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Exclusive opinion poll: State of the nation


April 1, 2011 16:00
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Will your living standards improve in the next one year?

As far as the next Financial Year is concerned, respondents appear more optimistic. There is a drastic decrease in the number of people who have opted for the status quo option. This data has shifted to the “Can't Say” section, which indicates a level of indecision. Surprisingly, less and less people believe that things will deteriorate. This has to do with general “feel good” mood among consumers buoyed by predictions of strong growth by several agencies. The RBI as well as World Bank has predicted robust growth in the next Financial Year and maintain that it will continue in the coming years. Here too, like the previous question, respondents have shown greater optimism towards the latter part of the year. However, this has also led to increasing polarisation.


Have your living standards improved?

Most respondents believe that in 2010, their living standards have actually gone up. However, the ratings had gone down significantly in mid-2010, as well as the post monsoon months. This can be attributed to the sudden surge in inflation in these months. It has continued to increase till November. However, since the end of the year, as inflation was scaled down to around 10 per cent and below, the approval ratings have improved remarkably. However, the one noticeable factor has been the sudden jump in December in the number of those respondents who said that their conditions has actually deteriorated. This shift is visible in people who maintained the status quo in the earlier months. The possible explanation can be the sudden as well as the steep rise in commodity prices in the same month.

What are your views about today's India?

A majority of people believe that their lives and the country, both are growing. It essentially means that steps taken by the government in the social sector like introduction of flagship social welfare programmes, have started showing effects, and more people believe today that the trickling down in the economy is finally taking place. Not surprisingly, there is also a section of respondents who believe that neither their life nor the country as a whole, is improving. Their number surpasses those who believe that while the country is improving, their life is not. A possible explanation is that there still remains a section of society which has remained out of the ambit of the development cycle.

Who is most responsible for the ills?centre, state or local governments

People appear to be unhappy with their respective state governments, rather than the Centre. The local government figures at the bottom. A possible explanation is that people appear to be closer to their respective state governments and have put the onus of development on them rather than the Central government which is comparatively more distant. This may sound a warning bell for regional outfits whom people appear to blame more for their problems. Also, law and order, policing and food supply, factors which directly impact daily life, come under the state list, thus making state governments more accountable. Defence and foreign affairs which come under the Centre do not affect a common man's life on a daily basis and hence the apathy. People also seem to have given local governments the benefit of doubt, considering they are not adequately empowered

What is the most important issue today?

What might sound like warning bells for the Congress is that respondents consider inflation and corruption as the two central issues affecting their lives. Since the Congress seems to have been cornered on these two issues, it faces the prospects of immediate reverses. Surprisingly, infrastructure, the sector which is top priority area as far as the government is concerned, is pegged as something that least affects peoples' lives. On the other hand, terrorism, BJP's main political plank, also has few takers. This phenomenon can also be attributed to the media blitz on corruption and inflation. Saturation media coverage sets the agenda and affect the mood of the electorate. The UPA government's social sector flagship programme NREGS seems to have impacted the lives of common people the most. Notwithstanding the UPA government's thrust on employment and infrastructure, these two critical issues figure at the bottom of peoples' priorities. The issue of corruption will also affect the BJP as one of its CMs is seen as corrupt and unlike the UPA, it has failed to get him to resign.

Which party is best suited to manage these issues?

In spite of receiving a hammering on inflation and corruption, the Congress appears to have managed to hold on to its popular support. Their has been a marginal decline in its popularity. On the other hand, the BJP has managed to garner sizable votes since 2009 but it still falls short of the Congress. The Left parties' support has remained static. Clear beneficiaries include the regional outfits. With an increase of four per cent in approval ratings, these parties are expected to play a crucial role in the subsequent polls. The general explanation is that the TINA (There Is No Alternative) factor is playing out and in spite of all of its drawbacks, people will back the Congress in the absence of a constructive and strong Opposition. The BJP may garner additional votes on account of anti-incumbency.

Who leads overall?

The approval rating of the NDA is marginally behind that of the UPA. The UPA seems to have lost support down the months. But considering that the Congress' approval rating has not gone down drastically, it would appear that respondents hold coalition partners and not the Congress responsible for the mess. On the other hand, the NDA's ratings have been propped up by coalition partners like Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar who heads the NDA alliance in Bihar. Overall, the competition appears too close. However, this equation can change since there will be realignment of political forces as and when elections take place. However, it is very clear that DMK's loss of popularity will affect the UPA's performance. On the other hand, the NDA has been suffering from loss of partners and will try hard to woo a few.

Who is the most popular leader?

UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh continue to enjoy huge popularity, recent corruption charges notwithstanding. Sonia Gandhi has more support than the PM himself. There has been a minor fluctuation in their popularity graph down the months though. On the other hand, the government seems to have lost considerable sheen and its approval ratings have gone down. It is also significant that the individual personalities of Sonia and the PM overshadow the performance of the government. Obliquely, it means that people hold the DMK and not Sonia or the PM responsible for the corruption. On the Opposition benches, L.K. Advani and Sushma Swaraj appear to enjoy almost similar levels of popularity but are clearly overshadowed by Sonia and the PM. Against all odds, Sushma has edged past Advani as the BJP's new face.

What do you see Rahul gandhi as?

The scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty is credited with turning around the party's image in the Hindi heartland and making it more youth-centric. Equally at ease in a Dalit hamlet in Uttar Pradesh as well as a reputed Delhi college, the Congress' Prince charming has surely left a lasting impression on the minds of his countrymen as is evident from this poll.

Who do you think is responsible for price rise?

The Central government has been held widely responsible but more people have still held black marketing and hoarding as the principal reason. Rising prices of essential goods including foodstuff and fuel has hit both low and middle income groups. It is widely believed that the Union agriculture ministry and the state governments did not play any proactive role to alleviate people's hardship. The Opposition BJP has also accused the Prime Minister of turning a blind eye to the problem for the sake of coalition politics.

In spite of the price rise blot, the Congress won. Why?

The overwhelming opinion seems to be the Opposition's lack of trustworthiness and its failure to turn this into a major election issue. A sizeable percentage also believes that it was not just the Congress' fault.

What is the reason behind the failure of BJP in acting as a good Opposition Party?

The BJP prospects have been marred by internal squabbling. Nitin Gadkari has been brought in to unify the party's rank and file but he is widely perceived to be the RSS' man in the party. It is yet to recover from the shock of the LS polls.

Are you satisfied with the performance of your Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh? How would you rate Dr Singh's performance?

The economist seems to be going from strength to strength. The soft-spoken, mild-mannered Sikh gentleman has a picture-perfect clean image. Though perceived to be pro-reforms, he has maintained a balance between sweeping economic reforms and populist, pro-poor measures. Not the proverbial Indian politician, Dr Singh keeps away from party matters as far as possible and concentrates on running the government. Having faced a lot of flak for his non-interference in the manner in which the Union agriculture ministry has handled the price rise issue, his government has been crucially undecisive about ways to tackle the growing Maoist influence. However, a weak Opposition has been God-sent for this man of few words.

Satisfied with the  performance of Sushma Swaraj?

The current Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha has failed to take the Congress to task in the Lower House. Factionalism within the party as well as a lack of charisma on part of the tallest leaders have made Swaraj's task harder. She will need to make a deep impression if the BJP's image and future poll prospects are to brighten.

Satisfied with the performance of NDA Chief L.K. Advani?

The BJP's Man of Iron, the former Deputy Prime Minister and one of the talismans of the Ram Mandir movement seems to have lost all steam. BJP insiders have repeatedly blamed him for failing to re-invent the BJP's image in the post-Mandir agitation political scenario. While his role is now more symbolic, the party patriarch has also had major differences with the various outfits of the Sangh Parivar.

Satisfied with the performance of UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi?

The lady from Italy has proved to be the BJP's ultimate nemesis. By maintaining a dignified distance from running the government and by astute handling of allies and party members, the UPA supremo has approval ratings double than that of L.K. Advani. Never in the forefront, she has been ably assisted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee among others.

Are you satisfied with the performance of the sitting MP of your area?

Do you agree with incorporation of caste in THE census ?

Apparently trying to play it safe for the time being and buy some time, the UPA government, towards the end of May 2010, deferred a decision on inclusion of caste in Census but the Cabinet is overwhelmingly in support of the inclusion with the exceptions of Kapil Sibal, Anand Sharma and MS Gill. Union finance minister Pranab Mukherjee has been entrusted to lead a group of ministers who will thrash out the modalities of enumerating caste in the ongoing decennial Census operations.

BJP has alleged that Congress is using CBI against its political rivals. Do you agree with this?

The CBI has turned into the Congress Bureau of Investigation, allege Opposition leaders. They say the CBI is making little headway on the bomb blast cases but is feverishly probing into disproportionate asset cases against Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati. Even the Left is miffed about enquiries in Kerala.

What are your views about Today’s India?

While most respondents from the middle and higher
income groups climb India's rocket growth curve, people from lower income groups, specially in the rural parts, have been hard done in by inflation and crop failure. Well, India is not really shining, it seems.

Performance of the Central Government?

The UPA does not have much to rejoice. Most people feel its performance has been average. The numbers of people who feel it has fared well and poor are pretty much the same. If the government does not take the price rise issue seriously and take steps to control inflation, the public opinion may change drastically.

There are many problems facing our country today. The Most Important issue : First Choice

Most of the respondents feel that terror strikes, rising unemployment, escalating prices, lack of facilities and basic infrastructure and, of course, the perennial problem of corruption need to be tackled. Surprisingly the Maoist problem found no takers. Even the education system drew minimal flak.

In last one year your living standard

The urban middle class and higher income group people thought their living standard has improved. This can, of course, be attributed to higher consumer spending and a good growth rate rather than generation of jobs or rise in salaries.


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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017