How has Karnataka fared under Congress rule?

In January this year, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath alleged that the Congress had pushed the poll-bound state of Karnataka five years back with its anti-development policies. Congress chief minister Siddaramaiah countered that the “Gujarat model of development” should give way to the ‘Karnataka model of development’.

Mint analysis of a wide range of economic and development indicators shows that claims of both parties are exaggerated. While Karnataka does not seem to have taken a big march over other states in national rankings, it has also not regressed much over the past few years.

Karnataka’s share in national gross domestic product, or GDP, has increased slightly from the first year of the Siddaramaiah government—2013-14—even as it had declined during the BJP government from 2008-09 to 2012-13. But it should be noted that Karnataka’s share in India’s GDP under the Congress and BJP governments is not exactly comparable due to the shift to a new GDP series in 2011-12, which has led to increased estimates of the IT sector’s contribution to the economy, as reported by The Times of India.

However, the state’s share in the national manufacturing pie as well as in the national agricultural output has been declining. A change in regime and in the methodologies of estimating GDP growth has not affected this decline.

Karnataka’s progress in health and education has been limited over the past few years. Among 19 major states, Karnataka’s rank was unchanged in terms of literacy rate, for both men and women, in 2015-16 and in 2005-06—according to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS).

Meanwhile, learning outcomes in terms of reading and arithmetic deteriorated, according to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER). The reports show a declining share of students in rural areas in class VIII who are able to read standard II-level text between 2008 and 2016 even as the state continues to rank below the India average.

Karnataka’s improvement on infant mortality rate (IMR) and share of underweight children between 2005-06 and 2015-16 has been slower than the all-India average. While its ranking improved in the case of IMR, the state fell in its ranking of share of underweight children.

One reason for this could be the state’s relatively low spending on health and education sectors. As of 2017-18 (BE), Karnataka spent 11% of its aggregate expenditure on education and 3.8% on medical and public health and family welfare—lower than most other states in the country. This is a fallout of the state’s strong emphasis on fiscal discipline, according to Kshitija Joshi, assistant professor at the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bengaluru.

“The consequence of stringent borrowing and spending is reflected in lower per capita expenditure on human development parameters,” said Joshi.

However, on many other aspects of material well-being, Karnataka has consistently been an above-average performer. In terms of access to household amenities, Karnataka’s performance has been better than the national average over the past decade.

Even in terms of physical infrastructure, Karnataka has consistently done well. Road density in Karnataka stood at 180.2 km per 100 sq km area in 2015-16, against the all-India average of 143 km per 100 sq km area. However, other regions are catching up and Karnataka has witnessed a decline in its proportionate share of road length post 2011-12.

Overall, the Congress government in Karnataka seems to have a mixed record. This perhaps explains why Siddaramaiah is banking on populist schemessuch as Anna Bhagya (free rice), Cycle Bhagya, etc. even while wooing the influential Lingayat community with a religious minority tag, to win the next elections in the state.livemint

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