UPA supporter: Between 1998 and 2004, the average rate of GDP growth during the NDA regime was 6%. In the nine years of UPA rule from 2004 to 2013, GDP growth averaged 7.9%.
Moderator: By GDP you mean Gross Demonic Possession?
NDA supporter: Don't be silly. That is not the way to look at the data. When we took over, GDP growth was 4.3% in 1997-98. When we reluctantly left, it was 8%. Now, after nine years of UPA misrule, it's 5%.
CPI(M) worker: Between 2004 and 2009, when we supported the UPA-1 government, the GDP growth rate averaged 8.4%. That was entirely because of the policies we forced the Congress to pursue.
Moderator: Hahahahaha. Sorry.
UPA professor: Why take the arithmetical mean? If we take the median value, growth will be much higher during the UPA regime.
NDA man: If we take the mode, gro-wth during the NDA period was 8%.
Moderator: Isn't there a geometric mean?
NDA supporter: Consider Gujarat's high growth rate.
JD(U) supporter: Bihar is growing faster.
NDA professor: That's because of the low base.
Moderator: The nation wants to know about the geometric mean.
UPA fan: Gujarat does badly on social indicators.
NDA worker: It's improving rapidly.
UPA professor: That's because of the low base.
Moderator: Friends, friends, where are the numbers?
UPA worker: In Andhra Pradesh, between 2004-05 and 2011-12, the population below the poverty line fell from 29.9% to 9.2%. Over the same period, the population BPL in Gujarat went down from 31.8% to 16.6%.
NDA supporter: Consumer price inflation for industrial workers was 3.9% in 2003-04. It's 10.85% now.
Die-hard Sikkim Democratic Front fan: Sikkim is more developed than Gujarat, says the Raghuram Rajan committee report. Pawan Chamling has been chief minister since 1994. He should be PM.
CPI(M) supporter: In Tripura, poverty went down from 40.6% to 14.1%. Tripura is more developed than Gujarat, according to the Rajan committee.
Moderator: Tripura? Chamling? Hahahahaha. Sorry. Any more numbers?
NDA guy: The fiscal deficit in 2003-04 was 4.3%, it's 4.9% now.
JD(S) guy: The revenue deficit was a mere 2.3% in 1996, when the United Front was in power. Deve Gowda zindabad.
UPA professor: This is all very shallow. When we look at statistics we must consider the standard deviation, the underdevelopment index squared, the Gini coefficient, Lorenz curves.
Moderator: Who's Miss Loren? Stick to the topic.
NDA professor: Have we looked at the correlations, regressions, heteroscedasticity, homoscedasticity?
Moderator: Keep it clean, please. Time for a summing up.
UPA professor: There are lots of fake communal statistics churned out by knickerwallas.
NDA professor: Plenty of rubbish pseudo-secular Italian numbers.
Trinamool Congress chap: Maoist claptrap, all of it.
Moderator: Here are the results of the audience poll. UPA is better: 63.67%, NDA was better: 81.76%, Others better: 100%, Undecided: 235.79%, Aliens rule: 0.27%. There's a 93% probability this debate will generate 85% garbage. It will take more than data to convince the nation.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
Views expressed by the author are personal