Keeping the Faith, But…
The TNS-ET Mood of the Middle Class survey shows that India is still willing to bet on the Modi horse
Achhe din may not be here yet, but the middle class still believes that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is still the man who can get them there.
In 2014, Modi made history leading the BJP to a single-party majority in the general elections, the first time in 30 years. He rode in on the crest of huge expectations.
Meeting the Indian electorate’s high expectations is well-nigh impossible. Not merely because of the sheer range of demographics, but also because the changes necessary to make good on this promise are complex and difficult. Two years on, going by the TNS-ET Mood of the Middle Class survey, the usually impatient Indian middle class is still betting on the same horse.
The nationwide poll reveals that the urban population, aged 24-50 years, with an annual income ranging from .₹ 3 lakh to .₹ 20 lakh is keeping the faith in the Modi administration — even as they may be less rosyeyed now than when the government was still fresh in office and ‘capable of miracles’.
It would be incorrect to say that the middle class is pinning its hope on Modi simply because there is no viable candidate from the opposition to take his place. A large majority polled sees the Congress holding back the administration’s effor- ts to actualise on its promise of growth, jobs and a better life. But it is also sending out the message loud and clear: Prime Minister Modi needs to do more.
More than serving as a comfort, the poll be a wake-up call to Modi Sarkar. Yes, the middle class still believes that Modi is their man. But it has calibrated its exuberance to the slow pace of change. This section is rewarding the administration with its faith because it sees honest efforts to make a material difference to their lives by engaging on issues that matter to them, and what it sees as an absence of corruption.
Money Doesn’t Live Long
But the reality of the slow pace of change has the danger of eroding this faith. Yes, inflation has been restricted to a single digit. But the money doesn’t stretch much farther than before: food prices are still high, as is the cost of renting. The salaried class feels the pinch on account of lower interest rates on savings, as is evident in their perception about Budget 2016. Nothing hurts like thinning pocket books.
The PM’s big ideas, such as Start Up India, Make in India and Digital India, are yet to show momentum and results in the same way as the 1991 reform succeeded in creating opportunities for a burgeoning middle class. Make in India and Digital India, the two job- and wealth-creating schemes, have been slow on the uptake. The middle class has had little to be overwhelmingly excited about the efforts.
Yes, the possibilities of dramatic change and the unleashing of opportunities were easier as India moved from a closed to a liberalised economy. It is tougher to have the same dramatic impact now, especially gi- ven the state of the global economy. But tell that to the man who earns .₹ 25,000 a month, with two children in private school. How long before he moves from the ‘satisfied’ to ‘somewhat dissatisfied’ column if things don’t improve for him?
On August 15, 2014, when the PM spoke of cleanliness from the ramparts of the Red Fort, he addressed the unspoken complaint of the many Indians. The Swachh Bharat campaign, which sought to turn cleanliness into a national mission, gave voice to the hope of many that they, too, would one day soon live in a country that was clean like Singapore, or Europe — a developed country.
For the urban middle class, Swachh Bharat is not about toilets but about clean streets and parks, the garbage being cleared on time, clean air and water. The administration’s continued engagement on these issues is evident in the overwhelming endorsement for Swachh Bharat. But efforts have to be stepped up. It is difficult to be hopeful when it is to- ugh to breathe.
The controversies that have dotted the two years bother the middle class — not because it is concerned with the sum and substance of these controversies but because they see these to be distractions from the ‘real business’ of creating jobs and improving lives.
A Better Tomorrow
The middle class is being patient. For them, the promise of a better tomorrow for themselves and their children is crucial. And they still believe that the Modi administration is working to create jobs and wealth for them, and that the future will be brighter. Such faith should spur the administration into action.
It should push the administration to take action against big-ticket offenders and those who seek to corner the promise of ‘achhe din’ for a few. Modi and his government have nearly three years to show that the middle class was not wrong to vote them in to government, and not wrong to still keep the faith.
Snapshot of a nation