Ahead of crucial elections in Gujarat, Congress party, now apparently led by vice-president Rahul Gandhi, has made development the main agenda of its election campaign. With the help of puns like ‘Vikas (development) has gone crazy’ in Gujarat, recent data on GDP decline and perceived job losses due to steps like GST and demonetisation, the Congress is expecting a historic comeback, even as opinion polls suggest BJP continues to remain people’s first choice in the state.
Unlike the past, Congress has stopped raking up Gujarat riots issue ahead of the important elections. The Grand Old Party has also tried to stitch alliances with young caste leaders like Hardik Patel, Alpesh Thakore, and Jignesh Mewani. There is a clear change in the Congress strategy. While on the ground it is stitching caste-based alliances with Dalits and Patidars, from the public stages, its top leader Rahul Gandhi has dumped the Congress’ pet agenda of the last three years, as well as of the last two decades — intolerance, attacks on Dalits, and the Gujarat riots etc.
Instead, Rahul as well as the party leaders in Delhi are targetting Prime Minister Narendra Modi over his economic steps like demonetisation and GST. Rahul’s anti-demonetisation rhetorics had failed badly during Uttar Pradesh elections last year, especially after the third quarter report of FY 2016-17 showed only a 0.4 percent dip in GDP than the previous quarter.
As the Congress mounts its offensive against Modi in Gujarat, claiming PM has ruined everything with steps like noteban and GST, a report by the World Bank has come on the right time for Modi. It punctures Congress claims on the state of economy, in the same way as the GDP data during UP elections.
On Tuesday, Modi’s economic reforms and moves, or what is now often referred to as Modinomics, got a booster shot as India jumped 30 notches above in the World Bank’s ‘ease of doing business’ ranking for 2018. The massive jump catapulted India to the 100th spot from the 130th position of last year.
The report said that India, which was ranked 130th among 190 nations of the world last year, is “one of the top 10 improvers in this year’s assessment, having implemented reforms in 8 out of 10 ‘doing business’ indicators,” it said.
Though GST rollout was not taken into consideration for the ease of doing business, the World Bank report stamped the effectiveness of other reform measures taken by Modi government in the last three years for making it easy for all to do business in India. The report said India’s ranking reflected nearly half of the 37 reforms, adopted since 2003, implemented in the last four years.
Soon after the report was released, opposition Congress came up with a counter, claiming Modi has contributed to the ‘cease of doing business’ in India. The Congress counter cited data on poor jobs, the effect of measures like GST and demonetisation on informal sector etc. However, these impacts are temporary and what may further help Modi, in the long run, is the fact that GST and the massive digitalisation push to the economy are likely to further improve India’s position in the ease of doing business report next year. The assessments by international agencies like IMF and the World Bank also suggest that India’s GDP will come back to the high growth trajectory in the next financial year – a few months before the next General elections.