SINCE the first week of August, The Hindu has been publishing a series of revelations about the Indian mind that calls for introspection. The revelations are the result of a CNN-IBN and CNBC-TV 18 ‘State of Nation’ Poll conducted by the Centre for the Study of Development Societies (CSDS). The first in the series was published on August 8, and the theme was the Preferred Choice of Indians for the next Prime Ministership of India. We learn that the poll was undertaken in a total of 1,300 locations – randomly selected – four polling stations each in 325 Assembly constituencies. A total of 39,000 randomly selected persons from the updated electoral rolls were approached for interviews of which 20,268 interviews were successfully completed. Forty six per cent of those interviewed were women, 21 per cent dalits, seven per cent adivasis (Scheduled Tribes) and 10 per cent Muslims.
Of them all, 73 per cent were from rural areas. Whether their views are truly reflective of the Indian mind is open to argument. The poll was conducted between July 25 and 31, 2011. So it is about the latest available date and needs to be taken seriously by all concerned. Note that this does not reflect which way the people will vote; they may still vote the UPA government out. What is striking is that Rahul Gandhi comes out as the most popular choice for the next Prime Ministership. When a similar poll was held in 2006, Rahul’s popularity was a mere 2.1 per cent. In 2009 it jumped to six per cent. Now, in 2011 it has taken a quantum jump to 19 per cent. Rahul leads the list. Manmohan Singh’s popularity has taken a steep fall from 18 per cent in 2009 to 10 per cent now. BJP’s Narendra Modi, of all other candidates, gets a mere 5 per cent rating. And this, in the face of all the charges of corruption etc that the UPA and especially the Congress has been charged with. Consider this.
The people think, according to the polls, that a spate of corruption scandals in high places, accentuated by high-profile anti-corruption movements have taken a toll on the UPA government’s image and the feeling is that the Central Government is more corrupt than the state or local governments. In the face of all this, are we to believe that people in general still want Rahul Gandhi as Prime Minister? To say the least, it is shocking. One can understand that among Congressmen, 42 percent voted for Rahul, only seven per cent for Pranab Mukherjee, six per cent for P. Chidambaram, four per cent for Sharad Pawar and two per cent for Digvijay Singh. Just as among all those polled, Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitely and Sushma Swaraj do not count, with only Narendra Modi still in the picture, specifically, within the Congress, Mukherjee and Chidambaram count no more.
Understandable. But how come that after all the charges against the UPA government and more specifically against the Congress, the public still seems enamoured of Rahul? What is so attractive about him? One knows very little about his personal life. Is he married? If so, when was it and to whom? Is his matrimonial status relevant to his being the choice of a large number of people? If he is not married, has he any plans to do so in the near future? Are these questions relevant to the issue of his being the choice for the next Prime Ministership of India?
As matters stand the presumption is that the UPA would lose heavily in the next elections. In putting their eggs in the Rahul Gandhi basket, aren’t the supporters of dynasticism forgetting that fact? Whoever wins in the next election, one thing seems clear, judging from the CNN-IBN poll: dynasticism seems to have its own attraction for a substantial segment of the people. May be it gives them a sense of security in continuity. Is the democracy that we practice now a mirage? But what is significant is that despite all the scams the people still seem to think – and this is what one finds unbelievable, – that the UPA should get another chance, to rule. In 2009, the UPA got a 55 per cent rating; the present rating is 37 per cent. According to the pollsters “popular opinion is evenly split on whether the United Progressive Alliance should get another chance”. Either there is something wrong with the poll or there is something wrong with the Indian people. Even if their support to the UPA is by a very narrow margin, the fact that such a support exists must make the NDA and the BJP indulge in some serious reflection.
There are two more reasons why the matter needs consideration. One is that, if the polls are to be believed, Dr Manmohan Singh has turned out to be a great disappointment. In a similar poll carried out in 2006 as many as 40 per cent of those polled had said that he should continue in office. This percentage has precipitously now dropped to 22. in 2006 as many as 21 per cent had felt that he should be replaced. Now that percentage has risen to 33. There is no doubt that as a Prime Minister Dr Singh is seen as irrelevant. The second reason is that four of the five top-rated state govermnets are run by the BJP and its allies. Shouldn’t these reasons suffice to give the NDA hope for getting elected in the next general elections?
According to media reports Dr Manmohan Singh’s own economic advisers think the government has failed on the mandate for reforms provided by the 2009 elections, has failed to step up infrastructure developments, especially roads, ports and power, has failed to put a stop to runaway corruption and looting of the Exchequer and has lost political capital following the Cash for Vote scandal, the Government’s stand on the Nuclear Liability Bill and the Lok pal Bill and these failures have caused a policy paralysis and stymied reforms that are crucial for economic growth. Can Rahul succeed where Dr Singh and his smart-Alec team of top level experts have failed? If, at the State level, Congress has done very poorly, surely one would expect the public to give the boot to the party at the Delhi level? Three of the five Chief Ministers with the worst performance ratings belong to Congress. The Sonia Gandhi camp no doubt should be happy that its unstated candidate for Prime Ministership has no opposition worth the name. By 2012 good old Dr. Manmohan Singh will be out for good and will not need a contemporary Oliver Campbell to say: “In the name of God, go!” But does the NDA have any candidate to challenge Rahul Gandhi? It may be argued that there still are two more years to go for the next General Elections and by then anything can happen. Of course, anything can. But it would be a very thoughtless NDA that will not plan for the future, Now. Never put off for tomorrow, what one can do today, is a wise saying. But how wise are our NDA leaders in taking wisdom by the forelock?