Column: Gujarat Muslims: In a PC trap?

Nov 02 2013, 04:03 IST
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SummaryTime for all PM candidates to end hostilities & present voters with choices about policies, programmes, performance

The debate about Narendra Modiís economic record has just gone international (perhaps even viral!). In an October 27 editorial, the prestigious newspaper, The New York Times, stated: ďHis rise to power is deeply troubling to many Indians, especially the country's 138 million Muslims and its many other minoritiesÖ His economic record in Gujarat is not entirely admirable, either.Ē Candidate Modi has changed the contours, and style, of the (Presidential?) debate in India. His in-your-face style has been enthusiastically joined by the other two aspirants for the PMís post: Rahul Gandhi of the Congress and Nitish Kumar of the JD(U). All three contenders have engaged in objectionable name calling and the debate is plumbing new lows. For example, Biharís Chief Minister, Nitish Kumar, recently likened Modi to Hitler. The hope remains that the debate will soon begin to focus on possibilities, policies and performance rather than venom and hatred and contempt.

As part of the discussion about performance, I have published two articles in The Financial Express (The Modi metric, http://goo.gl/iWjrkl; and Lessons to be learnt from Narendra Modi's Gujarat, http://goo.gl/CK4VRw) on the economic fortunes of the disadvantaged in Gujarat and other states of India. The disadvantaged are defined as the dominantly poor of IndiaóMuslims, scheduled castes (SC) and scheduled tribes (ST). The specific attention to Gujarat was motivated by the fact that the conventional wisdom has been that while Gujarat under Modi has been well known for its affinity with the corporate sector and strong GDP growth, it has not been known for inclusiveness of its growth, and particularly for inclusiveness of those whose religion is Islam.

In the first of the two articles I mentioned earlier, analysis of NSS surveys for FY00 and FY10 revealed that the Muslims in Gujarat had experienced very little decline in absolute poverty according to the Tendulkar definition (1.8 percentage points or ppt) in a decade of Modi rule. In contrast, the SCs and STs had shown a large 22 ppt decline over the same period. This singular omission from the growth process was dutifully reported by me, and most commentators applauded my professional dedication, and my conclusion.

In the second article, I repeated the exercise with the recently available FY12 NSS data and again dutifully reported the results. The latest data showed a large decline in poverty levels of Muslims in Gujarat, about 26 ppts in the space of just two years. If the

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