As voters in Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan prepare to head out to the polling booths, they are evaluating the performance of their state governments. Swaniti Initiative, a Delhi-based think-tank looked in to the ‘developmental performance’ of various administration by comparing how different parties in office faired in lifting people out of poverty. They relied on data from the National Planning Commission and extrapolated on years where data was missing. “Our goal was to provide hard data on how the poverty rate was under different administrations over multiple decades,” said Shantanu Agarwal, lead for the Big-Data program at Swaniti.
Given that quality data was only available since 1980s, Swaniti compiled data from 1980 till the most recent reported data of 2012. They looked at each state individually and noted how the Below Poverty line increased or decreased under various administrations.
In Delhi, where BJP has been in office for six years in comparison to Congress’s almost fourteen years, they noted that from 1993 to 1998 when BJP was in power, almost two and a half lakh people were lifted out of poverty. In comparison, from 2004 to 2012, the Congress administration has also seen the rise of over eight lakh people out of poverty. In comparison to the population both of these was noticeable improvement. Interestingly though, during Congress’s first term in office, from 1998 to 2004, almost five lakh people fell back in to poverty.
“This is a pattern that we have seen in multiple states where a sizeable population has fallen under the poverty line, and we can attribute this partially to how poverty was defined before. Between 2000 and 2004 the Planning Commission switched to adopting the Tendulkar methodology and we see a sudden increase in poverty line. This makes us rethink about how poverty was defined before” added Agarwal.
Madhya Pradesh also saw a significant fall of almost seventy-five lakh people in to poverty during the same time period under the Congress administration. Subsequently in 2003 BJP was voted in to office. Since BJP’s presence in office for the past ten years, there have been almost seventy-seven lakh people who have been lifted out of poverty. The BJP’s ten-year tenure, from 2004 to currently, has fared better than the Congress’s tenure from 1980 to 1990, where the Congress was not able to lift as many people out of poverty, and in comparison had more than three lakh people fall below poverty. The fall in below poverty line though, was proportional to the growth in population.
The Congress administration in Rajasthan, during the same time period of 1980 to 1990 was able to lift more than fifteen lakh people out of poverty. However, Rajasthan has also seen a more consistent change in administration between Congress and BJP than Madhya Pradesh. “In the last fifteen years there has been a change in administration every five years,” stated Sneha Rao, lead for Research and Policy at Swaniti.
From 1990 to 1998, when the BJP was in office, with the interruption of a year (1993) for President’s rule, the BJP was able to lift up more than forty-three lakh people from poverty. From 1998 to 2003 when Congress came back in to office and the poverty line was redefined, ninety-seven lakh more people fell below the poverty line. Finally since 2003 — 2012 there has been a progress with BJP and Congress respectively raising over thirty-two lakh people and seventy-three lakh people during their tenure.
“Both Congress and BJP have lifted people out of poverty, however, around 2000 to 2004 we see a significant drop with lakhs of people falling under poverty in each state,” said Rwitwika Bhattacharya, Director of Swaniti. “Though we can certainly attribute the redefining of the poverty line in sudden increases we see, however we also have to remember that there was an incredible inflation from 2000 and 2003,” added Bhattacharya.
MoreÂ informationÂ isÂ available here.