The UPA Government’s claim that poverty declined from 37.2 per cent to 21.9 per cent during its rule was a “cruel joke” on the poor and aimed at diverting people’s attention from its massive failures on economic and social fronts, senior BJP leader M. Venkaiah Naidu said here on Sunday.

At a press conference here, he slammed the Government for its claim through the Planning Commission when reports of the World Bank and others had shown that the human development index of India was lower than that of its neighbouring countries. He charged the Government with trying to mislead people and demanded Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is the chairman of Planning Commission, to spell out the criteria for fixing poverty ceiling.

Mr. Naidu also hit out at Congress leaders for their “arrogant and irresponsible” statements that a meal could be had at Rs.5 or Rs.12 and accused them of insulting the people. He said food alone was not the criterion for deciding the basis for poverty and other criteria including shelter, clothing, education and health form part it.The BJP leader also saw a contradiction in government’s claim of poverty reduction and the need to provide food security to 67 per cent of the population.

He said that rattled by the growing popularity of Narendra Modi, the Congress and Left parties were launching a major campaign to defame him. However, these parties do not have credibility, he claimed.