New Delhi: Opposition BJP and the Left on Thursday charged government with making mockery of poor to restore its "credibility" ahead of General Elections, escalating the political slugfest over official estimates that poverty levels have shrunk in the last even years.
The Congress on its part expressed dismay that any political party can really quibble over poverty levels coming down even as the government said the latest estimates were just a preliminary assessment by an expert group.
According to the Planning Commission, the number of people living below the poverty line has shrunk to 21.9 per cent in 2011-12 from 37.2 per cent in 2004-05.
BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi charged the government with making a mockery of the plight of the poor people and misleading them in a bid to cover less people under the Food Security Act.
"It (estimates) proves that the government defines poverty as per its whims and fancy. It increases the number of the poor or decreases it as and when it wants," Joshi said that with the Centre maintaining there are very less number of people Below the Poverty Line(BPL) the burden would fall on the state governments when the Food Bill is passed.
The CPI(M) said the estimates made "a mockery of life and death struggles" of the people, amidst continuous rise in prices and "massive" slashing of subsidies for the poor.
Maintaining that UPA government was carrying out an "exercise of deceit" before elections to show that the poor had benefited during its tenure, CPI-M leadeer Sitaram Yechury said, "The manner in which this has been done only reconfirms an age-old English adage--there are lies, damned lies and statistics."
The CPI said the Planning Commission was "perpetuating fraud" on poverty line to restore the image and credibility of the UPA government ahead of the general elections.
Union Minister Manish Tewari said while any political party would be proud of dwindling number of poor people in the nation, it is surprising that some party raises objection as to why the poverty rate is coming down.
Planning Minister Rajeev Shukla said the latest estimates were just a preliminary assessment by an expert group and BJP has no right to condemn as population of poor has dwindled faster during UPA regime.