When Mr. Modi was named the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) prime ministerial candidate in September, it was too early to tell whether Indians were prepared to vote in large numbers for him. Following the BJP’s triumph in state elections in December, there were signs something was afoot. Now, with the recent release of three pre-election [...]


Sunday Times 2

Modi surge incontrovertible


When Mr. Modi was named the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) prime ministerial candidate in September, it was too early to tell whether Indians were prepared to vote in large numbers for him.

Following the BJP’s triumph in state elections in December, there were signs something was afoot.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial candidate and Chief Minister of the western Indian state of Gujarat Narendra Modi smiles as he attends the national convention of the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) in New Delhi on February 27, 2014. Modi, tipped in opinion polls to be the country's next premier, remains a polarising figure accused by critics of turning a blind eye to anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat in 2002 in which as many as 2,000 died. He has denied any wrongdoing. AFP

Now, with the recent release of three pre-election surveys, the evidence of “a wave” isincontrovertible. Notwithstanding this, the gauntlet of Indian politics rarely permits cakewalks.


There are four key pieces of evidence in support of this unusual surge behind Mr. Modi, drawn from a recent survey conducted by the Delhi-based Lokniti programme of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), a respected Indian think tank.

First, the BJP garnered 18.8% of votes in 2009, a steady decline from its all-time high of 25.6% in 1998.

In a CSDS July 2013 survey, the BJP was projected to win 27% of votes. This number had grown to 34% in January 2014 – an 80% rise from 2009.

Given the vagaries of India’s winner-takes-all election system, converting votes into seats is complex.

Estimates suggest 34% of the vote would translate to between 192 and 201 of 543 parliamentary seats — a steep increase from its 2009 tally of 116 seats.

Second, according to CSDS, there is a huge pro-BJP vote swing under way in the electorally pivotal states in the north Indian “Hindi heartland”.

In Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, which together account for 120 seats, the BJP is enjoying increases of 25 and 20 percentage points in its vote share, respectively.

What is unusual about these states is that they do not feature head-to-head contests between the Congress and the BJP; instead, each of these states boasts formidable regional parties.

This means that the shift toward the BJP goes beyond simple anti-Congress party sentiment.

In Uttar Pradesh, disaffection with the Congress is not simply benefitting the state’s major regional players — the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party — but rather the BJP.

In Bihar, voters would like to see the ruling Janata Dal (United) government remain at the state level, but are flocking toward the BJP when it comes to parliamentary elections.

Moreover, the BJP is expected to poll unusually well in states where it historically has not.


This is not due to a suddenly robust party organisation, but the apparent popularity of a Modi candidacy.

Indeed, the party has had little traction over the last several elections in southern India, save for the state of Karnataka.

Yet in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, the BJP’s vote share has grown by 6 and 14 percentage points, respectively, albeit from a low base.

The BJP’s projected performance is probably not enough to win seats, but is indicative of swelling support.

Moreover, if the upward trend persists, other regional parties may join hands with the BJP ahead of elections.
Third, Mr. Modi’s impact is evident in voters’ preferences.

In 2009, 2% of voters favoured Mr. Modi.

That number has steadily grown to 5% in 2011, 19% in 2013 and 34% as of January 2014; comparing favourably to the stagnant support for Congress party vice-president Rahul Gandhi.

In virtually every state where the CSDS conducted its survey, voters preferred Mr. Modi over Mr. Gandhi.

In October, 31% of voters in Madhya Pradesh wanted to see Mr. Modi become prime minister. Today, 54% do.

In Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, 15% and 40% of voters preferred Mr. Modi just months ago. Now, 28% and 48% of voters do.

A fourth sign of a Modi wave of support is the BJP’s noticeable appeal to younger voters.

His relentless talk of growth, jobs and development — not to mention his economic credentials in Gujarat — seeks to capitalise on the aspirations of a population with a median age of 25.

Different conditions

The BJP is by far the preferred party of voters between the ages of 18 and 25, though its appeal declines as voters get older.

Nevertheless, the only age group where the Congress trumps the BJP is 56 years and above.

It is true that surveys incorrectly predicted BJP wins in 2004 and 2009, but the conditions today are different.

For starters, there is palpable resentment over slow growth, high inflation and the lack of employment.

Moreover, there are indications that many Indians are hungry for decisive leadership, a quality missing under the prevailing government, but attributed to Mr. Modi.

Even if the surveys are accurate, other obstacles to Mr. Modi’s ascension loom.

These include nascent alliances between opposition parties seeking to blunt the BJP’s popularity and tricky alliance mathematics.

A potential ally of the BJP, the AIADMK, recently announced an alliance with left-wing parties in Tamil Nadu, a veiled message by AIADMK leader J. Jayalalithaa that she is a contender in her own right.

Perhaps most worrying for Mr. Modi is the rise of the anti-corruption, populist Aam Aadmi Party (Common Man party).

This party also targets young, urban, middle class voters, placing it in direct competition with the BJP.

With two months before voters cast their ballots, there is more than enough time for surprises.

The coast is not yet clear for the BJP, but it appears that they are indeed riding a “Modi wave”.

(Milan Vaishnav is an associate with the South Asia programme at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington DC. You can follow him on Twitter @MilanV.)

Courtesy BBC.com

BJP PM candidate vows to cut red tapeNEW DELHI, (AFP) -India’s Narendra Modi, the opposition frontrunner to become the country’s next prime minister, has vowed to slash red tape and put trade and commerce at the heart of his foreign policy. Speaking at an economic convention in New Delhi on Thursday, Modi spelled out some of his economic priorities which included simplifying India’s labyrinthine bureaucracy and creating a stable atmosphere to boost investment.

“It is time that we actually need to do away with many existing laws in the country,” he told a gathering of around 400 to 500 people including traders, businessmen and media.

He also said that facilitating companies and boosting India’s trade ties needed to be the priority of its diplomats, rather than focusing on political relations with foreign governments.

“Trade and commerce need to be brought to the centre of India’s foreign missions’ agenda,” Modi, the prime ministerial candidate for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said.

Modi, who is the chief minister of western Gujarat state, is a popular figure among the country’s middle classes and businessmen owing to his reputation as an efficient administrator and business-friendly leader. But he is also tarnished by riots in 2002 in Gujarat shortly after he came to power in which more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, died. He has been dogged by accusations he did too little to prevent the carnage.
Modi also highlighted the importance of foreign investment, saying he had received investors from many countries including Japan in his state.

Share This Post


Advertising Rates

Please contact the advertising office on 011 - 2479521 for the advertising rates.