This time, it’s personal for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A 4% slide in his own popularity ratings in a span of just 4 months is bound to trigger some amount of alarm for the emblematic leader on whose image the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept to national power in 2014.
That the BJP went on to make considerable in-roads in parts of the country they had never had any real influence in, is a testament to the success of Brand Modi.
Given this ubiquitousness, it is likely that the recent ‘Mood of the Nation Survey’ by India Today, which shows that his popularity has dropped from 53% in January 2018 to 49% in July 2018, will have rung alarm bells for the BJP’s star strategists – party president Amit Shah and of course, Modi himself.
But how did the seemingly unbeatable colossus get here?
8 November 2016 at 8 pm, the Prime Minister in an unscheduled address to the nation, announced the most radical fiscal policy move since Indira Gandhi announced the Nationalisation of Indian banks in the 1960s. Demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes was packaged as a decisive blow in the war against black money.
Interestingly, PM Modi announced his political gamble at a time when his popularity ratings were at an all-time high – 65% as per India Today’s ‘Mood of the Nation Survey’ in January 2018.
But the ill-conceived, ill-planned and clumsily executed strategy to demonetise a predominantly cash-dependent economy did not have the desired effect. Instead, it left the most vulnerable exposed to endless months of financial uncertainty, even leading to a number of deaths across the country.
The lingering effects on the Indian economy is a serious blot on the record of a government that prides itself on delivering ‘Vikas’. As for the lingering effects on the informal sector, the complete damage is yet to be fully assessed.
One cannot co-relate the slide in PM Modi’s popularity ratings to Rahul Gandhi’s marginal gains, but there are other surveys and election trends that can give the Congress reasons for optimism.
The Congress and its original UPA allies may not fare better than they did in 2014. However, with new allies – the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Samajwadi Party, and even the Trinamool Congress, a UPA+ may have a fighting chance to undercut the possibility of another Modi wave in 2019. Here’s how –
1. The CSDS Mood of the Nation predicts that if the UPA combines its political fortunes with the BSP and the SP, it could easily secure 41% vote share across the country – which would put it in pole position to form the government at the Centre.
2. If the trends from an aggregated average of vote shares from the bypolls held across the country post December 2017 hold true, the UPA along with the BSP and the SP would get a 45.3% vote share. In comparison, the NDA would only get 36% of the vote – and if the UPA went it alone, they would only garner 32%.
3. The most recent pre-poll survey to have been conducted by India Today predicts a similar result for a united opposition.>