Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh’s crack about Narendra Modi’s prime ministerial ambitions being a case of premature articulation couldn’t have been timed better. A day after he said this, finance minister P Chidambaram pounced on Modi’s statement that economic growth was 8.4% during the NDA regime. It was actually 5.9%, the finance minister said, while adding his own crack about this being a fake encounter, the other charge Modi is currently battling. While former finance minister Yashwant Sinha accused Chidambaram of being a terrorist with facts, there is little doubt Modi’s backroom boys need to get their facts right. Growth during the Vajpayee years was indeed around 8.4%, but that was in his last year in power—the average for all the years was what Chidambaram said it was.
Perhaps too late to make a difference—just a few newspapers carried it—BJP leaders spoke of their track record in creating jobs versus the UPA’s. NSS data shows 60.7 million jobs were created during the NDA’s FY00 to FY05 period (one year of this was the UPA’s) as compared to a mere 2.7 million in the next five years of the UPA (FY05 to FY10) and another 12.8 million in the FY10 to FY12 period. The BJP juxtaposed this jobs creation against the UPA’s
MGNREGA’s guaranteeing just 100 days of work a year.
While the UPA has yet to come out with a reply to this BJP riposte, the important thing is that economics is finally on the agenda. Watch out for data on the levels of inflation during the NDA and the UPA years, going down to perhaps even the number that matter the most nowadays—the price of onions.