Lessons to be learnt from Narendra Modi's Gujarat

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SummaryNarendra Modi's model performed much better than most on offer.

Almost a year ago, on December 13, 2012, I published an article, The Modi Metric (http://goo.gl/XHq4oT), in the Indian Express with the explicit goal of evaluating Gujarat’s development in terms of both economic growth per se and improvements in living standards. Gujarat was just about to go to the polls, and there had been a constant debate (and continuing) about whether under Narendra Modi’s stewardship, the much-hyped economic growth had also delivered results to the poor. Of particular interest was the improvement in the lives of the Muslims. Gujarat’s record since 2002 has been scarred by the Godhra riots of February 2002—Hindu-Muslim riots which took place just six months after Narendra Modi became chief minister in 2001.

In the 2012 article, I had offered an index of inclusion, an index that revealed how the poverty decline for a particular disadvantaged community (e.g., Muslims) compared to the poverty decline among the non-disadvantaged (not-SC-ST and not-Muslims group). For all groups, the reference calculation was the decline in absolute poverty between 1999-2000 and 2009-10. If a state achieved a higher decline in poverty reduction of the disadvantaged relative to the advantaged, it obtained a higher rank. According to this index, Gujarat’s rank was 15th out of 18 big states, i.e., Gujarat was the fourth-worst performer for poverty reduction of Muslims relative to the non-disadvantaged. Hence, I concluded that “Gujarat has delivered growth under Mr. Modi; equally emphatically, growth in Gujarat has neither been equitable nor inclusive”.

Today, the contours of the debate have changed somewhat. Mr. Modi has been elected as the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate and the Gujarat development model has come under increasing criticism. Sometimes, this criticism comes in the form of fantasy, as Congress’s shooter for all occasions, Mr. Digvijay Singh, recently claimed that not only was Gujarat’s performance worse than Rajasthan, but also that the number of poor had increased under Modi!

Others, including Nobel laureate Amartya Sen, and most of the glitterati, have been equally critical about Gujarat’s economic performance. Some like me based their analysis on the then latest 2009/10 NSSO data. Others used inappropriate data to draw conclusions, e.g., using data on the population-sex ratio to make inferences about the sex ratio at birth. No doubt this discussion will continue into the elections next year, and it is entirely appropriate, indeed required, than an intelligent debate take place about development, and models of development.

This debate takes on heightened importance

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