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Tuesday 18 February 2020

BJP Surveys Govts, Certifies Its Own As The Best

Being shy is no longer a virtue. In the age of social media where almost everyone wants to show what he or she is doing, one cannot fault the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for flaunting a study to assert its virtuousness. The party has actually thrown a challenge to all other parties to either prove it wrong or accept the model of development followed by it in various states.

Unveiling the survey report
Unveiling the survey report

The BJP has delivered the best performing governments in the states in recent years and it had also delivered the best performing government at the Centre when the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was in power 1998-2004, the report of the study released recently by the party and prepared by Public Policy Research Centre has asserted.

Most senior leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah were present at the party headquarters on 24 December to release the report. Director of the Centre Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, who is vice-president of the BJP and has authored the report, was also present. Till last year, the Bibek Debroy study that rated Gujarat high on growth parameters when everyone sought to bracket the state as evil had helped create a positive image about Gujarat. His study generated a lot of heat, subjected him to criticisms by the so-called secular critics and led to his resignation from the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation.

In that sense, the Vinay Sahasrabuddhe Report, although brilliant, has failed to generate the same kind of heat. However, if we take away the first-hand impression of the report that could smell of bias, Shahasrabuddhe has done a commendable job. He has used empirical data and unbiased conclusions rather than putting arguments based on statistical jugglery. This explains why the report puts the left-ruled states as ahead when talking of steps taken to curb corruption. In terms of addition of power generation, the Congress-led UPA tripped the BJP-led NDA.

Sahasrabuddhe has years of experience reflecting on good governance. His book, Beyond A Billion Ballots Democratic Reforms for a Resurgent India, argued strongly for liberating politics from populism. The present study is a continuum of that. Here too, the study argues that populism adopted by regional parties have come in the way of good governance.

Even before becoming the Prime Minister, Modi was keen that a study be undertaken to understand how states run by various parties have performed. He was sure this would create healthy competition among states and persuade them to perform better. This he called “the ideology of good governance”. The study has been aptly named “Politics of Performance — A comparative study of delivery of Good Governance by different political parties in India”. While the study draws a lot from the growth story of Gujarat, it lauds the achievements of other BJP-ruled states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

The single focus of the BJP has been to take the good governance debate to the doorsteps of the Opposition and challenge them on bad or non-performance of the states governed by them. The report has spoken of four governance models in the country in the last 67 years post Independence, namely Congress, BJP, Left Front and Regional Parties. “We attempted to compare the performances of these four governance models on the basis of various governance indicators and the resultant socio-economic outcomes,” the report said.

Good Governance is often spoken about as a panacea for all ills plaguing society and government. But there are few who can actually define good governance. Knowing the parameters would facilitate comparison and understanding. The Eleventh Five Year Plan outlined six characteristics of democratic governance:

  1. Free, fair and timely elections in all spheres of political authority;
  2. Transparency and accountability of all institutions of the state to its citizens;
  3. Efficient and effective delivery of socio-economic public services;
  4. Effective devolution of authority, resources and capabilities to PRIs and municipalities;
  5. Rule of law, where legal rights are clear and understood, and legal compliance and enforcements of those rights is time-bound and swift;
  6. Needs and interests of hitherto excluded sections of society are privileged and included, with dignity.

The United Nations Economic & Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) sharpened the definition and identified eight parameters to define good governance. Probably it marks a shift from governance to good governance. These are:

  1. Participation
  2. Rule of Law
  3. Transparency
  4. Responsiveness
  5. Consensus Oriented
  6. Equity and inclusiveness
  7. Effectiveness and efficiency
  8. Accountability

Good governance is not a vague concept; it can be measured using these identifiable parameters. Corruption has not been given as an indicator since it is generally believed that all these elements would automatically eliminate corruption. The BJP report has taken perception of corruption as an indicator and has rated the Left Front government high.

The categorisation of different models of governance as Congress, BJP, Left Front and Regional Parties may raise eyebrows. While there are characteristics that help identify and separate one model from the others, there is a lot of overlap. The government is in a state of continuum kept more so by bureaucracy that does not change with change of political masters. But the categorisation is interesting and well substantiated.

Congress governments are characterised by socialism and populism, with an inconsistent economic policy, the report says. The BJP’s governance shares certain Gandhian socialist values, but applies and achieves them through more consistent and market-friendly economic policies. The Left Front [including the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and other left parties] follows a stated Marxist ideology that places the state at the commanding heights of the economy and focuses on worker’s rights and equality of outcomes for all. Regional parties are described as being more representative of the socio-economic make-up of and responsive to the particular needs of their states. They are hence more populist and less ideological in their approach, the report says.

At the national level, the Congress and BJP’s models of governance have been delineated and dissected in the context of performance. One would, however, wonder if there is actually an ideological difference based on performance or focus since there is not much difference in style of functioning of the two parties when in power. They used the same bureaucracy, the same logic and even their decisions were incremental. The NDA though had taken some path-breaking decisions such as four-‘laning’ of national highways, rural roads, telecommunication. In terms of streamlining administration through reforms, both the national parties were equally silent.

Trying to find out differences based on the size of the ministry or decision-making, which the report tries to make, may not be correct since the size is dictated by coalition compulsions and cannot be said to be ideological. Even decision making by Group of Ministers (GoMs) cannot be said to be ideological. That the institution became defunct under the UPA is a factor of style of leadership. Former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh did not have the moral authority since he was foisted from the top by Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

Rule of law, corruption, quality of regulations and laws, ease of business and infrastructure

While making comparison between the governments run by two national parties at the national level and governments run by the two national parties, the Left Front and regional parties at the level of the state, the report makes use of objective indicators that are easily measurable. Rule of law, corruption, quality of regulations and laws/ease of business, infrastructure, e-governance, populism and size of government are indicators of governance. Social indicators are represented by Health — IMR, MMR; basic amenities — access to safe drinking water; education — public expenditure levels. Economic indicators are represented by growth — sector-wise growth rate of GSDP; and inclusive growth that includes unemployment rate and financial inclusion.

The report is an act of self-certification, but the parameters are academic and results difficult to contest
The report is an act of self-certification, but the parameters are academic and results difficult to contest

Based on the rule of law index, the report quotes Economic Freedom of the World Report (EFW) to argue that the legal structure and security under the NDA was higher (6.25) than under the UPA (5.45). The BJP report uses the Global Competitiveness Report (GCR) of the World Economic Forum that ranks countries according to the quality of their public institutions. The GCR ranked India as 53rd in 2004 compared to 70th in 2014.

Even in states, the BJP led governments performed better than those led by the Congress, the Left Front or Regional parties. The analysis about states is based on the Economic Freedom of Indian States Report published by the Cato Institute that measured “legal structure and security” in 20 states of India from 2005-2013.

For measuring corruption, the BJP report uses two institutions — the Worldwide Governance Indicators (WGI) of the World Bank that measures “control of corruption” and Corruption Perception Index (CPI) released by Transparency International- institutions with lot of international credibility. The WGI ranked NDA as better in control of corruption (43) than the UPA (40). The CPI rank of the NDA was better (71) than the UPA (87). The rank further improved by 10 points after Narendra Modi-led government came to power at the Centre in 2014. India was better placed than China, something that happened for the first time in the last two decades.

The corruption index in states has been measured using Transparency International’s “India Corruption Study” of 2008, which is considered by far one of the most comprehensive studies on the issue. It ranked the states on 1-4 points. The states ruled by Regional Parties were found to be the most corrupt (2.67) followed by the Congress (2.4) and the BJP (2.28). The Left Front was perceived to be the least corrupt (1.33).

On the indicator of quality of regulations and ease of doing business, the country fared better under the NDA than the UPA. The Economic Freedom of World Report said that India’s average score for ‘Regulation of Credit, Labour and Business’ (that uses variables such as “hiring and firing regulations” and “regulations for starting a business” etc) under the NDA (6.57) was higher than the average score under UPA (6.33).

India ranking in global competitiveness measured by the World Economic Forum was 55 in the world in 2004 under the NDA regime. It slipped to 71 in 2014 under the UPA. Global competiveness was measured using such as “time required to start a business”, “extent and effect of taxation” and “effectiveness of antimonopoly policy”. In terms of macro-economic environment, India ranked higher (52) in 2004. But it slipped down to 101 in 2013. A report of the Confederation of Indian Industry on Business Confidence in India in the third quarter in 2014 put the score at 57.4. In the corresponding time in 2013, the score was 45.7, which was a record low.

While comparing the ease of business indicators in the states, the BJP scored much better (0.39) followed by the Congress (0.34), the regional parties (0.32) and the Left Front (0.275) Gujarat was the leader with a score of 0.87 followed by Tamil Nadu (0.51). This shows the complexities the NDA at the Centre would have if it tries to push governance agenda in states run by other parties.

If providing infrastructure such as access to electricity and roads is a measure of good governance, the BJP figured high in terms of roads where as the Congress fared better in power. The UPA grew the installed electrical capacity in the central sector faster than the NDA did. The NDA increased the capacity in the central sector from around 28,000 MW in 2001 to 33,000 MW in 2004, the UPA doubled it from 33,000 MW in 2004 to 66,000 MW in 2013. The NDA performed spectacularly in terms of roads by adding around 12 km per day while in office. The UPA added merely 4 km per day between 2004 and 2012.

In the states, the percentage of household using electricity as the primary source of lighting was 72 in BJP-governed states, 69 in Congress-governed states, 67 under Regional Parties and 61 under Left Front rule. Installed capacity of power between 2008 and 2011 increased faster in BJP-ruled states (average of 60 per cent), followed by Congress-ruled states (37 per cent), states ruled by Regional parties (22 per cent) and the Left Front–ruled states (12 per cent). The largest increase occurred in Himachal Pradesh (169 per cent) and Gujarat (an increase of 105 per cent)- both were under BJP rule.

As per data available with the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways (MORTH) for the year 2004-12, states under BJP ruled added an average of 208 Km of state highways per year followed by Congress-ruled states (187 Km), Regional Parties-ruled states (167 Km) and the Left Front (113 Km).

E-governance, populism and size of government

E-governance promises to bring in transparency and better accountability and hence an effective tool of better governance. Both the Union Government and the state governments have been adopting it in government transactions, procurement and public service delivery. The BJP report makes a comparison of the period January 2013 to May 2014 at the Centre which was under the UPA rule with the NDA period of June 2014 to December 2014. The new Modi government had around 50 lakh transactions per day through e-governance out of which 33 lakh pertained to agriculture. As against this the UPA had around 22 lakh transactions per day of which around 8 lakh were related to agriculture. Also significant is the fact that Technological Readiness of India measured and by World economic Forum’s GCR slipped to 121 by 2014 from the respectable position of 63 in 2004.

The same indicators in states showed the average per capita e-transactions in BJP–ruled states much higher at 5.4 as against the Congress-ruled states at 2.4, Regional Parties-ruled states at 1.8 and the Left Front-ruled states at 1.3. Gujarat was top-most at 17 followed by Andhra Pradesh at 11. Andhra Pradesh topped in average number of services (593) available through e-transaction followed by Gujarat (257).

Populism goes against the principle of good governance. It has often provided short-cuts to electoral success at the cost of long-term negative impact on good governance. If average annual subsidy expenditure as percentage of GDP is taken as a measure of populism, the NDA did better with an average of 1.5 per cent, where as the Congress government post NDA spent 1.9 per cent on populist measures. On the indicator of minimum government and maximum governance too, the NDA performed better. Internationally accepted norm say that lower government spending, lower subsidies and greater divestment lead to a better score on governance.

In the states, populism was seen in doling out power subsidies. Regional Party-ruled states scored high followed by the Left Front, the Congress and the BJP. Lower per capita subsidy in BJP-ruled state helped control theft and power cuts. Gujarat is an example to show how the discipline of regular supply of power saved money for the farmers and enabled them to pay for the power they consumed.

Often criticism is labelled against states trying to bring fiscal discipline that while trying to achieve growth these states have ignored the social parameters. Although it may appear to be so in the short run, in the long run the two would be contradictory. Money saved from various sources would fuel social development as well.

An analysis of 1999-2013 shows that all parties have been successful in bringing down the MMR (Maternal Mortality Rate).  The BJP achieved the highest reduction in MMR from 1999-2001 to 2001-03. If we compare the corresponding figures between 1999-01 and 2010-12, the reduction in MMR was from 370.5 to 165.33 for the BJP; 335.75 to 185.2 for the Congress and 256.33 to 198.2 for Regional Parties. The Left Front has reduced average MMR from 218 to 91.5 in the same period largely due to better social indicators in Kerala.

In terms of reduction in Infant Mortality Rate, the BJP-ruled states performed better during the period 2005 to 2012. The Congress reduced IMR from a lower average IMR of 41 in 2005 to 34.17 in 2012 and the Left front reduced it from 34.5 to 28 in the corresponding period. The figures for the BJP-ruled states were 62.2 in 2005 and 36.71 in 2012. The performance of Regional Party-ruled state was inconsistent.

Another important social indicator is access to basic amenities. During the period between 1991 and 2011, the Left Front had the best figure for access to safe drinking water in 1991 with 82 per cent of household having this access. But this could not be sustained and the figure came down to 67.5 per cent in 2011.Regional Partied-led states have achieved consistent expansion from 51.96 per cent in 1991 to 85.31 per cent in 2011. The Congress-ruled states had figures of 51.74 and 70.24 in the same period. But the Congress figure of 2001 was 77 per cent demonstrating inconsistency. The BJP’s figures for the three corresponding periods of 1991, 2001 and 2011 were 71.38, 76.65 and 87.77 per cent.

Public expenditure on education is another way to look for the government’s sensitivities about social issues. On an average, the NDA spent more on education than the UPA. If one analyses the state expenditure on education for five years beginning 2006-07, one would find that the BJP has been competing with the Left Front neck and neck. But while there has been a consistency in the increase in BJP-ruled states, the Left Front states were marked with inconsistency. The BJP’s figure was 14.28 in 2006-07, 14.9 in 2008-09, and 17.36 in 2010-11. The Left Front’s figures for the same period were 16.07 in 2006-07, 14.73 in 2008-09 and 17.1 in 2010-11. The figure for the Congress increased consistency but these were way below the BJP’s.

In Economic indicators such a growth as a factor of GSDP (Gross State Domestic Product), all the parties witnessed a decrease in the growth rate in the three timeline of 2006-0, 2008-09 and 2013-14. The BJP-ruled states, however, consistently had higher growth than other party-ruled states. The BJP’s figures stood at 10.05 per cent in 2006-07, 9.3 per cent in 2008-09 and finally 9.07 per cent in 2013-14. The corresponding figures for the Congress stood respectively at 9.3, 7.56 and 6.9 and that of the Regional Parties at 9.51, 8.55 and 6.62. The Left Front’s figures were 7.99 per cent in 2006-07 and 6.63 per cent in 2008-09. The data for 2013-14 was not available.

Growth in agriculture and allied sector is supposed to be pro-poor since it leaves more money at the disposal of the rural poor. It is often talked about as an ultimate measure of empowerment. While the growth for Congress and Regional Parties-ruled states showed inconsistent and poor figures, the BJP-ruled states showed a higher growth figure. In all the three years 2005-06, 2010-11 and 2013-14 the BJP-ruled states showed agriculture growth of more than 8 per cent. In 2010-11, it crossed 13 per cent. The Congress had 8 per cent growth in 2010-11 but was below 6 per cent in 2013-14 and below 5 per cent in 2005-06. Regional Parties crossed the 6 per cent mark in 2010-11 but stayed below 3 per cent in other times. The Left Front’s performance was below 3 per cent in 2005-06 and close to 1 per cent in 2010-11.

In manufacturing sector, growth has been consistently on the decline. Regional Parties-ruled states did better followed by the BJP, the Congress and the Left Front. The Left Front’s figure for 2012-13 was almost nil.

The BJP report has also tried to analyse Inclusive Growth by taking figures on unemployment rate and financial inclusion. The Left Front has the highest unemployment with the figures at 12.5 in 2004-05, 7.8 in 2009-10 and 8.55 in 2012-13. Regional parties-led governments performed better with corresponding figures of 3.26, 4.18 and 5.37. The Congress was almost consistent with figures of 4.77, 4.19 and 4.33. The BJP’s figures were 3.47 in 2004-05, 1.99 in 2009-10 and 3.17 in 2012-13.

The Financial Inclusion Index judged on the basis of branch penetration, deposit penetration and credit penetration at national and state level showed the Left Front with best indicators followed by the BJP, the Congress and the Regional Parties. This is based on the CRISIL data of 2013.

The report rightly describes 2014 Lok Sabha elections as a watershed since it marked the rise of an aspiring class which has changed the course of political discourse. Delivery, accountability, transparency and efficiency have become far more important than primordial ties of caste, religion or region. By inviting parties to  debate development, the BJP is keen that the discourse does not go back to the old times where caste and other loyalties played a big role giving disadvantage to the BJP. The youth, supposed to be largely unaffected by these categories, voted for the BJP in large numbers.

However, this unstinted support may not continue to be there for long unless the government starts delivering on its promises of good governance. A common man is more interested in evaluating the government in terms of better accessibility, better interface between bureaucracy and administration and empowerment in terms of economic, social and political rights. Long-term measures creating employment opportunities are as important as reforms in major institutions of delivery to plug the loopholes and make the system more efficient. One hoped that the BJP report had spoken about these things as well. Somewhere one feels it is not ready to launch a frontal attack on corruption though certain steps such as e-Governance does help to curb corruption.

Also, what would surprise many Modi supporters is controversy over re-conversion and other agenda by organisations that share ideological brotherhood with the BJP. Not that these issues are not important. Maybe these issues are important for India’s survival as a secular country and they demand a full-fledged open debate. But these do not reconcile with the BJP’s attempt to take good governance to the level of ideology, where nothing else matters. The Prime Minister from the ramparts of the historic Red Fort on 15 August 2014 called for a moratorium on violence for 10 years. He wanted that controversial issues that create division in society should not be raised so that the government could focus on development through good governance. In that sense the BJP report is timely and it would help others in the party to focus on good governance.

Sudesh Verma
Sudesh Verma
Member of the BJP's national media team, senior journalist and founder of Debating India Foundation

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