A statutory central government agency, functioning under the aegis of the ministry of statistics and programme implementation (MoSPI), seems to have caused the Union government and the party that runs it no end of embarrassment. The reactions of senior government functionaries have been pretty much of a piece with a style that has become emblematic of this dispensation.
A subcommittee of the National Statistical Commission (NSC), an autonomous body, has released a report with a dataset relating to annual gross domestic product (GDP) growth rates going back to the last years of the Narasimha Rao government. The precise figures that have set off a minor storm show that the annual growth rate during the tenure of the first United Progressive Alliance (UPA-I) was 8.89 percent; and, under the second, and often considered economically disastrous, UPA (UPA-II) government 7.39 percent. In the four years under the incumbent Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, this figure has clocked in at 7.2 percent .
The report and the data are not yet official. For that to happen, they will have to be vetted and validated by the NSC. But government functionaries have gone into overdrive to discredit these findings, while the Congress party is obviously making a point about economic management. After the UPA-II government was exculpated in the 2-G spectrum allocation, these figures have obviously given it many talking points.
Let’s examine the reactions to the report and the data, which were released on Friday, 17 August, 2018. The very next day, Rajiv Kumar, the deputy chairperson of the Niti Aayog, and Sanjeev Sanyal, principal economic advisor to the union finance ministry, stepped up to the plate.
Jaitley also suggested that the Manmohan Singh government succeeded because it built on the headwinds generated by the BJP government in 1998-2004. To be fair, he also mentioned ‘incremental reforms from 1991 to 2004’, but the brunt of the argument was that Atal Bihari Vajpayee left a legacy, which made it possible for the UPA-I government to make a success of economic management. Coupled with this claim is the almost invariable invocation of the failures of past Congress governments whenever the question of this government’s failures come up.
If the BJP and its government toned down its propensity for self-congratulation, attempts to claim unearned credit and relentless efforts to run down everyone else, while acquiring a smidgeon of the art of being graceful, it would make the current dispensation somewhat less tiresome.