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India Had Its ‘Acche Din’ Long Before Modi Did His Damage

A lie spoken a thousand times becomes the currency in circulation.

21/09/2017 12:28 PM IST | Updated 21/09/2017 12:31 PM IST
Rupak De Chowdhuri / Reuters

The popular aphorism, "the beauty of numbers is that they don't lie," collapsed ignominiously eons ago thanks to dodgy investment bankers, authoritarian regimes like China and Russia, and often corporate chieftains looking to douse shareholder fury through magnanimous deviations in accounting treatment. Mostly, they successfully thwarted intense scrutiny in the short term, before embarrassing revelations tumbled out of creaky cupboards. There is a laundry-list of gaffes that left many red-faced, from Samsung, Wall Street bankers, Chinese financial analysts, and even new age tech start-ups. Joining this rather duplicitous group is our own current NDA government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that is constantly juggling numbers to suit today's prime-time coverage at 9pm or the early morning newspaper headlines. The immediate objective seems to be instant gratification through flamboyance that grabs the transitory attention span of a restless generation—credibility, trust and consistency, which are key components of brand-building, can be taken care of another day. It is a dystopian universe, where the hapless denizens are bombarded with fake news and alternative facts. No one has the time to sift the wheat from the chaff. Thus, a lie spoken a thousand times becomes the currency in circulation. Everyone is collectively duped. Let me elaborate.

Fact is, the revised GDP that the BJP/NDA inherited from Congress/UPA was an impressive 6.9%, a manifestation of a robust economy on a strong rebound from 5.1% of 2012-13.

As a national spokesperson of my party, I am often engaged in animated and often acrimonious debates (blood-fests would be a more appropriate term actually) with my counterparts in the BJP. A perennial point of conflict is India's GDP, a broadly accepted measure of a country's economic growth—usually, more relevant indicators like human development index, per capita income, income distribution and the poverty index are rarely given sufficient airtime. I assume they are not sexy enough subjects. So what exactly am I fussing about?

India's GDP growth in the year 2013-14 was a modest 4.7% when Modi led the BJP to a spectacular victory in the Lok Sabha elections. If you hear any of Modi's election speeches during that time, he made a calculated pitch: "Acche Din" (the Indian forerunner of Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again"). That was the shibboleth that galvanised India. Modi repeatedly disparaged the Congress-led UPA for lowering India's financial potential, and blamed it for high unemployment, apparently wasteful subsidies and farmer neglect. Essentially, he told 125 crore Indians that India was not just in economic stasis, but in the doldrums. People clapped and voted in humongous numbers for Modi's promised land of eternal sunshine. He won. It was then that the Modi government opportunistically pulled off a masterful "readjustment," which has now come back to bite them. They altered the GDP itself.

Our GDP growth has tanked to 5.7% in Q 1 of fiscal 2017... it tells us that India has regressed prodigiously from May 2014.

While some did question the abrupt "inflated GDP" (the base year was changed to 2011-12), the BJP propaganda machine was on full throttle, horn blaring and headlights on. Suddenly at the salubrious retreat of the rich and famous Davos, India became "the world's fastest growing economy." Modi sold himself as the miracle man with a silver bullet, and yet no one asked him how such a dramatic turnaround was even theoretically conceivable within a year, considering he had vehemently trashed the UPA for alleged economic torpidity. Fact is, the revised GDP that the BJP/NDA inherited from Congress/UPA was an impressive 6.9%, a manifestation of a robust economy on a strong rebound from 5.1% of 2012-13. Manufacturing growth stood at 6.2% and not at -0.1% as earlier estimated. In attempting smart statistical gobbledygook, Modi had scored a self-goal. His misconceived charges and motivated attacks against former PM Dr Manmohan Singh and the Congress party had boomeranged, thanks to his own revised numbers.

Our GDP growth has tanked to 5.7% in Q 1 of fiscal 2017-18 post the demonetisation disaster, operational blunders on GST implementation and several monumental policy failures—it tells us that India has regressed prodigiously from May 2014. On the older index, India's GDP would have been close to an abysmal 3.5%. Like Trump, Modi used a deadly combination of high-pitched rhetoric, wild allegations and fictitious promises to generate populist appeal. He succeeded. Now India is in free-fall. That's why there are no jobs. And there are no short-term remedies either.

Modi has blown away a strong inheritance from UPA and the tailwind of low global oil prices through sheer ineptitude, obsessive political messaging and headline hunting and dreadful governance.

The fact is that the Congress/UPA registered an average GDP growth rate of 7.6% over 10 years, despite the hemorrhaging Great Recession, a coalition government, oil prices skyrocketing to US$150 per barrel, parliamentary gridlock, wholesale inflation and a volatile world economy. Modi has blown away a strong inheritance from UPA and the tailwind of low global oil prices through sheer ineptitude, obsessive political messaging and headline hunting and dreadful governance. Frankly, the bullet train project shows Modi's penchant for synthetic symbolism.

Back to fake news. Most BJP spokespersons have mastered the art of obfuscation and lies, repeatedly telling TV viewers, "We inherited 4.7% from the UPA, but the honorable Modiji made the Indian economy into the fastest growing one in the world." It's twisted. You can't have your cake and eat it too. Or maybe you can. After all that piece of distorted representation does indeed take the cake and the chocolate factory.

Why am I remembering the all-time Bollywood classic, "Koi Lauta De Mere Beete Hue Din?"

The opinions expressed in this post are the personal views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of HuffPost India. Any omissions or errors are the author's and HuffPost India does not assume any liability or responsibility for them.

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