Can't criticise India because right-wing assumes it's indictment of current govt: Economist slams BJP for attacking Rahul Gandhi

While Congress chief Rahul Gandhi's speeches during his four-day visit to the United Kingdom and Germany have sparked a political war of words back in India, the comments of the party president regarding rising unemployment in the country and the 'divisive politics' of the Sangh and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have also stoked a debate on social media.

"It is very dangerous in the 21st Century to exclude people," Rahul said at the Bucerius Summer School in Hamburg, accusing the BJP of excluding tribals, Dalits and minorities from the development narrative. "If you don't give people a vision in the 21st century, somebody else will. And that's the real risk of excluding a large number of people from the development process." In his address in Hamburg, Rahul traced the creation of Islamic State to warn against a similar situation at home if people are excluded from the development process. Rahul was on a four-day tour of the United Kingdom and Germany as part of the Congress' NRI outreach programme.

Taking note of Rahul's assertions in the UK and Germany, economist and columnist Rupa Subramanya took to Twitter and supported Rahul's claims and said, "In India, problem always comes down to lack of data.We don't even have credible jobs data so no way we can test anything. But in the US there's ample evidence Trump won big in states that faced rising unemployment and stagnant wages. So Rahul Gandhi is right." In a series of tweets, the economist slammed the ruling party for attacking the Congress chief for his remarks on the current political dispensation in the country, the rising "right-wing politics" and said that in an anti-intellectual country like India, one can't "criticize India because "RW" illogically assumes it's indictment of current govt. Anti-intellectuals."

Leaders of the BJP slammed Rahul and demanded his apology for "maligning Indian government" on foreign soil. Questioning the need to politicise comments which are not that out of the norm, Rupa said that in an "anti-intellectual Indian discourse space", remarks about extremism and rising-unemployment-can-fuel-the-rise-of-populist-leaders, are mocked and derided.

Rahul claimed that the incidents of lynching in India were due to "anger" emanating from joblessness and "destruction" of small businesses due to demonetisation and the "poorly implemented" GST by the ruling BJP.

He also alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi "demonetised the Indian economy and destroyed the cash flow" of all small and medium businesses rendering millions jobless. "They imposed a badly conceptualised GST which complicated lives further," Rahul said. "Large numbers of people who worked in small businesses were forced back to the villages and these three things that the government has done has made India angry. "And that's what you get to read in the newspapers. When you hear about lynchings, when you hear about attacks on Dalits in India, when you hear about attacks on minorities in India, that's the reason for it," Rahul said.

Backing the Congress president's claim, Rupa gave the example of US presidential elections and said that in America, the then presidential candidate Donald Trump rode on the anger fuelled by overall economic discontentment which caused unemployment and stagnant wages. "Doesn't rule out other factors such as race, ethnicity etc but doesn't negate the importance of economics."

Adding that this is happening all over the world, the columnist gave the example of Brexit, Greece and the rise of far-right or far-left parties all over Europe. "This issue is prominent in the agenda of both radical-left and extreme-right parties. It seems that the left–right divide is being replaced by the confrontation between parochial and cosmopolitan values. At least to some extent, this has been driven by the vulnerability of the lower-middle classes to job polarisation caused by trade and technological progress, which in turn has brought up outsourcing and increased competition from low-wage countries, and automation," said a 2017 column by prominent economists.
The column used regional data for 26 European countries to explore how the impact of the Great Recession on labour markets has affected populist voting, political attitudes, and trust. The results indicate a strong link between unemployment and voting for non-mainstream (especially populist) parties.

Rupa backed the Congress chief and said that while there should not be the need to provide evidence "for something so basic", it's a "shame" that experts in India not only remain quiet but they also are encouraging "while the uninformed and partisans degrade discourse."

Mounting criticism on the BJP leaders for attacking Rahul for making those comments, the economist in her tweet said, "There was a time not too long ago you could have debates about inequality, north-south divide, unemployment etc without it being politicized. But we're in an age where you can't criticize India because 'RW' (right-wing) illogically assumes it's indictment of current govt. Anti-intellectuals."

Slamming the "RW" politics, Rupa said that Indian discourse is "reduced to relitigating first principles whether it's economics, sociology" or political science. Alleging that partisan loyalty wins over everything else, the tweet claimed that the "political right-wing" in India is ignoring important indicators. "The political "RW" believes basic laws of economics,demography etc do not apply to India."

Updated Date: Aug 27, 2018 12:10:31 IST