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If I have heard it once, I have heard it a thousand times: Gujarat is a model state for economic development. The whole campaign seems to be run on this one irrefutable fact. But is it fact? To answer this question, I decided to look at the facts. I mined data from the RBI website and the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation. I compared the economic growth rates of 4 states: Bihar, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. I chose these states because they are generally considered better performers amongst Indian states. While Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Maharashtra started at a higher base, Bihar represents a state which was in the doldrums a decade back but has fast caught up.
Graph 1 looks at overall GDP growth from 2005-2011. The graph plots the average Indian growth vis-a-vis the growth of these 4 states. Graph 2 looks at GDP growth per capita in each of these states. Graph 3 looks at the net state domestic product of each of these states from 2001-2012. As always, click on the graphs to get an enlarged image.
I could use multiple other economic indicators but I suspect that the story isn’t going to change much. Yes, Gujarat seems to be doing well. Yes, the state is amongst the top 5 performers on economic indicators. But is its story phenomenal? Is it the wonder story it is being touted to be? I don’t think so. Other states have done just as well, if not better. Some states which started off much worse have performed impressively in terms of relative growth. Maharashtra has far outperformed any other state in terms of absolute growth. While credit is due to the Gujarat administration for the growth story it has managed, just as much credit is due to other states and their administrations.
The other question we must ask ourselves revolves around the ethos of our nation. Do we, as a nation, believe in certain principles? What is our social and economic vision for the country? What do we believe the Indian narrative is? My vision of India has long been a generous one. We are a peaceful, inclusive nation with a strong sense of peace and justice. That vision, or the means of achieving this vision, may not be shared by everyone. All I can hope is that our collective vision helps construct a better India, a better nation, a better people.