A new survey by the Pew Research Center, nearly 60 per cent said the BJP would be better than Congress at creating jobs, and over half believe the party would be better at taming inflation, fighting corruption and helping the poor…
The Congress party’s prospects have plummeted because Indians are unhappy with the economy, right? Well, not exactly. A new survey by the Pew ResearchCenter finds a majority of Indians – 57 per cent – think the economic situation today is good. And this assessment is stronger in northern India, where the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and its standard bearer Narendra Modi are expected to win big. Still, Indians want change. An overwhelming majority – 70 per cent – said they are dissatisfied with the country’s direction.
These findings don’t square off with what analysts have said – that as growth has slowed below 5 per cent, confidence in the Congress party’s leadership has wavered. Over eight in 10 Indians said they believed two of Congress’s major welfare policies – a national rural employment program and a subsidised food scheme – have been a good thing for India. This gap suggests public frustration has to do with more than just a slowing economy. Since the last national vote in 2009, Indians have taken to the streets to vent pent-up rage against a number of problems, from endemic corruption to women’s rights. People have also expressed anguish about the general state of Indian politics, including a proliferation of criminals up for election, the stranglehold of dynasties on political parties, the preponderance of black money in politics, and the disconnect between electors and the elected.
In an interaction with the foreign press recently, a senior BJP leader, Arun Jaitley, described this as a “decline in the credibility of governance.” Indeed, the country’s newest political party, the Aam Aadmi Party, has risen to prominence by talking about political reform. There’s foreign policy too. The Pew survey, which is based on interviews with more than 2,400 Indians through December and January, revealed 63 per cent believe India should be respected more globally than it is. A majority also said they viewed political stability in Pakistan and China’s growing power as a threat to India.
Mr. Modi has promised to augment India’s influence overseas and has talked tough on security issues. In a speech in February, he warned China against following an expansionist policy and has criticised Congress’s handling of relations with Pakistan as ineffectual. To be sure, the survey says the economy is among the most crucial issues. Nearly nine out of 10 Indians said rising prices are a “very big problem,” and 85 per cent expressed alarm about a lack of jobs. It also showed what opinion polls and a previous Pew survey have said: Indians feel the BJP would do a better job in dealing with these challenges. Nearly 60 per cent said the BJP would be better than Congress at creating jobs, and over half believe the party would be better at taming inflation, fighting corruption and helping the poor.
While these numbers don’t qualify as an overwhelming show of faith in a BJP-led Government’s problem-busting potential, they certainly show that the party is seen, compared to its opponents, as the better choice to lead India.