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Wakeup call for Congress: Despite rising worries, Modi popularity invades party base, says US thinktank

By Our Representative
In what could be a wakeup call for the Congress, a survey by an American thinktank, Pew International, which created a flutter in 2013 by declaring huge support for Narendra Modi, declared Prime Ministerial candidate for the BJP, has in fact found support for Modi going up, despite “rising worries” among Indians about crime, jobs, prices and corruption. Titled “The Modi Bounce”, even Modi critics cannot take the Pew survey lightly, despite its small sample size – 2,452 respondents. The survey was conducted from April 6 to May 19, 2015. The earlier survey, conducted in 2014, (click HERE) ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, had said that two-thirds of Indians supported Modi-led BJP.
What should particularly worry the Congress leadership is, the Pew survey says, “Roughly six-in-ten or more self-identified Congress supporters approve of Modi’s handling of a range of issues: access to clean toilets (66%), unemployment (62%), helping the poor (61%) and inflation (61%). And majorities of Congress backers approve of the prime minister’s efforts against terrorism (56%) and corruption (56%).” 
It is not just Modi; the BJP is also inclined even, in rural areas: “The BJP is favorability now exceeds that of Congress in urban areas by 31 points (83% for BJP, 52% for Congress) and in rural India by 25 points (89% for BJP, 64% for Congress). Modi is more popular than presumptive Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi in both rural areas by 23 points (Modi 89%, Gandhi 66%) and in cities by 31 points (Modi 84%, Gandhi 53%).”
Despite this the survey suggests, the percentage of dissatisfaction is increasing. "More than eight-in-ten say crime, jobs, inflation and corruption are very big problems. Concern about air pollution is up 22 points in just the past year, complaints about poor-quality schools are up 20 points and worry about health care is up 15 points", the surveyy says.
“Indians are most concerned about crime among a list of 13 national challenges. More than nine-in-ten (93%) say crime is a very big problem. Such concern is up 8 percentage points since 2014”, it adds.
The survey further says, “Indians are also very concerned about economic issues: a lack of employment opportunities, rising prices and, to a lesser extent, the gap between the rich and the poor. Fully 87% say joblessness is a very big problem facing India, an 8-point rise in such concern since 2014. The same percentage (87%) complains about inflation. Inequality (74%) is seen as slightly less of a problem. Such concern is up a bit from 2014.”
On the communal issues, the survey says, distrust towards Modi “remains, perhaps in part because incidents of communal violence were up by nearly a quarter in the first five months of 2015, under BJP rule, compared with a comparable period in 2014 when a Congress-led government was in power.”
“Just over half (53%) of those surveyed approve of Modi’s stewardship of communal issues, while 35% disapprove”, the survey says.

Against this backdrop, the survey suggests, the Congress does have potential, but has failed to exploit it. Its leader Rahul Gandhi is not only “favourably disposed” by 77% of Congress party members but also by 60% of BJP backers, who “see him in a positive light”, the survey says. It adds, “Roughly six-in-ten Indians (62%) express a favorable view of Rahul Gandhi, and his favorability has actually improved since before the voting, up 12 percentage points.”
Even though the percentage of increase of those favourably inclined towards Modi is lower (nine per cent) than that of Gandhi, the survey underscored, “But the intensity of his current support to Gandhi (20% very favorable) is dwarfed by the passionate backing enjoyed by Modi.”
“The Congress is seen favorably by 61% of Indians”, the survey says, adding, “But just 16% have a very favorable opinion of the party that has ruled India for 54 of its 68 years." It adds, "Consistent with its historical roots in small villages and towns, 64% of rural Indians have a positive opinion of Congress, greater than the party’s 52% favorability in urban areas.”

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