Cerebral Shangrila

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Amartya Sen for President ?

I am currently reading Amartya Sen's " Argumentative Indian" (Will post a detailed review of the book once I finish reading it) . It is an amazing book and makes one admire the multi-faceted genius that Sen is and his cogent analysis founded by deep research.

Ramachandra Guha writes an opinion piece in The Telegraph on why Amartya Sen should become the next president of India. He cites 5 reasons and none can dispute the argument except for the fifth one !

Guha writes, " he would bring to this post a gravitas that it has not had for some forty years. The first two presidents were men of real distinction. Rajendra Prasad was one of the great figures of the nationalist movement, and president of the Constituent Assembly before he became president of the republic. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan was a world-renowned philosopher, who held a prestigious chair at Oxford, served as vice chancellor of the Andhra and Banaras Hindu Universities, and wrote some very influential works of popular scholarship. Although some honourable men have been president since — I think especially of the current holder of the office and of K.R. Narayanan — none has matched Rajen babu or Radhakrishnan for sheer, solid achievement. And that Amartya Sen will certainly do."

I have the highest respect for Bengalis . Their contribution to the field of arts,music,cinema,economics is unparalleled and the bengali "intellectual" prowess has contributed a lot to the nation. Being a hard-core quizzer,wildlife lover and music/movies fan most of my closest friends are Bengalis and I normally establish a very easy rapport and close friendship with them everywhere.Having said all this, I couldn't agree with the parochial fifth point that Guha raises .

Guha states, " The fifth reason why Amartya Sen should become president is that it would be good for Bengal. The province and its peoples have a history of more-or-less legitimate laments against the rest of India. In 1905, Bengal was partitioned, thus to divide Hindus and Muslims and make the province itself less important to India as a whole. Six years later, the partition was annulled, but then the capital was shifted from bustling, sparkling Calcutta to that decrepit old place, Delhi. In the Twenties, a scheming bania from Gujarat conspired to oust the great C.R. Das from the leadership of the national movement. In the Thirties, the bania promoted, as his successor, an aristocratic Allahabadi above the equally talented Subhas Chandra Bose.

After Independence the discrimination has continued. Through the long period of Congress rule, West Bengal was denied its fair share of Central funds, while the policies of ‘freight equalization’ sought to undermine its industrial pre-eminence. After the communists came to power in Calcutta, the Centre tried repeatedly to destabilize them. They failed, but when in 1996, Jyoti Basu should have become prime minister, it was a Delhi cabal (this time a communist one) which thwarted his chances. Finally, in 2004, India’s most successful cricket captain, a Bengali, was replaced by a less qualified man from Karnataka.

In the past, the heroes of modern Bengal have all had victory cruelly snatched from them. Snatched, as it were, at the finishing line. Subhas Bose should have been the first prime minister of India. Jyoti Basu should have become the first communist prime minister of India. Sourav Ganguly should really still be cricket captain of India. but if Amartya Sen does become president, all those failures and humiliations will be forgotten. Bengal and the Bengalis will have what they have long hoped for and, indeed, deserved — a man who was a winner at the end."

Guha, let us not the play the regional/caste game again . There is no doubt about Amartya's qualification to become a Prez but please let us not put being a bengali as one of them !


  • WTF????

    Oh man! Mr. Guha has gone bonkers!

    By Blogger Sri Harsha, at 2:41 PM  

  • Since The Telegraph is a Kolkata based newspaper, he would have thought that such an argument would find favour with the audience. He might not have anticipated that this would get noticed so much outside West Bengal (especially in the online world).

    By Blogger Kaps, at 11:40 PM  

  • democratic country....

    By Blogger ILA (a) இளா, at 7:38 PM  

  • Please remind Guha of the civil war the Bengalis’s initiated following the removal of Sourav Ganguly as captain. I too have a very good respect towards Bengalis. But not when they talk the caste politics.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:40 AM  

  • just remove the 5th reason...

    By Blogger Ram C, at 2:40 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home