After the classic failure of all media polls in regard to the elections to the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Assembly, the reader may be forgiven if he takes the Opinion Poll on the future of the UPA Government at the Centre conducted by Times-TNS India Survey with a certain amount of cynicism. Not that it sounds deceptive or overtly optimistic about the UPA'sfuture. The poll was taken in eleven cities, but urban opinion does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the country as a whole. Yet, the poll cannot be dismissed lightly.
As the results displayed on The Times of India (May 20) front page show, the UPA isn'tdoing all that badly. The report says: ?The good news for the United Progressive Alliance as it finishes three years in office is that the rating of its government and Prime Minister are holding firm. The bad news is that despite that statistic, more people in India'sbiggest cities would now vote for the NDA than for the UPA.? Though 36 per cent of respondents still said they would vote for the Congress or its allies, if there were an election today, 38 per cent said they would vote for the BJP or its allies. That'sa little bit of a shift from November 2006 when both polled 37 per cent from the respondents. To those who are tired to Leftist arrogance, the good news is that only 6 per cent are now willing to vote for it whereas last November as many as 10 per cent were in its favour. That shift, if there indeed has been a shift, should be welcome.
The days of the Left are rapidly getting over everywhere, including France where a Conservative was voted into power as president. The UPA, however, is in no danger of being thrown out mid-way considering that 74 per cent of the urban voters think that the UPA government will last the full term. Significantly, in May 2006, 30 per cent felt that the Opposition was stronger. In November 2006, the percentage rose to 34. Now the percentage is even higher: 38. The best joke is that among the ministers, Laloo Prasad Yadav is getting 45 per cent marks as the best performing minister, with P. Chidambaram, the Finance Minister coming second with 32 per cent and Kapil Sibal coming down low with a bare one per cent. No wonder, Laloo Prasad may be a joker, but he knows how to capture the public mind. But it is the excellent profit that the Railways are making, no doubt, has contributed to Laloo'shigh rating.
Fewer people in the urban areas today want to give Rahul Gandhi a bigger political role. From May 2006 to May 2007, the percentage of his supporters has slid by 3 per cent. Now wonder again. Should we take these figures seriously? Past polls have consistently proved to be utterly misleading. The Times-TNS India Survey could possibly prove to be wrong as well. Only time will tell. Significantly, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh'srating as head of the government is shaky. In May 2006, the poll rated 20 per cent excellent and 42 per cent good. A year later disappointment seems to have set in. Now it is 21 per cent excellent but only 37 per cent good. But, as the saying goes: Take it or leave it. Dr Singh'sreputation would have been enhanced, however, if he had been returned to Parliament through direct elections. His re-election to the Rajya Sabha has gone thoroughly unnoticed.
Getting elected to the Rajya Sabha is no big deal. In the past, two other prime ministers came thus to power indirectly that doesn'treflect on their popularity or public acceptance. They are H.D.Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujral. However, P.V.Narasimha Rao was different. After becoming Prime Minister, Rao contested and won from Mandyal constituency in Andhra Pradesh which is to his eternal credit.
To stand for real elections is a daring thing to do. As Indian Express (May 21) said editorially, ?a real election win, from a Lok Sabha constituency, would have burnished (Dr Singh?s) political authority considerably. It would have helped him and the government?.Is it that the Congress could not find a ?safe? seat for its Prime Minister? That'sa terrible comment on the party that rules India right now. Or is it that the party thought its PM doesn'tneed the luster that comes from a directly contested election win? That'san even more terrible comment on the Congress.?
And to make its point still more sharp, the paper said: ?What does Dr Singh think? Is he comfortable with the possibility that he may end up as India'sonly full-term PM who was never a Member of the Lok Sabha? Is that the legacy he seeks to leave?? They are harsh questions. They surely are no reflection on Dr Singh'scapabilities or intellectual stature.
But a prime ministership is what it is: A prime ministership. And the Prime Minister must be seen to have a following among the masses. Interestingly enough not many newspapers have felt it necessary to raise this issue, least they are misunderstood. There is a reason behind everything. Not many newspapers either have given serious thought to the 150th anniversary of the First War of Independence. Which is strange. A few books have come out, like a reprint of P.C.Joshi'swork entitled 1857 to which many scholars had contributed. It is enough to make one weep. The cruelty practised by the British is unbelievable and one suspects that even the UPA government did not want to lay stress on what the British had done.
May 10, 2007 ended with some entertainment and the 150th anniversary was quickly forgotten. The media, too, seems averse to talk of British atrocities. Incidentally, the general belief has long been that the rebellion was largely limited to Oudh and Delhi and parts of North India. That is plainly untrue. Sunday Herald (May 20) carried a full-page article on the rising in the south by a distingusied historian, Suryanath U. Kamath detailing what happened in Maharashtra and Karnataka.
The War of Independence was fought on an all-India level and Indians of all religions, castes, creeds and communities were involved in it. That our media decided to treat May 10 so casually shows its utter indifference to the country'snoble past. The attitude seems to be: ?We have been free now for sixty years, haven'twe? Why bother about the past and recount unhappy memories, especially of the British?? Nothing is more disgraceful than such an attitude. It is necessary to recount the story of India not just from 1857 but even earlier, from 1757 and the Battle of Plassey. There has never been a greater need to educate the GenNext on India'sstruggle to recover its self-respect than now. But who is there to educate the media overlords?