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A K Bhattacharya: Are we underestimating Mayawati?

Under the BSP supremo, UP's per capita income went up by 136% from about Rs 11,000 in 2007 to 26,000 now

A K Bhattacharya  |  New Delhi 

Bahujan Samaj Party supremo is all set to complete her first five-year tenure as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, India’s largest state by population. This is significant in itself. She became UP chief minister in May 2007 for the fourth time, with a majority in the that allowed her to sail through the entire term without a hiccup.

This was not so in her earlier stints as chief minister. In 1995, when she became chief minister at 39, earning the honour of being UP’s youngest head of government, she spent only four months and 15 days in office. In her second tenure, she did better by staying on as chief minister for six months. That was in 1997. And in her third tenure, which began on May 3, 2002, she could remain in office a little longer for close to 16 months.

So, in her fourth attempt, she is doing even better by completing her full five-year term. This, then, is also an appropriate occasion to evaluate her performance as chief minister in the last five years. A key question here would be how Ms has improved the economic conditions of the people of her state and what she has done with the finances of her government.

The numbers tell an interesting story. The nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of grew at an annual rate of eight to 12 per cent between 2002-03 and 2006-07. Ms began her five-year tenure as chief minister from May 2007. Almost coinciding with that, growth in state in nominal terms took off from 2007-08. The average annual state growth rate between 2007-08 and 2010-11 shot up to 17 per cent. Even in the current financial year, UP’s state is likely to grow by 11 per cent.

In other words, UP’s nominal GDP growth in these four years (2007-11) was almost the same as what the entire country clocked in that period. This is not a performance that anyone can scoff at. UP’s performance on the per capita income front was less creditable largely because its population continued to grow at a rate higher than the rest of the country. Even then, UP’s per capita income went up by 136 per cent from about Rs 11,000 in 2007 to Rs 26,000 now. In the same period, India’s per capita income saw a higher increase of 161 per cent from Rs 21,000 to Rs 54,900.

As far as the state government’s finances are concerned, they too have seen a steady improvement in Ms Mayawati’s five years. UP continues to be one of the few states with a revenue surplus, an advantage she has not frittered away by offering tax concessions or waivers to people. Instead, she has used this surplus to reduce the state’s from four per cent of state GDP in 2007-08 to a budgeted figure of 2.97 per cent for the current financial year. On the debt front too, Ms Mayawati ensured that the state’s indebtedness came down from 43 per cent of state GDP in 2007-08 to 32 per cent in 2011-12.

Ms Mayawati’s five years will also be remembered for the rapid strides the state’s power sector took by adding about 4,000 MW of generation capacity. If the Mayawati government’s official claims are to be believed, the fresh capacity added in the last four-and-a-half years is almost three-fourths of the total thermal power generation capacity had added till 2007. What’s more, Ms Mayawati has planned to create 7,000 MW more generation capacity by the end of 2012 and her target is to make UP a power-surplus state by 2017. This may look like one of those tall pre-election promises, but remember that the state is already executing power projects with a total capacity of 10,000 MW.

If you thought Ms Mayawati has not done anything for the aam aadmi, then think again. In the last four-and-a-half years, she has built around 200,000 low-cost, small houses for allotment to members of poor families. An estimated Rs 3,500 crore has been spent on this. On average, this translates into about 2,800 low-cost houses in each of UP’s 70 districts. In addition, all girls from poor families are now entitled to a cycle if they go to school. This scheme, at a nominal cost, has worked wonders for literacy levels in UP’s villages.

You may still complain about the state’s poor ranking in the human development index, but with strong economic growth, stable state finances and investments in infrastructure, housing and education, can look forward to a better tomorrow. And if Ms Mayawati has achieved all this in the last four-and-a-half years of her tenure, why is it that she has not got the credit that should be due to her? Or, for that matter, why is it that her political opponents feel confident of defeating her in the next elections, citing her performance as poor? Or is it because Ms Mayawati as a political phenomenon is not fully understood — either by her rivals or by our political analysts?

First Published: Wed, November 16 2011. 00:18 IST