Column: Present tense, past perfect

Nov 16 2013, 05:04 IST
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SummaryUPA-1 was much better than the NDA, but UPA-2 has been a disaster—2014’s vote is on UPA-2, not UPA-1

The Indian economy is in a very bad shape; we know that. Also, state elections are here and national elections are due in a few months. A heady mixture. Somewhat surprisingly, but interestingly, the Congress party and its ministers have decided that they will fight economic fact with economic fact and show that Congress’s economic record over the last 10 years has not only not been bad, but the best that the Indian economy has enjoyed, ever. As documentation, facts have been floated comparing the NDA record 1999-2004 (hereafter NDA) versus the Congress’s record 2004-2013 (hereafter UPA). For example, it is “documented” that the average GDP growth rate of 5.9 % during 5 years of NDA rule was considerably lower than the average growth of 8.3% observed in 10 years of UPA rule.

In my view, it augurs well for India that the electoral fight is on economic grounds rather than on the basis of caste, religion, incumbency, etc. The extensive documentation provided by UPA of superior economic performance would suggest that despite all odds, and the extremely weak performance of the economy in the last few years, it would be UPA-3, come May 2014.

However, that would be a hasty conclusion. An application of the economic performance model involves a separate analysis of the 2009 election and the forthcoming 2014 election. UPA-1’s record would be looked at to predict the 2009 election, and UPA-2’s record 2009-2013 would be analysed to predict the 2014 election. Nowhere have I found, certainly not in the Congress/UPA distributed literature or TV shouting matches, a Congress representative ever provide separate figures for the two UPA incarnations. The accompanying table maybe the first!

The Congress strategy of presenting the average 10-year record is akin to double jeopardy for a common criminal. Just like you cannot be tried for the same crime twice, a political party is not rewarded, or punished, by the electorate for the same performance twice. The Indian voter felt extremely happy with UPA-1’s performance and therefore rewarded Manmohan Singh as PM, and Sonia Gandhi as chairperson, Congress, with re-election by a respectable margin; Congress’s seats increased from 145 in 2004 to 206 in 2009, and the lead over BJP votes increased from 4.5 percentage points to 9.8 percentage points (28.6 % for Congress alone and 18.8% for BJP alone in 2009). Today, the voter will now look at what Congress has done

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