3 years on, PM Modi’s popularity reigns supreme
Mood of the Nation poll says the gap between him and the second most popular PM ever is only widening.
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Pollsters in the UK came up with the acronym TINA for Margaret Thatcher when she ruled continuously for 11 years. In India, we used that for Indira Gandhi in her heyday. Now, a new one can easily be coined for Narendra Modi—TIMO (There is Modi Only).
Over three years into his term, Prime Minister Modi’s personal popularity reigns supreme in India’s political landscape, according to the latest India Today Mood of the Nation poll.
The gap between him and the second most popular prime minister ever is only widening, with twice the number of people rating him as a better prime minister than Indira Gandhi. He seems to have achieved a kind of political nirvana where his popularity is not linked to people’s view of his performance. Their concerns do not dent his sway over them. This is our fifth poll since the General Elections of 2014 when his party, the BJP, and its allies (NDA) won 287 seats, and in all our polls except one (February 2016, where they dropped by one seat) the seats they are projected to win have only increased.
The latest poll shows the NDA would get 349 seats if elections were to be held today, with a loss of 11 seats over the survey done six months ago. In contrast, the UPA would get 75 seats — up by 15 from our last poll.
There is much to cheer for the BJP in this poll. So far, India has shown tremendous patience and fortitude with the prime minister’s brand of governance. They have absorbed the shock of demonetisation and are adjusting to the demands of GST.
India Today cover story, Mostly Sunny, Chance of Rain for August 28, 2017.
Between 40 and 50 per cent of the respondents believe the government is doing well on a range of social issues, from provision of education and healthcare to protection of religious minorities as well as Dalits.
However, there are warning signs, too. Jobs is Prime Minister Modi’s most troublesome issue. A significant 53 per cent of those polled said the NDA government has not been able to create jobs in the country, a sharp jump from 36 per cent in the previous survey.
The facts concur. The Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, in a recent report, said 1.5 million jobs were lost during January-April 2017, the quarter immediately following demonetisation. The second part of the mid-year Economic Survey tabled in Parliament on August 12 says the country may not achieve the projected 6.75-7.5 per cent growth for 2017-18. Industrial output has dropped 0.1 per cent year-on-year in June. Manufacturing output has decelerated 0.4 per cent year-on-year in July.
Added to this is the agrarian crisis with suicides of farmers hitting the headlines with embarrassing regularity.
In spite of the economic headwinds he may be facing, people still feel the biggest achievement of the Modi government is the crackdown on black money and running a corruption-free government. No wonder in his Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Modi commented on how an imandari ka mahotsav (festival of honesty) had begun. Nearly 40 per cent believe that the "achhe din" he promised in the 2014 elections have arrived.
Our poll shows more than ever before that India wants him as its leader — 63 per cent rate him as either outstanding or good. I believe one of the reasons for his enormous appeal is the common man’s total identification with him. He understands and feels their pain. Above all, he works ceaselessly and selflessly for their welfare.
When India Today started election forecasting and the Congress party was ruling the roost, pollsters created a matrix called IOU (Index of Opposition Unity). According to the poll, Rahul Gandhi seems the most likely alternative to lead a non-BJP mahagathbandhan should there be such an occasion, but it is interesting that 43 per cent of the respondents believe the Congress can and should be led by a person other than from the Nehru-Gandhi clan.
With IOU at its nadir and TIMO strongly in play, this may well ensure many more Independence Day addresses from Prime Minister Modi.
(India Today Editor-in-Chief's note for cover story, Mostly Sunny, Chance of Rain, August 28, 2017.)