CSDS-Lokniti 2024 pre-poll survey | The leadership factor is the BJP’s trump card

PM Modi enjoyed higher endorsement from the upper castes and OBCs as compared to the Dalits and tribal people

April 13, 2024 05:20 am | Updated 05:20 am IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a public meeting in Coimbatore.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses a public meeting in Coimbatore. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

In the run up to the 2024 election campaign, it became increasingly clear that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was at the centre of the BJP’s campaign. In his interactions with the electorate, Mr. Modi emphasised that voting for the BJP would mean voting for the ‘Modi guarantee’. It will not be a surprise if all the NDA candidates in this election seek votes in the name of Mr. Modi and appeal to the electorate saying their vote would help secure one more seat, which in turn would help elect Mr. Modi as Prime Minister for a third term. There was a tacit assumption in many of Mr. Modi’s speeches that he is coming back to power.

The pre-poll survey data underscore Mr. Modi’s pre-eminence in the leadership sweepstakes. Close to half the respondents mentioned him as their preferred choice for prime ministership. It is important to record that no names were offered to the respondents when seeking their opinion on their preferred Prime Minister. The name they took was noted by the interviewers. Rahul Gandhi emerged a distant second with close to three of every 10 respondents mentioning his name. The other three names that found a little traction were Arvind Kejriwal, Mamata Banerjee, and Akhilesh Yadav (Table 1).

There are interesting demographic variations in the support for Mr. Modi to be the Prime Minister after the elections. The support for Mr. Modi was higher in rural areas and among the economically well off respondents. Mr. Modi enjoyed higher endorsement from the upper castes and Other Backward Classes as compared to the Dalits and tribal people. Among Muslims, a little less than one-seventh (14%) endorsed him as their prime ministerial candidature. The share among other religious minorities was 28%.

What contributed to Mr. Modi’s and his government’s popularity quotient? Close to one-fourth of the respondents (23%) were appreciative of the Ram Mandir inauguration. Close to one of every 10 (9%) endorsed the efforts to generate employment. Another one of every ten (8%) supported poverty alleviation initiatives. Another one of every ten (11%) lauded the efforts to improve infrastructure, tackle issues of development, and foster economic growth. Another one of every ten (8%) applauded the government’s efforts at improving India’s international image (Table 2).

What were the least liked efforts of the Modi government? One-fourth of the respondents mentioned unemployment and another one-fourth mentioned price rise and inflation. One in every 10 mentioned poverty. The disquiet of eight of every 10 respondents was linked directly to issues of economic distress (Table 3).

What did NDA supporters most appreciate about Mr. Modi’s leadership? One-third (33%) referred to the Ram Mandir, one-eighth (12%) referred to the generation of employment, and one of every 10 (10%) were positive about India’s improved international image (Table 4). The supporters of the Opposition took a similar stand. One-fourth listed unemployment as the biggest disappointment with Mr. Modi. A little less than one-fourth referred to inflation and one in every 10 spoke of poverty (Table 5).

The leadership factor is the BJP’s trump card in this election. It is with Mr. Modi’s popularity that the party probably hopes to neutralise the effects of negative sentiments about the economy.  Mr. Modi’s ability to present visions of a grand future is the BJP’s counterbalance to citizen experiences of current hardship. The narrative of the party’s campaign is a clear indicator of the same.

Sandeep Shastri is Director-Academics, NITTE Education Trust, and the National Coordinator of the Lokniti Network

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