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A few weeks ago, Satyapal Singh, the Mumbai commissioner of police, resigned from his job one year ahead of retirement and joined the BJP. This party has traditionally attracted retired policemen, including, in the 1980s and ’90s, Shrish Chandra Dixit, former DGP of Uttar Pradesh (and then Varanasi MP) and Bharatendu Prakash Singhal (former DGP of UP turned Rajya Sabha MP and former VHP president Ashok Singhal’s brother). Indeed, the BJP claims that it pays a particular attention to law and order as one of the pillars of its plan for “good governance”. The mutual attraction between police officers and the BJP raises an obvious question: do BJP-ruled states have better records than others when it comes to law and order?
Based on the figures of the National Crime Records Bureau for the years 2006-2010, the national average of the number of cognisable crimes in India for that period was 17 for 100 inhabitants. No state ruled by the BJP during this period, except Uttarakhand, performed better than the national average: Chhattisgarh and Gujarat stood at 19, Karnataka (where the BJP governed after 2008) at 21 and Madhya Pradesh at 28. But many Congress-ruled states did not do better. Andhra Pradesh stood at 21, for instance. In contrast, the Uttar Pradesh government clocked in a remarkable seven, partly because this state is very populous, but also because the BSP — at the helm after 2007 — mobilised against the “goonda raj”.
Experts point out, however, that the category of “cognisable crimes” must be disaggregated, since it brackets together many different things, including murder, dacoity, arson. Let’s focus on murder, one of the most important items on this list, and see where the BJP-ruled states stand vis-à-vis the others. When we do so, it is not easy to come to a clear conclusion. For Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka, the number of murders per year and for every 10 inhabitants was 1.97, 2.24 and 2.87, respectively, over the period when the party was in office (1998-2011, 2003-11 and 2008-11, respectively — 2011 is the last year for which I have robust data from the NCRB). The Congress did worse in Andhra Pradesh over the period 2004-11, with a ratio of 3.13, and in Delhi over the period 1998-2011, with a ratio of 3.22. But in Maharashtra, over the years 1999-2011, it is neck and neck with the BJP government of Karnataka, with a ratio of 2.85.
One may argue, however, that the parties’ performances should be compared within the same state. This comparison shows that in Himachal Pradesh, the BJP has done better than the Congress when they alternated in power, with 1.7 for the Congress over 2003-07 as opposed to 1.5 for the BJP over continued…