Congress media cell chairperson Ajay Maken on Monday raked up a debate about BJP PM candidate Narendra Modi’s figures on poverty line, but to do so Maken went back to Modi castigating prime minister Manmohan Singh and the Planning Commission in his September 7 rally in Chhattisgarh over the Rs 32 per day as the poverty floor figure, and compared it to Gujarat civil supplies department’s December 16 circular which fixes the poverty line figure at Rs 10.80 per day.
BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman mocked Congress saying that the party has the habit of unthinkingly entering the fray. She pointed out that the poverty line is determined by the Planning Commission, which functions under the central government, and that the states have nothing to do with it.
She said that Gujarat figures of Rs 501 per month in urban areas and Rs 324 per month in rural areas was fixed by plan panel and the Gujarat government had been reminding it since 2004 to revise the figure as it was an inadequate figure. But there was no response for a decade now from either the planning commission or the central government.
Had Sitharaman left the argument at that the BJP would have won the round. But she disclosed that the Gujarat government had used the criteria set by the Planning Commission and tweaked it to include 11 lakh more people into the below the poverty line bracket, raising the total figure of the BPL people to 32 lakh in the state. According to the Planning Commission, there were 21 lakh people below the poverty line in Gujarat.
She was not clear whether the Planning Commission had not accurately enumerated those below the poverty line in the state, and the state government had corrected it. She wanted to show that the Gujarat government under Modi was more concerned about the poor, and therefore it had added 11 lakh people to the poverty numbers.