By Elton Gomes
Two polls conducted recently might have some alarming results for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. While one poll indicates that Modiís popularity has reduced, the other shows that Dalits and Adivasis have changed their prime ministerial preference. Hereís what the polls have said about Modi and his sliding popularity.
ĎMood of the Nation Surveyí by India Today
The Mood of the Nation (MOTN) survey shows that Modiís popularity decreased from 53% in January 2018 to 49% in July 2018. The ratings have†alarmed the BJP as they look to avoid defeat by the Congress. Things might be looking up a bit for the Congress, who will be expecting a lot from regional allies – Bahujan Samaj Party, the Samajwadi Party, and the Trinamool Congress Ė as they look to prevent another Modi wave.
Although Modiís popularity ratings have dropped, he has been voted as Indiaís best prime minister, as per the MOTN poll. The poll reflects the sentiments of the people till July 2018. As per the July MOTN survey, Modi received 26% votes, while Indira Gandhi got 20% votes. In third place was Atal Bihari Vajpayee who got 12% votes. Vajpayee was followed by Jawaharlal Nehru who received 10% votes.
The survey states that in north India and east India, Narendra Modi is the most favoured choice as a prime minister. Modi remains joint first choice with Indira Gandhi in west India, and trails by three per cent in south India.
In terms of the best alternative to Modi, a total of 46 percent respondents believe that Rahul Gandhi could become the next prime minister. Gandhi was followed by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee who received a meagre 8% of the vote. Banerjee was followed by Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who received 4% of the votes each.
Rahul Gandhi remains the first choice for 47% Muslims and 45% Hindus. Gandhi received 56% support from south India, which is the maximum from any region. Gandhi’s popularity as an alternative to Modi has increased by 14%, after he gained 32% in the February 2016 MOTN poll.
ĎDesh Ka Moodí survey conducted by Lokniti-CSDS-ABP News
This survey states that Prime Minister Modiís popularity has reduced, while Rahul Gandhi has been enjoying an increasing amount of popularity. As per the survey, Dalits and Adivasis have shifted their vote preference and their prime ministerial preference as well. In January, 18% Dalits and 27% Adivasis wanted Gandhi to become prime minister, but now 25% Dalits and 30% Adivasis want Gandhi to succeed Modi as prime minister. On the other hand, Modiís favourability has dropped from 35% to 25% in Dalits, and from 42% to 37% in Adivasis.
The survey noted that for the first time, Modiís popularity has fallen below his favourabilty level of 2014, when he was the PM choice for 36% voters. Since 2014, preference for Gandhi has increased by 8 points. When compared with the January survey, Modiís favorability has dropped whereas Gandhiís has increased the most among middle-aged and elderly voters.
Modi is losing support from Indiaís farmers Ė a decline of 12% points over a year. To add to Modiís headaches, the GSTís unpopularity has been on the rise Ė from 24% to 40%. As per the survey, there is not a single issue where the Modi government has been rated positively.
Figures from these polls indicate the uphill task the BJP has in front of them. Karnataka was an example where the Congress was successful in allying with the regional JDS, and this could mean trouble for the BJP.
Challenges before the BJP
Modiís promise of Achche Din (good days) had a universal appeal in 2014. The promise seemed to have invoked positivity and hope in everyone from farmers to the middle class and businessmen. However, four years later, and Indians are still waiting for achche din. To add to the Modi governmentís woes, India seems to be in the midst of an agrarian crisis caused due to extreme weather and lack of market linkages. The dual shocks of GST and demonetisation have substantially disrupted the economy and small businesses. Many of the free market proponents who lent their support to the BJP have not been very happy with the partyís centrist (and often populist) economic policies.
The creation of jobs continues to remain an issue for the Modi government. Thousands reportedly lost jobs due to demonetisation. Even though several media reports claim that new jobs have been created, the data remains questionable and several loopholes exist. Several inconsistencies in the governmentís skill development program have led many to question the credibility of such a program.
The BJP is trying hard to come to power in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Odisha, Mizoram, and West Bengal. Although the BJP has managed to significantly challenge Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government in West Bengal and Pinarayi Vijayan-led Communist Party of India (Marxist) government in Kerala, coming to power in these states remains a difficult task.
Furthermore, the crime rate seems to be high and crimes against women seems to be increasing. In the same vein, the BJPís inaction over such violence has raised serious questions over its attempt to make India safer.
As Modiís popularity seems to be on the downside, Indians have now pinned their hopes on new candidates for prime minister. Although the Congress would want its president Rahul Gandhi to be the next prime minister, the party is open to the idea of supporting the elevation of other leaders from the opposition, including Mayawati and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, top sources from the Congress told NDTV.
In July 2018, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah hinted that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee could be the prime ministerial candidate of the anti-BJP front. The Congress has been advocating Rahul Gandhi as its frontrunner candidate for prime minister, but its best bet will be to form an alliance with regional parties. In addition to forming an alliance, sharing of portfolios will be another crucial task that the Congress will have to maneuver.
What does this mean for Modi?
Despite Modiís dipping popularity, 70% of young Indians would want to re-elect him as prime minister in 2019. A total of 64% women supported the re-election of the current NDA government, as per a poll conducted by news app Inshorts and marketing agency Ipsos. This indicates that a majority of Indians still want to see Modi and the BJP in power. Writing for the Print, Shivam Vij says that this could be due to lack of a better candidate.
Vij argues that ďanybodyĒ might be better than Modi/BJP, which is why Rahul Gandhi is acceptable. The article states that a better alternative seems to be missing, and Gandhi has failed to be such a promising alternative. It also has to be kept in mind that Modi won in 2014 as he was campaigning against the worst government, the UPA-2, and because he was successful in selling his achievements in Gujarat.
The article points fingers at the inability of the opposition to work towards farmersí rights, and says that if Gandhi was a real opposition leader, he would have mobilized farmers and sat on a hunger strike at Ramlila Maidan.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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