Having been an active participant in the Gujarat Assembly elections since 2002, I cannot resist the temptation of analysing the Congress campaign 2017.
The first distinct aspect of Congress Party’s campaign is that it has clearly demolished its own State-level leadership and outsourced both its leadership and issues to those who had conventionally nothing to do with the Congress Party. There is not a single State leader who is touring the State for the campaign. The Party has disconnected the traditional issues on which it has been campaigning since 2002 and opted for a divisive agenda of social repolarisation. The State paid a heavy price for such mis-adventures in the 1980s and would be very reluctant to repeat this experiment after having liberated itself from caste wars.
The second limb of the Congress campaign has been that the Gujarat model of development does not exist. This claim has been conclusively demolished by the recent data that Gujarat is the only State in India whose GSDP grew by 10 percent during the period 2012-2017. Gujarat grew atleast two percent faster than the nearest growing State i.e. Madhya Pradesh. A double digit growth rate is unheard during the period of economic downturn. Even the Chinese new normal during this period has been 6.5 percent. A seven percent plus growth rate made India the fastest growing among the major economies for three years. For a large State to grow at 10 percent is unprecedented. The fact that this growth rate has been sustained for five years in a row is an evidence of the success of the Gujarat model, which the Congress wants to wish away.
The next important limp of the Congress campaign is a promise of reservations over and above 49 percent. The Supreme Court, since 1992, has repeatedly reemphasised that the net total of all reservations cannot exceed 50 percent. States which have attempted to breach this cap have faced constitutional resistance. A promise of reservations beyond 50 percent has been made by the Congress and the PAAS to the people of Gujarat. This act of self-deception is a constitutional impossibility – which will never be judicially permissible.
Having no model of development, the Congress Party manifesto is one of fiscal impossibility. The total revenue earned by the State is about Rs.90,000 crores per annum. The Congress promises a tax waiver of Rs.20,000 crores. This will bring down the effective revenue income of State to Rs.70,000 crores. To this may be added the Central devolution and the borrowings which under the FRBM Act have a three percent cap. All these constitute the committed liabilities of salaries, pensions, social and developmental expenditure. There is no surplus money left after this committed expenditure. The Congress manifesto promises an additional bonanza of Rs.1,21,000 crores in terms of populist programmes. It doubles the expenditure while reducing the income, which is a fiscal nightmare. Even a fiscal miracle does not permit this. The two important limbs of the Congress manifesto comprise of one – a constitutional impossibility and the other - a fiscal impossibility. The Congress Party can well afford this risk since its victory is a political improbability.