Modi Still Top­per Among the In­dian Mid­dle Class

The ur­ban salaried be­tween the ages of 24 and 50 in In­dia’s seven big­gest cities still be­lieve in Modi, the BJP gov­ern­ment and their dreams of achhe din

The Economic Times - - Front Page - Our Bureau

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi still holds sway over mem­bers of his core con­stituency — the ur­ban salaried, es­pe­cially those liv­ing in In­dia’s seven big­gest cities. The gov­ern­ment’s over­all ap­proval rat­ings are still run­ning high al­most two years af­ter the Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept to power at the head of a ro­bust ma­jor­ity, ac­cord­ing to the find­ings of an ET-TNS sur­vey. That’s de­spite get­ting caught up in var­i­ous con­tro­ver­sies and the fail­ure to make progress on key el­e­ments of its re­form agenda. The gov­ern­ment has an over­all ap­proval rat­ing of 86% on eco­nomic per­for­mance, while 62% say that it has de­liv­ered on job cre­ation and 58% ex­pect the fu­ture to be bet­ter. In other words, they still

be­lieve

that ‘achhe din aaney wala hain’. Per­haps the find­ing that re­veals the most about those sur­veyed is their re­sponse to ques­tions about the con­tro­versy over na­tion­al­ism and sedi­tion as ex­em­pli­fied by the Jawa­har­lal Nehru Univer­sity protests. Half of them (46%) be­lieve that the con­tro­versy is the Congress’ fault and more of them (52%) hold the view that the gov­ern­ment has taken the right ac­tion in the mat­ter.

It’s im­por­tant to note that the find­ings don’t re­flect sen­ti­ment across the coun­try or among dif­fer­ent pop­u­la­tion seg­ments, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing the cur­rent elec­tion sea­son. It should be read for what it is — a sense of the gov­ern­ment’s pop­u­lar­ity across a seg­ment that’s seen as be­ing strong sup­port­ers of Modi and the BJP. To that end, our sur­vey­ors fanned out across Delhi, Mum­bai, Chen­nai, Ben­galuru, Kolkata, Hy­der­abad and Ahmed­abad, cov­er­ing a sam­ple size of more than 2,000 peo­ple be­tween the ages of 24 and 50 with an an­nual fam­ily in­come be­tween .₹ 3 lakh and .₹ 20 lakh. About a fifth of those sur­veyed were women..`

One key find­ing: Modi is vastly more pop­u­lar than Congress Vi­cePres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi. On a scale of one to 10, Modi gets a score of 7.68 against a lowly 3.61 for Gandhi. Finance Min­is­ter Arun Jait­ley does bet­ter than him at 5.86. As much as 41% of those sur­veyed gave the PM a rat­ing of 9 or 10.

With a score of 7.68 out of 10, Modi is much more pop­u­lar than Congress V-P Rahul Gandhi who got a lowly 3.61

Among the seven cities, there is a split. Ahmed­abad is most whole­hearted in sup­port of the gov­ern­ment led by Modi, the for­mer Gu­jarat chief min­is­ter for whom the state was a launch pad onto the na­tional stage. Delhi and Ben­galuru are also in favour of him, while Mum­bai is more bal­anced in its view — some is­sues could have been han­dled bet­ter, said peo­ple there.

Chen­nai, Hy­der­abad and Kolkata swing the other way and are neg­a­tive on the gov­ern­ment. Point to note: Assem­bly elec­tions have be­gun in West Ben­gal while Tamil Nadu goes to the polls on May16.

The Congress also gets most of the blame (66%) for the log­jam in Par­lia­ment. A ma­jor­ity (61%) be­lieve the gov­ern­ment’s devel­op­ment agenda has been thwarted by the rows in the House.

As for the Bud­get, opinion is di­vided al­most evenly on whether it’s a friendly one. More than half be­lieve that the Bud­get will ad­versely im­pact house­hold ex­pen­di­ture, while close to two in five be­lieve it will have no im­pact on sav­ings. It should be noted that the sur­vey was con­ducted af­ter the Fe­bru­ary 29 Bud­get but be­fore the gov­ern­ment clar­i­fied its po­si­tion on the Em­ploy­ees’ Prov­i­dent Fund, rolling back plans to tax part of the amount at with­drawal. When it comes to age groups, the strong­est sup­port for the gov­ern­ment comes from the 24-30 seg­ment. Not only are they pos­i­tive about past eco­nomic per­for- mance, they are also op­ti­mistic about the fu­ture. It should be noted that 47% of those sur­veyed come from this age group.

In the 41-50 age group (17% of those sur­veyed), opinion is more nu­anced. Those who pro­fess them­selves to be from SEC B2 house­holds, gen­er­ally re­garded as lower mid­dle class, are not as fer­vent in their sup­port as their younger com­pa­tri­ots. They are also less en­thu­si­as­tic about the Bud­get, which they be­lieve raises ex­pen­di­ture and low­ers re­turns on sav­ings, al­though the tim­ing of the sur­vey may have had an im­pact on the an­swers as pointed out above. The gov­ern­ment seems to have been suc­cess­ful in get­ting the word out on schemes such as the Swachh Bharat Ab­hiyan, which gets a pos­i­tive rat­ing of 76%, fol­lowed by Make in In­dia at 65%. The Dig­i­tal In­dia and Smart City ini­tia­tives (both at 55%) don’t seem to have caught on as much. Among house­hold and in­come seg­ments, those in the up­per tier are sat­is­fied with the gov­ern­ment and blame the Congress for re­forms get­ting stuck. Still, the Bud­get doesn’t get their full sup­port and are also less pos­i­tive on the gov­ern­ment’s var­i­ous ini­tia­tives.

Those in the mid­dle in terms of in­come are both sat­is­fied and op­ti­mistic. But al­though they blame Congress for var­i­ous is­sues, many feel the gov­ern­ment needs to re­turn the fo­cus to devel­op­ment.

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