The UPA government on Thursday rejected BJP Rajya Sabha MP Chandan Mitra's demand that economist Amartya Sen be stripped of his Bharat Ratna award for criticising Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.
"Does the BJP believe in the freedom of speech or not? Are people not entitled to express their views?" said information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari when he was asked to comment on Mitra's statement.
"Are people in this country not entitled to a view? The BJP is fine with a person as long as he or she follows their line," said Tewari.
"Has someone ever demanded taking away Bharat Ratna given to a person?" he asked.
"The BJP is fine with a person as long as he or she follows their line," he also said.
Shashi Tharoor, minister of state in the human resource development ministry, too rejected Mitra's comment. "There is no question of taking back the Bharat Ratna from him," he said.
The controversy began when Mitra criticised Sen, a Nobel laureate, for saying that he doesn't want Modi, who is leading the BJP's campaign for the 2014 elections, as India's prime minister.
"Amartya Sen says he doesn't want Modi to be India's PM. Is Sen even a voter in India? Next NDA government must strip him of Bharat Ratna," said Mitra on Twitter.
Sen, earlier this week told a television channel, that Modi had not done enough to make minorities feel safe. “As an Indian citizen, I don’t want Modi as my PM... He has not done enough to make minorities feel safe,” Sen told CNN-IBN in an interview.
On being asked why he did not want the Gujarat chief minister as the prime minister, Sen said, “He could have first of all been more secular and he could have made the minority community feel more secure.”
What Chandan Mitra tweeted
Amartya Sen says he doesn't want Modi to be India's PM: Is Sen he even a voter in India? Next NDA Govt must strip him of Bharat Ratna— Dr. Chandan Mitra (@DrChandanMitra) July 23, 2013
Please Dr Sen, don't peddle your unsolicited comments on India. We now know you as a has-been economist who sells Congress line for a living— Dr. Chandan Mitra (@DrChandanMitra) July 23, 2013
Those who are upset with my suggestion about Sen and Bharat Ratna, can you show me examples of others who do party politics after getting BR— Dr. Chandan Mitra (@DrChandanMitra) July 23, 2013
I repeat. Bharat Ratna is a jewel of whole country. No BR should speak for or against any party or leader. Sen shouldn't join Cong poll team— Dr. Chandan Mitra (@DrChandanMitra) July 23, 2013