This is becoming a pattern. Narendra Modi, unused to the strong glare of public scrutiny until now, has been caught with his pants down yet again. This time, he told a gathering of students at Pune’s Fergusson College that China spends 20% of its GDP on education. 20%, no less! The Congress was quick to point out that the real number was 3.9%. This is bizarre. Even a 1st year B.Com student would know that 20% of any economy is an impossibility! How did Modi get it so wrong?
Now I am a firm believer in Modi’s skills of oratory. And politics. Modi doesn’t do anything “by chance”. Everything is thought through. His actions (or inactions) in Gujarat in 2002 were thought through. His “puppy” slant at the Muslims was thought through. His “burqa” comment was thought through. As was his juxtaposition of his Hindu religion ahead of Nationalist in describing himself. Equally, the business of using false statistics to impress a not-so-savvy audience is also thought through. In Gujarat, Modi used to get away with all kinds of feku behavior. No longer!
But what was even more shocking than Modi’s own goof up was the defence put up by his party folks on TV last night. While the seniors all zipped up, scrambling for cover, poor Smriti Irani ended up making a complete joke of herself by saying that Modi actually meant a 20% increase in education spends on a year-on-year basis (or that’s what I could understand of her shrieky reply)! How strange. The leader of the Gujaratis – a bunch of extremely savvy business people – doesn’t know the difference between % of GDP and % increase in spends? Sorry Smriti, you should have just apologized. A human makes mistakes…..but then Modi isn’t human is he?! Worse than Smriti Irani was Subramanian Swamy. Now we really have to understand this. Is his style always going to be to snub the Congress rep as being a “sidekick” or some such thing? In which case, what is he himself? A sidekick of the BJP? Most of his SC appeals get thrown out. He couldn’t get a patch on Chidambaram. So his frustration is understandable. But to try to show off his “economics credentials” and to achieve the exact opposite doesn’t quite speak well of this Harvard graduate! Swamy apparently tried to say that Chinese statistics were unreliable, and the real numbers were different (higher maybe?) than the official statistics. OK fine. But even after repeated questioning by the anchor, Swamy could not provide the source for what he believes is correct data (which would substantiate the 20% claim). Congress on the other hand said that the source of their 3.9% data was the Chinese official news agency Xinhua.
But then the man who can try to make a fool of the entire nation by putting out false data all the time should have been expected to do so in Pune also. After all, isn’t it Modi himself who has created this hyperbolic hype about Vibrant Gujarat attracting hundreds of billions of dollars of investments, when the reality is a merely fraction of that? Isn’t he the one who has taunted the Congress on its education spends (3.9%), when in reality the % was much smaller during the NDA regime (1.67%)? The TOI yesterday gave credit to the Congress in its edit piece – Silver linings “One of the most important areas where the UPA government has made significant gains is education, an important element in sustaining longterm growth. A rapid increase in school enrolment rates to close to 100% – and sharp decline in dropout rates – indicates major gains made despite shortfalls in quality. The results are even more impressive in higher education, where the number of students enrolled has more than doubled to 26 million in five years”.
But for Modi, facts are not important. Making an impression is. If its students, give them some gas about education. If it’s a women’s gathering, give the ladies some gas about women’s empowerment (HT says “The state's sex ratio dropped marginally under him from 918 girls for 1,000 boys in 2001 to 915 in 2011. It was lower than the national average of 940 in 2011. The girl drop-out rate in schools in Gujarat was higher than the national average”. And if it’s the lay voter give him a fatal dose of #fekugiri!
The real truth is that if there is one man who has truly earned all his monikers, it is Modi. Whether it is “feku” or “Hindu hriday samrat”, this man has earned each of them. He always operates in the extremes. Well now, he’s under the spotlight…..we’ll get to see more of his fun show!