The Narendra Modi-led government belatedly released the back series of the GDP on the day of former Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee’s funeral.
The government tried to bury the news of sustained growth of 8.8 per cent per year for the period 2004 to 2014 during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) years.
This is doubly embarrassing for Modi. His government changed the base year to 2011-12, and the calculation method of estimating GDP (using market prices instead of factor costs) resulting in the 2013-14 GDP growth being revised upward to 6.9 per cent from 4.6 per cent earlier.
This new method helped make the current numbers look respectable at just over 7 per cent. His government’s showpiece initiative — 'Make in India' — has remained an expensive slogan.
There are hardly any new jobs and industry is crawling.
You would reckon that any opposition worth its salt would latch on to this and ask Modi questions — about his mediocre track record in office, the oft repeated claims of ‘good governance’ and ‘acche din’ (good days).
Well, the opposition does occasionally ask this question in a country where 65 per cent of the population is below the age of 35 and are looking for jobs.
Even then, this remains an aside.
With barely eight months to go for general elections, India’s fractious opposition battles with unmerited ambitions and giant Prime Minister-in-waiting egos.
Rahul Gandhi, President of the Indian National Congress
So Bangla chief minister Mamata Banerjee fancies herself leading the federal front and naturally being the prime ministerial candidate.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi, who should ideally act as the lynchpin of opposition unity, which he actually did in the Gujarat elections and gave Modi a run for his money, staked a half-hearted claim to the prime minister’s post.
Sharad Pawar, chief of the Nationalist Congress Party, has nursed similar ambitions for decades. But he recently postured publicly, ruling out the claim.
Sharad Pawar, President of the Nationalist Congress Party
Mayawati, chief of the Bahujan Samaj Party, sealed an historic alliance with long-time foe, the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh now led by Akhilesh Yadav.
Akhilesh Yadav, Chief of Samajwadi Party
She is driving a hard bargain with the Congress. Mayawati is the toughest negotiator in Indian politics and is giving Kamalnath, her interlocutor in the Congress, sleepless nights.
Mayawati, Chief of Bahujan Samaj Party
She wants alliances in all the three states going to elections - Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh – before she gives Congress an inch in Uttar Pradesh.
Political power in India flows through the Hindi heartland and whoever wins Uttar Pradesh rules India.
Last time around, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) got 73 out of the 80 seats and this powered the Modi majority government.
The BJP is unlikely to repeat this historic feat after installing Yogi Adityanath, the mahant (monk) of Gorakhnath, as the chief minister. Yogi has strange administrative priorities.
He is waging a war on an imaginary ‘love jihad’ with the oddly named anti-Romeo squads attacking consenting couples.
Love Jihad is where a Muslim man entices a Hindu woman into marriage and then gets her to convert.
The rightwing in India believes this is a deliberate attempt by Muslims to increase the numbers of the community.
Yogi Adityanath, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh
Yogi has also unleashed an “encounter raj” carried out by his handpicked upper class Rajput policemen.
This has driven away the lower caste, Other Backward Class and Dalit vote, which had last time around voted for the BJP.
It was the pressure from its cadre that ensured that Mayawati and Yadav ally. This alliance is causing the maximum anxiety to BJP president Amit Shah and Modi because it has the potential to stop the BJP in its tracks.
The Congress is also trying to clamber on to the bandwagon, but the two regional heavyweights want to reduce it to a fringe player.
The Congress party’s structure has withered away in Uttar Pradesh with the party not even having people to man its offices. Some have been turned into cow sheds and some into tea shops.
Prashant Bhushan, distinguished public interest litigator and founder of the Swaraj Abhigyan, who had a bitter experience with Aam Admi Party, tells me: “The past four-and-a-half years have been so terrible on four issues — communal, agrarian, corruption and jobs. Modi promised so much and has not delivered."
"The opposition needs to get together on these four matters which are hot button issues. I have interacted with Rahul Gandhi twice — most recently on the impeachment motion for the Chief Justice. I had written and worked on Bofors, but I find both Rahul and Sonia Gandhi are well intentioned and seek advice from experts.”
Bhushan points out that the Sonia Gandhi created the National Advisory Council, which formulated bills such as the Right to Information, Right to education and the 100 days guaranteed job scheme. These measures ensured the UPA’s re-election. Bhushan says the entire opposition must at least sign up to a common minimum programme and decide on leadership later.
Problem is that with the Congress withering away – it is now ruling in two-and-a-half states – the core of the grand alliance is in trouble with regional leaders all fancying their chances.
This disarray is what Modi and Shah are counting on to win them another term. India truly deserves a better opposition.
Swati Chaturvedi is an award winning print and broadcast journalist. Her book “I am a Troll - Inside the BJP’s secret digital army” has received international acclaim. Her twitter handle is @Bainjal.