In a frontal attack on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Monday, the Congress ripped apart the statistics on education and sports he had cited in a speech on Sunday in Pune to bolster his argument that the Congress-led UPA had performed poorly. The party also questioned Mr. Modi’s concern for the poor, by focusing on his criticism of the UPA’s food security Bill, while pointing out that Gujarat’s own record on mid-day meals was less than the national average.

The Congress was clearly in the mood to challenge the BJP’s claims of good governance in Gujarat, while putting on record its successes in education, sports and management of the economy.

It made a conscious effort not to bring up the secular-communal debate. It was only when a journalist asked for a response to Mr. Modi’s comment on the Congress hiding behind the “burqa of secularism” that Congress communications chief Ajay Maken hit back, saying it was preferable to the BJP’s “naked communalism” — the former united the people and the latter just divided them.

Addressing a press conference here, Mr. Maken stressed that there was a massive increase in the spending on education “in absolute numbers as well as a percentage of GDP.” During the NDA regime, he said, the government had spent only 1.67 per cent of the GDP on education, whereas the UPA spent 4.02 per cent. As for Gujarat, he pointed out that its spending on education ranked 14th in the country in 2011-12. “Mr. Modi is telling the UPA to improve. Why didn’t he give the NDA similar advice?”

In the UPA’s tenure, Mr. Maken said, the number of central universities had increased from 17 to 44, IITs from seven to 16 and IIMs from six to 13. In Gujarat, on the other hand, of the 16 Government Degree Engineering Colleges and 26 Government Diploma Engineering College, only eight had regular principals; in the 16 Degree and 26 Diploma Engineering Colleges, 67 per cent of senior faculty positions had been vacant for the last 10 years, and in government secondary schools, around 125 of 187 principal posts were vacant.

Mr. Maken said Mr. Modi was not in a position to lecture others on education given that Gujarat had one of the worst net enrolment ratios in schools in India.

Union Minister Sachin Pilot also joined issue with Mr. Modi. “BJP can say what it wants. But let them come out and say that they do not want to give cheaper food to the people. They never say it because they can't.”

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