first_img Next ModistanStrongman Modi stands head and shoulders above everyone else in the eyes of the Indian people. He can do no wrong, it seems, going by the findings of the India Today-Karvy Insights Mood of the Nation Poll for 2019.advertisement Raj Chengappa New Delhi August 16, 2019 ISSUE DATE: August 26, 2019UPDATED: August 21, 2019 12:00 IST Illustration by Nilanjan Das; Digital imaging by Amarjeet Singh NagiOnly rarely does a nation’s destiny become so closely intertwined with that of its leader. Till recently, this pantheon of great Indian leaders had been limited to Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Some did come within striking distance of that trinity: Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Rajiv Gandhi, Narasimha RaoOnly rarely does a nation’s destiny become so closely intertwined with that of its leader. Till recently, this pantheon of great Indian leaders had been limited to Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. Some did come within striking distance of that trinity: Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Rajiv Gandhi, Narasimha Rao and, for a brief while, even Manmohan Singh when he was re-elected prime minister for the second time. But these statesmen were unable to ascend the altar of mass idolatry.Now, however, a new claimant is emerging to the throne of absolute power: Narendra Damodardas Modi. The size of the screens and the colour with which we view our leaders have drastically altered from the sepia-toned photographs of Gandhi and Nehru and the flickering black-and-white images of Indira on hunchbacked television sets. We now view our leaders on palm-sized screens, keep track of them through their staccato tweets and are more connected with them than ever before. No Indian leader has mastered the wizardry of such an engagement better than Modi. As a result, in just five years, his persona looms even larger than a 70 mm movie screen in our collective consciousness.Like the mythical German god Thor (made popular in recent times by Hollywood), Modi is now regarded as someone who can make both thunder and lightning happen. He is both the storm that can sweep voters off their feet, and its eye. He does not just occupy centre stage, he has become the stage itself. Welcome to Modistan.advertisementNot a day seems to pass without some dramatically scripted scene starring the prime minister. There is Modi directly addressing the nation to explain why he took the most significant decision on Kashmir since India’s Independence by revoking its autonomous status enshrined in Article 370. Then there is Modi in Parliament waxing eloquent on his dream of a $5 trillion-sized economy for India by 2025 and getting a desk-thumping endorsement from his colleagues even though the country faces the biggest economic slowdown since he first took over as prime minister in 2014.There is also Modi exposing the lack of unity in the opposition in the Rajya Sabha (where the government did not have a majority) by getting the bill making triple talaq illegal passed with ease and hailing the victory as righting a historic wrong done to Muslim women. There is Modi again, now in camouflage fatigues, venturing into the wilds of Corbett National Park, for a popular Discovery TV show. When its anchor Bear Grylls, who described Modi as a great sport, asked him whether he used to dream of becoming prime minister, he replied: My focus has always been on one thing: the development of the nation. And I am satisfied doing that job. The nation, for its part, not only seems satisfied with the way Modi is going about doing that job, it also has immense faith in his ability to deliver, as the biannual india today-Karvy Insights Mood of the Nation (MOTN) survey reveals. Coming just two months after he led his party, the BJP, to a stupendous 300-plus majority in Election 2019, the survey shows that Modi’s popularity has soared to stratospheric heights. Seventy-one per cent of those polled rate his performance as prime minister good’ and outstanding’an even higher endorsement than the 69 per cent he got in the MOTN conducted soon after his announcement of demonetisation in November 2016. Though, when it comes to the regions, the south does not endorse his leadership as strongly as the others do. And disaggregated by community, his ratings are lower among non-Hindus, especially Muslims.Do note that the current MOTN was conducted before the Modi government made a historic change in the constitutional status of Jammu and Kashmir. His ratings may have soared even higher after that decision, given that close to 57 per cent of those polled in this MOTN had endorsed his party’s manifesto promise to abrogate Article 370. Even without the Kashmir decision, when asked whom they thought was the best prime minister, Modi was rated higher than all other prime ministers by a substantial margin37 per cent compared to Indira Gandhi (14 per cent), Atal Bihari Vajpayee (11 per cent) and Jawaharlal Nehru (9 per cent).Modi has the remarkable skill of keeping his ear to the ground and feeling the pulse of the people, better than anyone else in recent history. That, coupled with a tremendous self-belief, deep convictions, hard work, the ability to think big and take even bigger risks, extraordinary communication skills and talent for dramatic faits accomplis, seems to have elevated him to his current exalted status. Modi can do no wrong in the eyes of the people. The MOTN August 2019 poll findings are a clear indication of that trend.advertisementTake the Pulwama terror attack in February 2019 and the retaliatory strike by the Indian Air Force on a terror camp in Balakot deep inside Pakistan. Though it was a major intelligence failure that led to the attack in Kashmir, Modi’s willingness to carry out an air strike at the risk of losing an election or, worse, even starting a war with Pakistan, saw him emerge as a decisive leader willing to bite the bullet. The poll lists his image as a nationalist strongman and the Balakot strike as the two main reasons why the people re-elected him. The paradoxical public reaction to demonetisation is particularly revealing. Earlier MOTN polls showed that after the initial euphoria over its stated objective of rooting out black money, concern grew in subsequent polls about the disruption it had caused to the economy and the resultant loss of jobs. But Modi exhibited an uncanny ability to convince people that the act was necessary to curb corruption which seems to have positively impacted his poll fortunesregardless of its impact on the economy. Forty-one per cent of our respondents listed corruption-free governance, demonetisation and a crackdown on black money as the biggest achievements of the Modi government. These three figured way higher than even his pro-poor development and social reform schemes like the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana for building houses for the poor and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan for providing toilets to all households. That said, in answers to specific questions in the poll, people did express a high degree of satisfaction with the way the government has implemented its key development programmes.Interestingly, those surveyed endorsed four other significant qualities that should make Modi happy: he is seen as pro-poor, uncorrupt, possessing an extraordinary connect with people and believing in sabka saath, sabka vikaas, sabka vishvaas (despite his party fielding only seven Muslim candidates among the 437 seats it contested in the parliamentary poll). The opposition criticism that Modi is publicity-hungry, pro-rich, dictatorial, anti-Muslim and always in campaign mode did not wash with those who were surveyed. (Rahul Gandhi, please note.)In the January MOTN poll, the lack of jobs and farmers’ distress figured on top of the list of issues of concern among voters. This seemed to open up a window for the opposition to make a fight of it in the national election. Instead, as the August poll indicates, people remain unconvinced by the opposition’s efforts and its clear leadership vacuum as compared to Modi’s jumbo persona. Over 50 per cent of those polled said the main reason for the failure of the opposition was that it had no prime ministerial face and appeared divided. While those surveyed continue to express deep concern for both farmers’ woes and jobs, they seem to have put their trust in Modi’s ability to turn around the flagging economy and tide over the crises.advertisement That Modi remains an unchallenged colossus is evident from the number of seats the BJP is projected to get were an election to be held now. The survey shows that the BJP would win 308 seatsfive more than what the party got in the general election, with its vote share moving up by one percentage point, from 37 per cent. While there is no drop in the Congress vote share of 20 per cent, the survey projects a slide from the already dismal tally of 52 to 49. The only silver lining for the party is that despite Rahul’s decision to quit as president, leaving the party leaderless, its flock of faithful hasn’t deserted itas yet. Asked whether they believed the Congress was in terminal decline, 50 per cent agreed. On the leadership issue, the response was mixed: 49 per cent felt that only a non-Gandhi, non-dynastic leader could revive the party, but when asked to rate Congress leaders, both Priyanka and Rahul figured higher than other Congress leaders. In terms of leading the opposition fight against Modi, Mamata Banerjee emerges as the best alternative, closely followed by Akhilesh Yadav, Arvind Kejriwal, Naveen Patnaik and Sharad Pawar.In foreign affairs, too, Modi has come out looking good. Those surveyed back Modi’s approach of not engaging in talks with Pakistan till it puts an end to cross-border terrorism. They believe that relations with the US have improved under the Trump presidency. And that the Modi government’s tenure has seen a gradual improvement of relations with China.There are many pluses to having a leader with such extreme power and the trust of a nationand there are minuses. First, the pluses. In his second term, Modi has already shown that of the three core issues before his party and its mentor organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), his government has been able to deliver on two of them: shredding Article 370 and pushing for a uniform civil code (triple talaq act is seen as part of it). Whether the outcome of the decision on Kashmir will be peace or rising protests and terror attacks is yet to be tested. On the other issue of building a Ram temple in Ayodhya, with mediation failing, the party is hoping that the Supreme Court delivers a verdict in its favour.While he has clearly kept the Hindutva flock happy, Modi has also taken care to go beyond a narrow cultural agenda and focus on a development model that RSS leaders such as Deendayal Upadhyay espoused. He seems to recive public endorsement for this approach to development and economic growth, as also for the recent budget, including his bold agenda of making India a $5 trillion economy in five years. Yet, when it came to taking radical reforms to boost the economy, Modi seems to prefer incremental steps rather than big-bang announcements. As an aide put it, The prime minister believes more in stable reform with direction rather than disruption without direction. But Modi should take note of the fact that while giving a thumbs up to his $5 trillion dream, a substantial number of those polled believed it could be achieved only through radical reforms. There are also clear warning signals of an economic slowdownwith key sectors like auto and real estate in the doldrumssomething that the Modi government has to sort out.The minuses of having a brute majority in Parliament backed by such enormous personal popularity is that voters’ expectations tend to be extraordinarily high too. It becomes extremely difficult for any leader or government to satisfy them. The Indian cricket team knows the fickleness of public opinion only too well. The adulation and the hero worship remain only as long as the team is winning. But they drop steeply when performance flagsas we saw in the recent World Cup. The other danger is that hubris sets in far quicker if you don’t have either a strong opposition or cabinet colleagues with the stature to question and moderate your decisions. Authoritarianism usually follows, with the leader increasingly relying on a small clique for advice. In his second term, Modi should welcome opposition suggestions and take criticism (including from the media) in his stride.Since India recently successfully tested its largest ever rocketGSLV Mark 3to launch its second moon mission, Modi and his colleagues can learn some lessons from the laws of physics that drive rockets. During take-off, a rocket needs to have the drag of its immense weight to stabilise its initial flight. Without that, it can tumble out of control. The drag it experiences allows it to maintain its balance till it develops sufficient thrust to break free of the clutches of gravity and soar to even greater distances with the accuracy it is designed for. As in rocketry, the trick for any leader is to learn to welcome the drag and use it to stabilise one’s flight to achieve the desired height. Among the many qualities Modi has is his ability to be a keen listener and fast learner. If the prime minister plays to these strengths, the sky needn’t be the limit. METHODOLOGYThe India Today Group-Karvy Insights Mood of the Nation (MOTN) poll was conducted by Karvy Insights Limited. A total of 12,126 interviews were conducted (67 per cent rural and 33 per cent urban, and an almost equal number of females and males), spread across 97 parliamentary constituencies and 194 assembly constituencies in 19 statesAndhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal. The survey was conducted before the official announcement of the dilution of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir by the NDA government.In each assembly constituency, different starting points were selected covering all the five zones of the constituency: north, south, east, west and centre. A fixed number of interviews were done in each, rigorously following the right-hand rule of household selection. The fieldwork for the MOTN poll was conducted from July 22, 2019 to July 30, 2019. The survey followed random sampling. All interviews were conducted face to face using a standard structured interview questionnaire, which was translated into regional languages. A 15 to 20-minute interview was conducted with each respondent and all the responses were collected digitally using tablets and mobile phones.The poll was conducted under the supervision of Ranjit Chib, chairman of Karvy Insights. He was assisted by vice-president Dixit Chanana and associate vice-presidents Sachin Gupta and Debashish Chatterjee.You’ve reached your article limitSign in to keep reading India TodaySign inSign up NOW to get:Premium content on Aaj Tak HD ChannelUnrestricted access to India Today magazine contentGet real-time alerts and all the news on your phone with the all-new India Today app. Download from Post your comment Do You Like This Story? Awesome! Now share the story Too bad. Tell us what you didn’t like in the comments Posted byKritika Bansallast_img

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