The chief ministers of states ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) flew in to New Delhi this weekend, to be felicitated by the party’s central leadership. The party’s president, Nitin Gadkari, said that all the party’s states were posting growth numbers well above 10 per cent, and were the engine of national GDP growth. One of the party’s senior leaders, and a former finance minister, Yashwant Sinha, went further, saying that a high growth performance has been achieved by BJP-ruled states – including those in which it is in alliance with parties such as the Akali Dal or the Janata Dal (United) – even as fiscal prudence was maintained through the crisis period. That the national growth rate has not completely collapsed is thanks to the fact that it is propped up by fast growth in the BJP-ruled states, was the leaders’ message — underlined by the party spokesman, Prakash Javadekar, addressing a press conference after the chief ministers’ meeting and saying exactly that.
Unfortunately, official data suggest the party is being far too sanguine. While state-level GDP data are not generally considered as reliable as national-level data, and some data for growth in 2011-12 are yet to be put on the Planning Commission’s website, the numbers that are currently observable don’t sound too good for the BJP. In fact, the BJP’s states, no matter how you dice the data, surprisingly seem to be doing worse than the Congress’ states in terms of growth. Consider first the number of BJP-ruled states that have, on average, outperformed the national growth rate in the post-crisis years (since 2008-09). Five out of seven BJP-ruled states have; but nine out of 12 Congress-ruled states have done better than the average — a higher proportion. If you include the states in which the BJP has allies, like Bihar and Punjab, the proportion beating the average goes down, to six out of 10. Suppose you take out smaller states, like Goa or those of the northeast? It doesn’t get much better. Six out of eight of Congress’ larger states beat the national average — three-fourths. Only four out of six of the BJP’s large states do — two-thirds. And five out of eight National Democratic Alliance (NDA) states do — an even smaller proportion.
Does the BJP’s performance pull away from the Congress’ in terms of standout performers? Apparently not. Take a look at how many of a party’s states figure in the top third in terms of average GDP in the post-crisis years. For the Congress, five out of 12 do — 42 per cent. For the BJP, it’s three out of seven — 42 per cent! For the NDA as a whole, it’s a little worse, at four out of 10. Perhaps the BJP’s standout performers are the larger states? Not much difference there, either. Three out of eight large Congress-ruled states are in the top third — and three out of eight NDA-ruled states are. For the BJP alone, the proportion’s actually worse, at two out of six large states where it rules alone. Some figures for 2011-12 are yet to be confirmed — for Gujarat and Maharashtra, for example. But the overall trend post-crisis is clear; the BJP states aren’t ahead of the pack. If anything, they’re a little behind. Instead of resting on its laurels, the BJP should look to its states’ growth performance, if it wants to win in 2014.