West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has the ability to be the next prime minister, according to Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, who also said regional parties will hold the key if the ruling BJP is to be defeated in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
"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," Sen told PTI in an interview.
The noted economist, however, hit out at the BJP, accusing it of 'substantially reducing the vision of India.'
"The BJP 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 the country today," said the 89-year-old, adding that if the saffron party looks powerful, it has a 'good deal' of weakness too.
It is here, as per Sen, that regional parties will have an important role to play. "The DMK is an important party, Banerjee's TMC is certainly important, and the Samajwadi Party has some standing but whether that could be extended I do not know. But, I do not know enough to be able to dismiss the anti-BJP parties together."
The Congress, on the other hand, is 'weakened,' the Nobel laureate remarked, though he also conceded only the grand old party can provide an all-India vision.
Amartya Sen's remarks come at a time when the next general elections are less than 15 months away. While prime minister Narendra Modi is all set to run for a third term, the opposition is yet to put up a united front. This year, as many as nine states will go to polls, including BJP-ruled Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh, and the Congress-ruled Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan.