On Gujarat and Narendra Modi, mixing up numbers, slipping on facts

Nov 09 2013, 20:30 IST
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SummaryThe people of India face a choice between the Congress and the BJP.

I was more amused than concerned after reading Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma’s interview in The Indian Express (‘BJP trying to set up a “battle between two leaders”, says Anand Sharma’, November 5), where he dished out half-truths in an attempt to buttress the Congress’ flimsy criticism of the BJP and Narendra Modi. Surely, Sharma is entitled to his opinions, but not to his own set of facts.

Sharma attacks Modi over an “obsession with the presidential system” of the US and as someone with “an authoritarian bent of mind” whose “intolerance is reflected in his political conduct”. This statement from a Congressman, whose senior leaders proudly participate in exhibitions of cringe-worthy servility and breach every limit of sycophancy, makes me laugh. Even the prime minister displays obsequiousness and seeks to work under the inexperienced

43-year-old shehezada! The Congress’s Chhattisgarh chief is ready to pick up a broom and sweep the floor for Sonia Gandhi. Contrast this with Modi, who is among the most accessible chief ministers, who takes questions from the media and even junior party-workers, and is always willing to listen to an alternative point of view. Can Sharma express his dissent in the Congress’s internal forums against any decision of his party leaders? Is it because of their “intolerance”? Can Sharma also tell us why his leaders refuse to face the media?

The BJP is the only party where even a tea-vendor serving in railway coaches and platforms can get to the top riding on years of hard work, demonstrated performance and an openness to new ideas. This bottoms-up democratic and meritocratic system within the BJP is the true alternative to the feudal, family-based set-up of other political parties. For the others, it is a family proprietorship; for us, it

is a cooperative.

Sharma’s perverse delight in Modi supposedly being denied a visa is hard to conceal. Here is a Union minister who would rather go by the whims of a foreign country than by the repeated judgments of our own Supreme Court. That a foreign country has the gall to talk about denying a visa to a constitutionally elected chief minister is a reflection of the UPA’s failed foreign policy. Sharma, surprisingly, seems proud of this. I would like to know what the UPA’s official stand on this is.

Sharma repeatedly errs on facts. Perhaps he is trying to emulate his leader Rahul Gandhi, who recently said that the UPA built 9,570 km of roads versus 2,650 km under the NDA, a “fact” emphatically contradicted by their own affidavit to the SC. According to Sharma, share of manufacturing in the GDP increased from 15 per cent to 25 per cent under the UPA. But their own Planning Commission acknowledges it fell from 15.25 per cent in FY05 to 15.11 per cent in FY13.

Further, he attempts to portray Gujarat’s FDI narrative in a bad light, and fails miserably. As commerce minister, he should know that FDI is registered in the state where a company is registered, and not where the actual investment is made. Therefore, British Petroleum’s investment of $7.2 billion in the oil and gas sector with a partner who is merely registered in Mumbai but operates from Gujarat gets counted in Maharashtra and not in Gujarat. Is he unaware of such a rudimentary data-compilation practice or is he deliberately misleading the nation?

He then mixes up numbers on state liabilities: Congress-ruled Maharashtra is either first or second on this count, consistently for a decade, whereas Gujarat has seen one of the most drastic falls in debt to GSDP ratio between 2002-03 and 2013-14, from 38.8 per cent to 26.1 per cent, according to the RBI. Gujarat ranks 21st in debt to GSDP today, making it one of the least indebted states. Sharma is proven wrong once again.

It is ironic that Sharma talks about the “financial mismanagement” of a state universally lauded for its sound practices while his government has indulged in scams worth hundreds of billions of dollars (2G, Coalgate, CWG, Maharashtra irrigation, Antrix-Devas, Thorium, Adarsh) and is infamous for its fiscal imprudence (breached 75 per cent of the fiscal deficit target in five months!). They inherited a robust economy from Vajpayee and systematically decimated it.

Sharma has also questioned Gujarat’s performance on school dropout rates, perhaps without looking at the data published by the government: dropout rates for classes I-VIII dropped from 45.48 per cent in 2002-03 to 7.08 per cent in 2012-13. This was due to the state government’s various far-sighted schemes, such as Kanya Kelavani and Shala Praveshotsav. Moreover, he didn’t reveal that the Audit of Integrated Child Development Services Scheme revealed that grade I and II malnutrition in the state has reduced by around

50 per cent between 2006-07 and 2010-11. More recent data (as of March 2013) demonstrates a further decline to levels lower than in the Congress-ruled states of Kerala, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh.

The people of India face a choice between the Congress and the BJP. The former has institutionalised poverty but uses emotion and fear to sway voters, while the latter represents the aspirations of young India and is determined to make India a confident and prosperous country within the next decade. Indians will choose substance over emotion. India will choose Narendra Modi.

The writer is a Rajya Sabha MP and national treasurer, BJP

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