The battle for Maharashtra assembly has turned into a fight for supremacy between the two states. If official statistics are passed down to the most basic descriptors or parameters, three clear trends emerge: Maharashtra’s economy is twice as large as that of Gujarat; the economic growth is a tightly fought battle with both states out-pacing each other in different years; beyond growth numbers, Maharashtra shows a more developed society and better social indices.
Maharashtra is a larger state with better social indices such as infant mortality rate, maternal mortality rate, lower level of malnutrition, better literacy rate and sex ratio than in Gujarat. A higher share of Maharashtra’s population is urbanised.
There is a significant difference in the prevalent levels of malnutrition in the two states; though chronic malnutrition plagues tribal and urban poor in Maharashtra, the incidence of malnutrition in Gujarat is nearly 38%, while it’s 23% in Maharashtra.
On the economic front, there’s little to choose. In the last decade, the growth rate of the two states has been neck and neck with the Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) for 2008-13 for Gujarat a shade higher than in Maharashtra – 8.7% to 7.1%.
“It’s this rate that allows politicians to claim that Gujarat is developed more than Maharashtra, but as all figures, this one too has to be placed in context,” said Dr Ritu Dewan, economist and head of department (economics), Mumbai University.
The context is that the size of Maharashtra’s economy is twice that of Gujarat, has provided more employment and shows a higher level of per capita consumption. Maharashtra’s per capita income is also higher than Gujarat’s.
The CAGR for monthly per capita consumption in both urban and rural areas is 16.9% in Maharashtra and 15.1% in Gujarat between 2009-13. This is evidence of the fact that while there’s growth in Gujarat, and no one denies that, the economic growth in Maharashtra has transferred to its people more than it has in Gujarat, Dewan said.
The inter-state competition, always sub-surface since the two states were carved out of the erstwhile Bombay state on May 1, 1960, has taken on unprecedented parochial tones during the election campaign now underway. This is about reality as much as about perception.
“There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that Modiji is a development man,” said Vinod Tawde, BJP senior leader.
In the perception battle as the most developed and rapidly developing state, the “Gujarat model” was placed in the public imagination before the Lok Sabha election. Maharashtra has failed to market its strengths as well.