science practised by virat chaddis.”

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