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BJP Fields Noted Economist to Defeat Left in Its Bastion

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Noted economist Ashok Kumar Lahiri who has been fielded by the BJP from Balurghat, a bastion of the Left Front, believes he is in with a chance in the upcoming Bengal elections, and pointed to the “corrections” made in Russia and China to highlight that people are always willing to change with time.

Speaking to News18.com, Lahiri said Bengalis are not a foolish lot and it is not right to assume that they are not looking for a change. “Even the Soviet Union gave up on Communism after 70 years. China also made corrections,” he said to back up his confidence that the odds of his victory are not far-fetched.

Balurghat, a constituency in the South Dinajpur district, has been a stronghold of the Left Front partner Revolutionary Socialist Party for the last three and half decades, having voted it to power all but one time since 1977. However, the Left has seen a decline over the last decade, as BJP had won the parliamentary seat of Balurghat in 2019, and TMC had won the assembly seat in 2011.

Lahiri told News18.com that he believes that people of Balurghat, and Bengal, understand the need for ‘parivartan’ (change). “See, Bengal has continuously declined for almost the last 45 years. If you look at it in terms of per capita income, ranking among other states, in terms of industrialisation, in terms of even education and health care, the State is lagging behind.”

Asked what he would like to focus on if he does win the election, Lahiri answered modestly, saying, “I know a little bit about economics… so I will try to contribute in any form for what I believe is good for the Bengali community.”

Lahiri has had a distinguished career as an economist and is currently serving as a member of the 15th Finance Commission. He previously served as 12th Chief Economic Adviser to the Indian government and was the chairman of Bandhan Bank and executive director at the Asian Development Bank. He also worked with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, as a consultant and senior economist.

Despite his stellar career, Lahiri had to face a lot of resistance after he was announced as a candidate by the BJP. He was first fielded from the Alipurduar constituency but was later shifted to Balurghat, after a section of leaders and workers protested his nomination and demanded a local candidate from Alipurduar.

Expanding on his claim that Bengal has continuously declined for the last 45 years, during Congress, Left and TMC rule, he said he is not saying that no work has been done. “See either you could be happy that previously you were eating one roti and now you are eating two rotis. But you should also look at what the others have done in the meantime.”

He said Bengalis are a proud people, who believe in their capability to lead India, and he would like to play a part in the “rejuvenation of Bengal”. “Now Bengal is in the court of people and people have to make a decision.” He also laughed off suggestions that he could be a contender for the CM’s post if the BJP does win the election. “I have not come here for power. I am flattered but no comments on this please.”