The President of India's speech to the joint session of Parliament is currently being debated in both the houses, amidst some fine and some flowery speeches, some laden with rhetoric and other with facts. In the midst of this high decibel, but enjoyable, political debate inside the Parliament we decided to take a look at the President's speech through a different lens—that of data science—and then check whether we could come up with some insights that may add value to the debate. And as we analysed the speech, as well as others over the last decade, we came up with some very insightful results. But before we get there, some background is in order.
Every year the President addresses the joint session of both the houses of Parliament. These speeches are traditionally delivered either when a new Lok Sabha is first constituted after a general election or on the first day of the convening of Parliament in a calendar year. During his address, the President outlines "his" government's activities of the previous year and lays out the vision and action plan for the ensuing year. In as much as the President's speeches to the joint session cover the respective government's agenda and focus, an analysis of these speeches over a horizon would give an indication of the broad policy thrusts and focus of the respective governments.
After a thorough study of all the 12 speeches, we compiled a dictionary and then we analysed the speeches.
On this premise, we analysed the first four speeches of the last three governments. That is, we looked at the first four speeches of the UPA-I government (2004-07), the first four speeches of the UPA-II government (2009-12) and the first four speeches of the present NDA government (2014-17). Why only the first four speeches? Because only four speeches have been delivered in the present government and so to make like-to-like comparison, we looked at only the first four speeches of the previous two governments as well. In an interesting coincidence, these speeches, if taken as a government block, have been delivered by different Presidents as well—the first set were all delivered by Former President Late A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the second set by Former President Pratibha Patil and the present set of speeches have all been delivered by President Pranab Mukherjee.
As we went about the study, the first task was to come up with a dictionary corpus which would form the basis of comparison. The dictionary had to be comprehensive so as to not miss out any policy term or phrase which may have been used by one government but discontinued by the next, but both essentially implying the same policy thrust. Thus, while analysing the policy focus on "black money", a term used by the present NDA government, we had to be sensitive to the fact that the dictionary must contain the term "unaccounted money", the phrase used by the previous government, to be able to correctly capture the actual focus of the different speeches. After a thorough study of all the 12 speeches, we compiled a dictionary and then we analysed the speeches. We will now discuss some of the prominent findings.
1. Black Money/Corruption
The first phrase we looked at was the problem of black money, which has again become the focus of national debate in the wake of demonetisation decision. The chart above describes the phrases that have been used to describe the problem during the three tenures and then plotted the absolute number of times these terms have been mentioned during the block of any one government.
The number of times issues related to black money came up during the NDA government is more than the combined total of both the UPA governments.
It is significant that the number of times issues related to black money (and the resolve to tackle it) came up during the NDA government is more than the combined total of both the UPA governments.
2. Jobs /Employment /Rozgaar /Entrepreneurship
As one would expect, employment would be the focus of any government. The study, however, showed an interesting pattern—while the focus in the presidential speeches during the UPA-I government on employment was relatively high, it came down significantly during the UPA-II government.
During the first four speeches of the present NDA government, the combined focus on job creation, through direct employment opportunities and entrepreneurial activity has again risen and is equal to the first UPA government. The focus on entrepreneurship promotion, especially with schemes like Mudra Yojana, which has so far funded almost six crore job creators, has been a significant difference between the approaches of the NDA and UPA governments.
The findings related to insurance are significant for they give an insight into the economic ideology of the three governments. Both the UPA governments were at the same level when it came to mentioning programs and policies structured around providing insurance.
However, during the NDA government period, the total mention is more than the combined total of both the UPA governments. The various social security insurance schemes launched during the Modi government, such as the Jan Suraksha Yojana, Jeevan Jyoti Yojana, the Crop Insurance schemes, etc explain the wide difference. More than 13 crore people have already been insured in the three social security insurance schemes of the present government and therefore the references in the Presidential speeches and the numbers on the ground have strong correlation as well.
4. Ease of Doing Business
The "ease of doing business" findings were the most significant result although not surprising. Ease of doing business was not at all on the radar of the first two UPA governments, whereas it has found mention as an important focus area of the NDA government during every speech of the President. When something is not even on the radar of a government as an action point, it is fair to presume that it will not be acted upon as well. Perhaps this explains why India slipped into a rank of 142 during the UPA government in the ranking year 2014 and has consistently risen since then.
5. Clean Energy/Renewable Energy
The focus on clean energy as a priority area for the government has seen an upward trend during the tenure of the three governments. Looking at the actual delivery on the ground, it would seem that the intent during the NDA government speeches has been matched with actual delivery on the ground as well.
The priority given to welfare schemes for the disabled during the NDA government is almost double the combined total of the UPA governments.
We looked at the above six phrases for analysis since between them they cover significant ambit of activities that the citizens expect from the government—from promoting social equity to creating jobs to promoting industry to securing our future thorough clean and sustainable energy. We leave the results of the study with the reader for their study and assessment and for forming their own opinions about the respective governments.