Ecstatic Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supporters listed out several reasons why we should be proud of the first 50 months of the Narendra Modi government. They were all charged up after listening to the prime minister’s speech while concluding the no-confidence debate in Lok Sabha.“We have become the sixth-largest economy recently, overtaking a developed country like France. Shouldn’t we be proud of that,” one supporter asked. “We have climbed several notches in the ease of doing business ranking. Is that a small achievement,” remarked another. “Modi ji has finally debunked the jobless growth myth by saying that nearly one crore jobs were created last year alone,” said yet another supporter.Any independent analyst would say that the much-publicised distinction of becoming the sixth-largest economy is nothing but a statistical milestone which was coming our way in any case. The real questions to ask are: Is our per capita income comparable with France, are our socio-economic indices bound to improve dramatically now that we are in the big league in terms of size, are we exporting more after getting the tag or have foreign investors turned bullish, pouring in billions of dollars as foreign direct investment?The life unfortunately goes on despite the tag. The distinction is just a number to feel good and brag about. We should have achieved that distinction much earlier if we had sustained our high growth path witnessed in the 2004-08 period.On the ease of doing business, it is a matter of perception. The ranking is done on the basis of perception of a few individuals based in Delhi and Mumbai. There is no material impact. The questions to ask here are: Has inspector raj been abolished, have tax officials become more kind and sympathetic or is obtaining a government licence less cumbersome now than what was the case earlier? Depending on answers to these questions, we can celebrate the improvement in ease of doing business ranking.Weak Rupee, High Fuel Prices, Bypoll Defeats: Remember 2013?The Enigma of One Crore Jobs Created Last YearOn the job front, the prime minister used innovative data to show that we indeed created one crore additional jobs last year. How?By estimating the potential employment creation capacity of post-graduate doctors and chartered accountants. Commercial vehicle sales are assumed to be adding to the employment pool.Similarly, the PM quoted an anonymous independent report (we must assume it has been done by a very credible organisation and it is compelling enough to be quoted by the prime minister) as saying that incremental sales of passenger vehicles too added significantly to employment generation.What the PM gave was an estimate of number of jobs that would have potentially been created in 2017. It takes a lot though to convert potential to actual jobs. But who cares?What the credible agency missed out on is the potential job creation capacity of a range of other professionals too. What about lawyers who can set up law firms and fire many, pharmacy graduates who can start chemist shops if nothing else works, hotel management graduates who are potential owners of restaurant chains, fashion designers making their mark in the glamour world, trained actors (not just at NSD or FTII but at scores of other institutes all across the country) who can potentially use their skills to earn millions of dollars, web developers, writers, YouTubers and architects?Why not consider the potential of ITI pass outs? If we take into account the potential of all our trained human resource, we will never have any shortage of jobs. Unfortunately, there are millions of highly qualified human resource chasing jobs still.Selective Use of Data in Support of Big, Bold HeadlinesThe point I am trying to make is that what the PM’s supporters are bothered about are big headlines. The fine print can wait and so can actual delivery. The prime minister offers big headlines with effortless ease with the help of innovative data. The case in point is the catchy headline of one crore jobs being created last year. While the PM talked about potential jobs that would have been created, it has been understood as actual jobs. Similarly, the fight against black money has come to be equated with the action on shell companies.The question is why do such headlines resonate? The prime minister’s charismatic leadership of course is a big factor. His innovation in selection of data also lends some sort of credibility to, what otherwise looks like, a manufactured reality. We all know the potential of CAs, qualified doctors or architects. If the enabling environment is conducive, talented professionals can create thousands of meaningful jobs as many of them have done in the past. The PM took their names to make his assertion real.MSP for Paddy Has Seen Steeper Hikes BeforePromises Are of Forever-Work-in-Progress KindNot just catchy headlines, what adds to the PM’s popularity is the alluring promises of intangibles.And there are many. Swachh Bharat, adding value to the worth of Indian passport abroad and Financial Inclusion (opening new bank accounts have become synonymous with financial inclusion).Whether they are operational or serviced at all are immaterial. Fight against corruption, of which disappearance of headlines about scams is a lead indicator, creation of New India by 2022 and doubling of farmers’ income – these are some of the promises whose delivery cannot be measured, very much like the original grand promise of Acche Din.Since most of these promises are forever-work-in-progress, there is no yardstick to judge the performance of the prime minister and the government he presides over.When you ask questions on actual deliverables – per capita income, exports, growing muscle of tax officials, state of health and education infrastructure, bureaucratic reform, pick up in private investment, growth in household expenditure etc – you are redirected to yet another intangible – the intention of the PM.The prime minister has also successfully managed to create a large constituency of supporters who believe that democratic India truly came into its own in 2014. There is a sort of collective amnesia. A perception that nothing moved prior to that. That tax collection was paltry, banks were involved in unscrupulous lending practices, bureaucracy was dysfunctional, foreign policy was in shambles, federalism was just an idea and something called minimum support price for farmers did not exist. It was all a dark age and we all needed redemption. And the PM has redeemed all of us.All the three pillars contributing significantly to the Modi mystique have effectively worked well so far. Will they be enough to win him yet another five-year term at the helm? We'll get through this! Meanwhile, here's all you need to know about the Coronavirus outbreak to keep yourself safe, informed, and updated. The Quint is now available on Telegram & WhatsApp too, Click here to join.