Kapil Sibal’s article in The Hindu (Op-Ed, “Dealing in despair,” July 30, 2013) is misleading. His comparison of spending between various governments needs to be taken in the light of large sums of public money being misappropriated. In such a scenario, a spending spree that aims at emptying our coffers is a disastrous recipe. On the other hand, Mr. Sibal needs to employ holistic outcome-based comparisons over a time frame and not cherry-pick statistics.

Spending as measurement tool

In the Congress party’s initial statement, Mr. Ajay Maken had pegged the percentage of GDP spending under the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at 1.6 per cent. In his article, Mr. Sibal has revised the NDA numbers to 2.74 per cent. On the contrary, statistics sourced from World Bank depict a different picture.

The NDA average for the years that data is available is around 3.6 per cent. Allocations, made during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)-I rule, were approximately 3.2 per cent for the years that data is available. For UPA-II, it is approximately 3.26 per cent.

However, public spending alone cannot be treated as a measurement of a government’s competence. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) has been floundering due to issues in planning, implementation, reviews and misappropriation of funds. On related outcomes, our Human Development Index (HDI) has shown no improvement. This is after making approximately Rs.1.75 lakh crore available for MGNREGA between 2006 and 2011 — an amount equal to 25 per cent of Bangladesh’s annual GDP.

The United Nations uses a composite index measuring achievement in dimensions of human development — a healthy life, knowledge and a decent standard of living. Education thus is a part of HDI. India, ranked 136th currently has shown no improvements since UPA-I came to office in comparison to its peers.

Between 2005 and 2012, while the UPA has been in office, India’s HDI gap widened with China and the cluster of medium developed countries. Contrastingly, India’s HDI under the NDA shows the gap being steadied or bridged.

School education

The Education Development Index (EDI), conceived by the National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA), is a composite index for primary and upper primary levels. The EDI is based on a set of 21 indicators grouped into access, infrastructure, teachers and outcomes, thus providing holistic data-points.

The Congress party has been governing Delhi, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Haryana for close to two terms or more and was in government during 2005-2006 and 2011-2012. In the same time frame, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been governing Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh for close to two terms or more and was in government in Karnataka for parts of this period.

During this time, the Congress governed States of Delhi dropped from second to sixth rank and Andhra Pradesh, from eighth to 15th rank. Maharashtra improved from 12th to eighth and Haryana improved from 23rd to 17th. The BJP ruled States of Gujarat improved from 13th to ninth and Madhya Pradesh, from 29th to 26th. At the same time, Chhattisgarh dropped from 23rd to 28th.

Karnataka provides a good example of the effect on education once governments change. In 2005-2006, Karnataka under the Congress was ranked sixth and fell to as low as 10th in 2007-2008. However, after the BJP mandate in 2008, Karnataka’s performance jumped to second. These statistics also need to be read in the perspective that Lakshadweep, Daman and Diu and Puducherry which are ranked in the Top five do not have the problems of scale that larger States have.

The zero sum game

It is important to take feedback from improvements in Karnataka, Maharashtra and Gujarat and work to make other States better perform. However, this sad zero-sum game of targeting a State in the effort to demonise one person is the reason that the “India First” slogan is resonating across the country.

(G. Kishan Reddy is the State president of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Andhra Pradesh. Y.L Sreenivas is an adviser to the Andhra Pradesh BJP media cell. Research and analysis inputs provided by Yudofud.)

Kapil Sibal responds

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