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#RightSideUp: Arvind Subramanian's Economic Somersaults; 'Hate India Messaging'

A weekly round-up of voices from the right.

New Delhi: Even as the new Lok Sabha session began, it was the Bengal doctors’ strike that grabbed most eyeballs this week. Chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s initial angry tirade won her no brownie points, but eventually, on Tuesday, she relented to the demands of the protesting doctors.

Doctors and their patients also made the other big story of the week, this time in what has become an annual affair in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh: over 100 children suffering from Acute Encephalitis Syndrome (AES) died at SKMCH and Kejriwal hospital in Muzaffarpur.

The weekend though, was taken up by an old cricketing rivalry – the India versus Pakistan World Cup match. Even as roads across India remained empty as people huddled together to watch the match, social media was bursting with voices. And as many said, India may have won the match against a weak Pakistani team, but it was Pakistan Twitter users who truly won the day.

India’s GDP also came under question with former chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian painting a rather bleak picture in a research paper made public last week about GDP growth under prime minister Narendra Modi.

Subramanian said that India’s average annual growth between 2011-12 and 2016-17 may have been overestimated by about 2.5 percentage points – meaning that India actually grew at 4.5%, not 7%, between 2011-12 and 2016-17.

Also read: #RightSideUp: ‘Cutting Chai Over Earl Grey’; ‘Building the Indic Grand Narrative’

Why Arvind Subramanian is wrong

Sanju Verma, an economist and the chief spokesperson of the BJP’s Mumbai intellectual cell, takes great umbrage to ex-CEA Arvind Subramanian’s “maverick statements” on India’s GDP, which she says borders on “ignorance and mala-fide, irresponsible behaviour”.

In the article for rightlog.in, titled ‘Why Arvind Subramanian is wrong: It’s time to understand the change in GDP methodology under PM Modi’, Verma says:

“The moot point is, Mr Subramanian has chosen to cast aspersions on India’s tag as the world’s fastest-growing economy, by simply making an allegation, without backing it with logic or data, thereby making a failed attempt at tarnishing the credibility of the very institutions and processes he closely worked with, at one point.”

She lashes out at the “leftist cabal” and claims that its “anti-Modi agenda” is the reason behind why the left “rubbishes the CSO, CII, Niti Aayog and our statisticians”.

According to Verma, India’s GDP under the UPA was sub-7%. But under Modi’s first term, she says, “the GDP growth has been within arm’s reach of almost 8%”.

Plugging her own book in third person, Verma writes:

“The revised GDP methodology adopted by the Modi government, has been explained in great detail in Sanju Verma’s book, “Truth and Dare–The Modi Dynamic”. Excerpts from this book, which form the basis of pointed rebuttals to Mr Subramanian’s flimsy claims, have been used in this column too.”

Moving on to how hypocrisy and Congress are old friends, she admonishes the Congress for “maintaining a convenient silence” despite owing it to the Modi government’s new methodology for the supposedly better GDP numbers it achieved during its regime.

“The last 2 years of UPA-2 saw GDP numbers being revised upwards to 5.5 and 6.4 per cent, failing which, the average GDP growth for 2012-13 and 2013-14, under the Congress-led UPA-2, would have actually been well below an anaemic 5 per cent, under the old methodology.”

Questioning why such a “brouhaha” was made when the Modi government changed the base year to calculate GDP to 2011-12, she explains how certain factors are at play – the value addition in goods, the elimination of redundant goods and the way we use different commodities.

What Modi naysayers conveniently forget is that this 5.8% has come despite rising global protectionism.

Verma moves from the Huawei case to Brexit and the Venezuelan crisis, and says:

“Against this tumultuous backdrop, the World Bank sticking to 7.5% GDP forecast for FY 2020 for India, with the RBI albeit a tad more conservative at 7%, versus the earlier 7.2%, bodes well. Also, after a 25bps reduction in Repurchase Rate (REPO), to 5.75% by the RBI in its credit policy on 6th June 2019, in all, there has been a 75bps reduction in the REPO rate between February and June 2019 and, sooner than later, banks will be nudged into meaningful monetary transmission.”

Talking about global crude prices and the domestic consumption of millennials, Verma then speaks of how “raising alarm bells due to a quarterly decline in auto sales is being prematurely pessimistic and wilfully naive”.

“Passenger vehicle sales in the last few months took a beating, ahead of uncertainty pertaining to the arrival of monsoons and nervousness in some quarters about the election outcome. However, the thumping majority that has given Modi a second term and will lead to policy continuity and of course, the Met department’s prediction of a normal monsoon, largely speaking, should augur well for auto sales, going forward.”

Getting back to Subramanian’s “misguided efforts”, she says:

Modinomics, needless to add, in the final analysis, is here to stay and its rock-solid foundations are cast in stone.

Also Read: #RightSideUp: ‘Hindutvaphobia’ and Whataboutery Tactics

Why the Congress is failing

R. Jagannathan, the editorial director of Swarajya magazine, elucidates why he believes the Congress is failing after its rout in the recent Lok Sabha election.

Toward that end, he equates Congress with Pakistan and says that they are both failing for the same reason: “hate messaging”.

Addressing the loss of the grand old party, Jagannathan says one of the main reasons it failed to win the hearts of the electorate was because it tried to copy the BJP’s formula – “the party spruced up its social media team; it tried to create booth-level presence for party workers, mimicking Amit Shah’s innovation without the soul-force needed for the exercise” – without trust understanding it.

“It also conscripted a new data analytics chief, Praveen Chakravarty, who then created a Project Shakti with a database of alleged true believers in the party who could then help spread the party’s message virally.

Conscious that the BJP was running away with a big chunk of the Hindu vote, Rahul Gandhi started his temple hopping tours from 2012, and called himself a Shiv bhakt.

The problem with the Congress, though, needs to be understood more simply: it is not the database that matters, but the messaging. It is not the numbers enrolled in Project Shakti that matter, but the emotional commitment of the cadre.”

Jagannathan here offers up an analogy from the Mahabharata where both Arjun and Duryodhana reach Krishna’s doorstep to ask him for aid to win the war.

“Krishna says that since he spotted Arjuna first, he will give him the first option to choose between his army and his own personal support. Arjuna chooses Krishna and Duryodhana gets the army – and the latter is overjoyed. But we know who won the war with Krishna’s help.

The moral of the story above: one person with commitment is worth more than an army of mercenaries.”

This is true of the Congress, Jagannathan says, and offers the party a lesson:

“Look for true commitment, and not an army of mercenaries masquerading as data analysts or new members.

The problem with Rahul Gandhi and his party is that they do not sound authentic on any count. If they can buy Chakravarty’s logic merely because it sounds good to Tamil ears, or if they can go about backing the tukde-tukde gang in Jawaharlal Nehru University merely because the BJP was against it, this implies that the Congress merely stands for something negative: we are not BJP.”

On the count that the BJP won because of sheer mountains of money, he says this belief of the Congress and BJP’s critics is unfounded because the reason why the BJP managed to “campaign effectively” is because “almost all of its ‘bhakts’ are true believers in the party, and if not the party, at least Narendra Modi”.

“In the JNU tukde-tukde affair, for example, most BJP supporters were comfortable with the party’s nationalism; most Congress supporters, despite paying lip-service to free speech at JNU, were not comfortable with the party’s identification with rogue anti-national elements at JNU.

The Gandhi dynasty no longer pulls votes, and the Congress party is lighting its own funeral pyre as it does not stand for anything, including many things it fought for during the freedom struggle. At the dawn of freedom, the Congress party was a Hindu party with secular leanings. Today, it is neither Hindu nor secular.

Pakistan, which has built its entire state ideology on an anti-Hindu, anti-Indian platform, is slowly unravelling. Pakistan itself does not stand for anything, anymore.

The Congress is failing for the same reason Pakistan is.”