Modi’s Popularity Polls Ahead of Election: Trick or Treat?

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IRSHAD SALIM – On January 25, India Today Mood of the Nation survey report confidently predicted the end of Modi wave in upcoming elections. “Just a year-and-a-half ago, Narendra Modi’s re-election as prime minister was considered a given. Now, it is no more a certainty,” it said. Forget the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) repeating its feat of winning a majority on its own as it did in 2014, it is far from certain that even the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) can cross the 272 mark in Parliament, it added.

That was the stunning conclusion of the India Today Group-Karvy Insights biannual Mood of the Nation (MOTN) survey conducted between December 28, 2018, and January 8, 2019.

MOTN was significant as it came barely few months before the general election. Also because it is the first time since Modi came to power in May 2014 that an MOTN poll predicted the NDA will not cross the majority mark.

It confirmed the declining trend in its fortunes that these surveys recorded in the past two years with the NDA and the BJP progressively losing ground.

But with the polls expected in few weeks now, another shocking survey report has appeared which claims that 83% Indians say Modi-led government is most likely outcome after 2019 general election.

The incumbent Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has received a massive thumbs up in a mega Times Group online poll–over 2 lakh respondents took the survey, the report claimed.

The survey also claimed that Congress president Rahul Gandhi is a distant second as the most-preferred choice for PM among online voters, with only with 8.33% voting for him.

How come such a big swing in the national mood was detected in only few weeks? What happened between January and this month–a time-span of 6 weeks? Was the “mood” surveyed differently–offline versus online?

Let’s take a look at what could have been the game-changer for the yawning difference in the two polls.

The TOI reported its findings on February 21–a week after the Palwama suicide bombing took place (february 14) in the occupied valley killing more than 44 Indian security personnel, and the social media across the border went on overdrive. So did PM Modi and his team promising of retaliation–weeks before the election–and reports appeared of Kashmiris being harassed across the country, and Muslims in the occupied valley feeling being further marginalized.

As things stood prior to the Feb 21st TOI survey, and as reported by India Today in January, Modi’s second win was a farcry–a view voiced by several independent observers. But that has apparently changed or made to change. Is it a calculated nationwide neurological marketing at its best –for a win at all cost, or a hit-or-miss Modi shotgun approach he’s been practicing?

Having put Kashmir (Muslim majority) on fire, and made the nation (Hindu majority) pro-Modi in online poll–in less than a month is too close for comfort. Pakistan was expecting such a dramatic turn of events across the border and in the valley as Modi and his party goes to the national poll.

Months earlier it had taken a big hit in several states, and the Congress was on the rise, while its eastern neighbor was helping the US seek peace with the Taliban for a safe exit while investment galore was shaping up.

The differing polls appear two different sides of the same coin: IT’s traditional survey and TOI’s online survey over different timelines. End result: we have a situation.

However, a senior defense analyst says India faces a strategic dilemma. “It cannot coerce Pakistan militarily, diplomatically and appears helpless despite it’s apparent economic and military superiority. Their go to option of 5th gen warfare has also been tackled successfully and recent developments of Saudi investment and successful tackling of immediate financial crisis without going to IMF immediately further curtails its options. In short, India is seriously short of choices to deal with Pakistan unless they change the entire engagement paradigm with Pakistan and in the Subcontinent but for this to happen the Modi’s chest will have to shrink from 56” to 42”, which is not likely to happen in an election year.”

So did Modi and his nationalistic team facing no other options to win, kick in a false flag? Diabolical move from regional standpoint–could eventually see Modi checkmating (isolating) himself in weeks or months ahead amid confluence of peace dialogues ongoing in the region northwest of India.

(The writer is a business consultant and analyst–presently based in Islamabad)

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