Surjit S Bhalla
February 7, 2015
The Indian statistical authorities (Central Statistical Organisation or CSO) recently released a revised set of GDP numbers that have set the statistical house on fire. The new salvoes being fired from the CSO’s shoulders suggest a radically different interpretation of the Indian growth story over the last few years, and indirectly, of what happened in the national elections in May 2014. Just to recall: in May 2014, the ruling Congress party was decimated and registered its lowest seat tally ever, 44 seats in a 543-seat Parliament. For those keeping records, this was the second largest decline in parliamentary history in the world, possibly ever. The record holder for the worst thrashing was the Progressive Conservatives Party of Canada. Under Brian Mulroney, the Progressive Conservatives won re-election in 1988, with 169 out of 295 seats. At the subsequent election, in 1993, the party collapsed to win just two seats, falling from first to fifth place.
Many of us thought that a major reason for the magnificent loss of the Congress was the economy. We were told that GDP growth for two successive years was less than or equal to the 5 per cent mark, 4.7 per cent in 2012-13 and 5 per cent in 2013-14, a toxic decline from the heady years of near-double-digit growth. If GDP growth declines by half, voters are likely to be upset, and we all concluded that the voting reflected the pocketbook. Much ink was spilled, and many trees were cut, to document the close relationship between economic performance and voting behaviour.