Maharajganj (UP): “Hard work is more powerful than Harvard," Prime Minister Narendra Modi said at an election rally in Maharajganj, Uttar Pradesh, on Wednesday, in an apparent dig at economists who have criticised the government’s demonetisation move.

“On the one hand are those (critics of note ban) who talk of what people at Harvard say and on the other hand is a poor man’s son who through his hard work is trying to improve the economy," he added.

The latest gross domestic product (GDP) figures released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) on Tuesday showed that the Indian economy grew by 7.0% in the December quarter, indicating that the impact of demonetisation was negligible on economic growth.

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Modi’s remark on Thursday came against the backdrop of Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen terming demonetisation as a “despotic action that has struck at the root of economy based on trust". Sen is professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University.

The prime minister, however, soon went back to the agenda at hand—the Uttar Pradesh elections. He said the state’s electorate has already ensured victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the first five phases and now they would give surplus votes as “gift and bonus" in the remaining two rounds.

“I request the voters of the state to give the rest of the two phases as bonus to the party. This is similar to the chillies and coriander leaves, which the vegetable seller gives to the buyer as bonus," Modi said drawing applause from the crowd.

A few days back the prime minister had spoken of the possibility of a hung assembly in the state, saying the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party were waiting for such an opportunity for bargaining, prompting chief minister Akhilesh Yadav to comment that after dreaming of 300-plus seats, Modi was now talking about fractured mandate.