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New Delhi
Jobs legacy haunts Congress
Over its two consecutive terms in power, the UPA government has created an average of two million jobs a year. According to the latest National Census, 12 million jobseekers are added every year. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
New Delhi: If the Congress finds itself out of a job after results to the ongoing Lok Sabha elections are announced on 16 May, it has, at least in part, only its own inability to create jobs or manage inflation to blame.
A survey of voters across 526 Lok Sabha constituencies reveals that “better employment opportunities” is the most important agenda item for the voter. The survey was conducted by Daksh, a Bangalore-based non-profit organization, and the Association for Democratic Reforms, a New Delhi-based non-governmental organization.
Over its two consecutive terms in power, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has created an average of two million jobs a year even as the economy has expanded at an average rate of nearly 8% a year. According to the latest National Census, 12 million jobseekers are added every year.
Politically more uncomfortable for the Congress is the fact that in the five years preceding the UPA, the tenure of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) saw the creation of 58 million jobs—or nearly 12 million every year.
Addressing a rally in Amethi on Monday, the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi sought to leverage this to his party’s political advantage. “Why is the Congress not giving answers regarding price rise and unemployment? I ask the people of Amethi—did you get employment? I feel hurt at the fact that this country is being looted. I will not let this happen.”
Tacitly acknowledging the issue of joblessness, Congress vice-presidentRahul Gandhi said, “We want that the youth of Uttar Pradesh should get jobs… We want that a day should come when, in your mobiles, your T-shirt, your shoes—you should see ‘Made in India’.” Gandhi said this while addressing a rally in Allahabad on Monday.
In its manifesto, the Congress promised to create 20 million jobs a year if voted to power.
“‘Jobs’ is an appealing item that needs to be included in the manifesto, but I don’t think it goes beyond that,” said T.S. Papola, visiting professor at the Institute for Studies in Industrial Development.
Government representatives say the criticism of UPA’s jobs record is exaggerated and point to a decline in the number of low-paying farm jobs.
One of the government’s top policymakers, Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, said, “It is true that fewer jobs were created, but the rate of growth of agricultural GDP (gross domestic product) has accelerated, the real wages for agriculture have increased, and real consumption growth rate has increased.”
Some credit increased aspirations of the educated for their withdrawal from low-quality, non-farm jobs. The evidence of this is ambiguous.
Santosh Mehrotra, director general of the Planning Commission’s Institute of Applied Manpower and Research, says low job creation during UPA’s reign was partly because of women withdrawing from the workforce, in some cases to study more.
The last two rounds of voting in the election are due on 7 May and 12 May. Opinion polls have ranked the BJP-led NDA under Modi as the front-runner. The results of the election, staggered over nine phases, will be declared on 16 May, when counting of votes will be taken up.
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