Mood of the Nation poll reveals Rahul has as much to prove as Modi
The nation is watching the Congress vice-president closely but there is no clear verdict on his performance.
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If the India Today Group's Mood of the Nation poll indicates that the road ahead for Prime Minister Narendra Modi may not be as smooth as he had expected last year, it also offers a mixed bag to his prime challenger - the Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. The nation is watching him closely, post his 56-day-long break abroad, but there is no clear verdict on his performance.
Here are the five takeaways for the Gandhi scion from the opinion poll conducted between July 24 and August 5. A total of 11,820 interviews were conducted across 526 locations in 263 Assembly constituencies in 19 states - Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Delhi, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh.
1. The biggest issue that Rahul picked up against the Modi government was the Land Acquisition Bill. According to the Congress, the BJP wanted to amend the 2013 Land Acquisition Act passed by the Congress to help industrialists. In short, the Bill was painted anti-farmer by the Congress vice-president. The good news for him is that 63 per cent respondents agree that the Bill is anti-farmer, but 35 per cent also believe that it is important for development. Only 20 per cent believe that it will not only adversely affect the farmers but will also help the corporate sector. The Congress may have succeeded in stalling the Bill in Parliament, but the public verdict is still not a "thumb up" for the party.
2. If gain of one per cent vote share and nine seats can bring joy to his party, then Rahul Gandhi can celebrate. Since April 2015, when the poll was conducted last, the party has increased its vote share in Lok Sabha polls from 20 per cent to 21 per cent and number of seats from 53 to 52. In the 2014 General Election, the Congress won 44 seats, capturing 19.3 per cent of votes. Another reason to celebrate could be steady decline of the BJP, from 282 seats in 2014, the party will win only 243 seats if elections were held now. But Rahul must also take note that while the BJP has lost 39 seats since last year, the Congress has gained only 18 seats. The grand old party is still not the chosen one.
3. Despite his new avatar, people's faith in Rahul has marginally eroded as 44 per cent think he can revive the party while 46 per cent respondents felt the same in April 2015. Yet he can take consolation in the fact that 44 per cent is still a healthy figure. But he cannot be complacent as 43 per cent respondents feel his performance as the Congress leader has been average. Only 25 per cent feel he has done a good job.
4. There is more bad news for the Congress vice-president. While the party may have earned traction in media, its electoral fortunes are not looking bright yet. While 48 per cent respondents felt that the party will see a revival in next five years, now 43 per cent believe the same.
5. But all is not bad for the Gandhi scion. His stock as the prime ministerial candidate has gone up and majority of the respondents believe that the Gandhi surname is indispensable to the Congress. While 20 per cent wanted to see him as the PM candidate of the Congress party in April 2015, 30 per cent has voted for him now. What should bring more relief to him is the fact that 55 per cent feels that the Congress can't do better without the Gandhi family. But a word of caution: as a prime ministerial candidate across parties, Rahul is a distant third to Modi who has the support of 37 per cent respondents compared to eight per cent for Rahul. Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal is people's second choice with 11 per cent support.