An online poll conducted by Ultra News with 1,200 respondents indicated continued strong support for incumbent prime minister Narendra Modi compared to challenger Rahul Gandhi of the Indian National Congress.
The poll reached out to around 21,400 people on Facebook, out of which around 6% indicated their choice one way or the other (see below).
With 1,200 votes in, the numbers indicate that Modi has not lost much of his popularity despite being in power for almost four years, even as they show Gandhi putting up a strong fight.
The trend of votes has been relatively similar throughout, with around two thirds polling in favor of the incumbent and around one-third in favor of the challenger.
FIVE MORE PLEASE?
Modi is entering the final year of his five-year term, and is seeking a second term to complete many of his key programs and plans started off over the last four years.
Among these are Clean India Mission, Make In India and Digital India.
Challenging him is the newly appointed Congress President Rahul Gandhi, son of late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, grandson of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and the great grandson of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
Since taking over the reins of the Indian National Congress from his mother late last year, Gandhi has been trying to steer it closer to a ‘Hindu’ identity.
In the just concluded Gujarat election, the Congress President visited nearly 30 Hindu temples as part of his election campaign, far more than any leader from the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is traditionally seen as the pro-Hindu party.
Even as Gandhi is trying to steer his party in one direction, Modi has been trying to steer his in the reverse direction, moving away from traditional issues such as the construction of a Ram Temple at the site of Babri Masjid, and towards issues of economic and national development.
WHITHER ACCHE DIN?
Despite being fairly comfortable in terms of its chances of winning, the Bharatiya Janata Party is nevertheless wary of a repeat of the 2004-scenario.
In 2004, the BJP government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee unexpectedly lost power despite being highly popular in urban areas and among the middle class, as the rural poor voted for the Congress.
Modi’s government too could face a somewhat similar situation, even as it continues to maintain support among the urban voters, as reflected by the Facebook poll.
Rural voters, who were promised ‘Acche Din’ or ‘Good Days’ by Modi in his campaign four years ago, are still waiting for a radical change to their economic situation, primarily because of laws that confine agricultural production methods to those of the iron age.
On the other hand, Modi’s first four years have been focused largely on the industrial side of the economy, which promised a quicker turnaround; even though he did try to breathe new life into some existing schemes for farmers such as the Kisan (farmer) Credit Card.
India has among the most backward agricultural production methods in the world, due largely to lack of scales and investment.
Even as city-dwellers have seen radical changes in their life style since independence, most farmers continue to live as they have in the medieval ages.
This is because of a prohibition on large investments into agriculture, which has kept farming methods rudimentary.
Even as traditional ways of production in non-agricultural areas — such as textiles, fishing, transportation and construction — have all been replaced by large-scale, modern methods using the latest technology, the deployment of technology in agriculture has been severely limited due to lack of scale and investment.
This is because companies are prohibited from investing in agriculture in India to ‘protect’ farmers — a bit like preventing companies from making shoes to protect shoe-makers.
Ironically, this protection has led to the situation where those in the service and industrial sectors have seen rapid progress in their income levels, while those in the agricultural sector still struggle to put bread on the table.
Pre-industrial methods of production, often dependent on rain, lead to heavy fluctuations in the incomes of farmers in India, leading to anywhere from 5,000 to 18,000 farmers committing suicide every year due to crop losses.
The contrast has become even more stark after liberalization of the economy, which unleashed even more wealth creation in the services and industrial sectors, while doing almost nothing for the agricultural sector.
While the curbs and restrictions on scale and investments in industrial and service sectors were removed by liberalization, even Modi has not done much to liberalize the agricultural sector.