The estimate of 70 crore for Rahul Gandhi’s target population seems to have been arrived at with simple arithmetic —the country’s overall population of 123 crore minus the 27 crore people estimated to be living below the poverty line and the approximate 25 crore people that make up the Indian middle class — which leaves a balance of 71 crore.
While getting to the figure may have been easy work, the hard part would be to try and categorise these 71 crore into a single bracket and then target the entire lot for political gains. For, unlike the other two broad categories of BPL and middle class, where some semblance of homogeneity is evident, the remaining population would have very little in common.
For Rahul Gandhi, the problem is that despite strong economic growth over the past decade, inequality in India has been surging. The Gini coefficient (a measure where 100 means high levels of inequality and 0 no inequality in an economy) may be comparatively low at less than 35 for India compared to that for other emerging markets, but this figure has largely been increasing since economic liberalisation.
Also, while the UPA government, in the last 10 years, can claim credit for having tried to specifically offer something for those on either end of India’s income-based population pyramid — the BPL population gaining from state welfare programmes, and doles and the middle-upper classes from the high rate of economic growth, especially in the years preceding the global meltdown — those in the middle may have a reason to feel somewhat left out. Especially on the aspirational front, considering that the 2011 census showed only 4.6 per cent of India’s population owned all four of these assets — television, computer/laptop, scooter/car and telephone/mobile phone. If the 21.9 per cent falling under the BPL bracket are excluded, the remaining 73.5 per cent would fall straight into Rahul Gandhi’s new target group.