- "We work with any number of state governments": Abhijit Banerjee
- "We worked with the Gujarat Pollution (Control) Board," he said
- "They were willing to engage with evidence, implemented policies"
Indian-American Nobel laureate Abhijit Banerjee has highlighted the importance of maintaining a "professional" approach in working with others whose views on policies may differ. Mr Banerjee, who received the Nobel Prize for Economics along with his French-American wife Esther Duflo and Harvard University professor Michael Kremer, in an exclusive interview with NDTV, said partisanship is not something he follows in his "economic thinking".
"I am not partisan in my economic thinking. We work with any number of state governments, many of which are BJP governments. We worked with the Gujarat Pollution (Control) Board when Gujarat was under (Narendra) Modi, and we actually had an excellent experience. I would say that they were willing to engage with the evidence and they implemented policies that followed with that experience," Mr Banerjee, 58, told NDTV.
Mr Banerjee had assisted the Congress in formulating the NYAY scheme, ahead of the national election this year. The scheme promised to give Rs 72,000 a year to each of the 20 per cent families in the poorest of the poor category.
"If the BJP government, like the Congress party, had asked what were the numbers on the fraction of people under a particular income, would I have not told them the truth? I would have told them exactly. I would have been as willing. In terms of being a professional, I want to be professional with everyone," Mr Banerjee said.
"We are specialists who have something special to say. We have had no problem with working in any state interested in evaluating their policies. We value seriousness and willingness to solve problems," he told NDTV.
Leaders in the Union government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi - and the PM himself - have congratulated the India-born economist for winning the Nobel Prize, but some of their comments have been seen as being critical of Mr Banerjee.
Union Minister Piyush Goyal, in a press briefing on Friday, directly called the Nobel laureate a "Left-leaning" person. "Abhijit Banerjee won the Nobel prize, I congratulate him. But you all know what his understanding is. His thinking is totally Left-leaning. He had praised the NYAY scheme effusively, but the people of India totally rejected his thinking," Mr Goyal said.
The NYAY or Nyuntam Aay Yojana is a minimum income guarantee scheme that headlined the Congress manifesto for the national election earlier this year. The party crashed in the polls. Congress MP Rahul Gandhi, in his tweet congratulating Mr Banerjee for his Nobel, credited him with the NYAY plan.
The economist told NDTV India's "institutions have been reduced to zombies". "In the last days of the UPA (United Progressive Alliance), the institutions were all aggressive. It was probably a good idea in the long run, but in the short run a lot of business people were upset about it. What happens now is that these institutions exist, but they don't take decisions anymore," Mr Banerjee said.
Mr Banerjee and Ms Duflo, 46, are both professors at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US. Ms Duflo is the second woman to win the Nobel Economics Prize in its 50-year existence, following Elinor Ostrom in 2009.