PM Modi Continues to Ride High in Towns
But some of his schemes do not find traction
Exports, stock market indices and corporate returns might be down and banks battered by bad debt, but the popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi remains undiminished: this is the finding of a survey of over 2,100 people from India’s seven largest cities. The Economic Times Survey conducted by TNS covered people in the age group 24-50 with annual earnings between 3 lakh and 20 lakh, with a bias towards those aged 24-30 and earning up to 5 lakh. The Congress is blamed for stalling Parliament and Rahul Gandhi’s popularity is less than half Modi’s, although the Congress leader’s disapproval decreases as the income of the respondent rises.
India’s urban middle class is generally satisfied with the performance of the government, is hopeful about the future and thinks enough jobs are being generated. The Union Budget receives a more mixed review. Prosperous forty-somethings tend to think the Budget would hurt their earnings, but the vast majority are either happy with the Budget or neutral about it. Finance minister Arun Jaitley also receives a favourable rating, although lower than the PM’s. In the game of perception management, the government has a clear upper hand. In the controversy over nationalism, urban middle class opinion is firmly with the BJP. This would not be news to the Congress, which decided to duck the nationalism debate in Maharashtra, not by refusing to let the BJP choose the agenda but by going along with it on the perverse conflation of patriotism with the iconography of the nation as mother goddess.
It might come as a mild disappointment to the ruling dispensation, however, that schemes such as Digital India and Smart Cities are not the resounding successes they were supposed to be. It is only in Delhi that Digital India manages to find traction. However, the Swachh Bharat scheme is immensely popular. On the whole, the ability to identify what moves people and raise aspirations seems to have dominated, tangible achievements when it comes to middle-class assessment. Actual delivery will matter in the days to come.