This is surely not the best of times for our nation- we are reeling under extremely adverse economic situations and there is near universal talk about the stagnation that has taken place. The corridors of power are plagued with policy paralysis of the highest level as the common man suffers extreme rise in prices. At the world level it is almost certain that the India story is over as our leaders and the nation cut an extremely sorry figure on the world stage.
It is such a situation that HOPE becomes a virtue in rarity but when that ray of hope does emerge, expect the entire nation to rally around it. This is exactly what is happening vis-à-vis Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. In these gloomy times, the country now sees a guiding light in Modi who has already made a mark for himself in the sphere of providing good governance.
It is not only reputed international magazines, global think tanks, Indian intellectual voices but also the common man, the farmers and the youth of India that have accepted Gujarat's developmental strides in the last decade! It is these people who see Narendra Modi as the future of the nation and recently a reputed author and an opinion accurately spelt out the mood of the nation from the Internet to the streets of Bihar.
In the first week, on Jul 2, unconnected but extremely relevant pieces of work on Indian politics took the Internet and Social Media by storm. Even though the writer profile and the nature of respondents were as different as chalk and cheese, the point that both pieces drove home was one and the same.
On Jul 1, the Times of India carried an article by Chetan Bhagat in which he wrote about an online poll he had conducted to ask with Facebook fans the 'simple' question- "Who should be India's PM?" Bhagat goes on that add that there were over 10,000 responses and out of that a whooping 82% of the votes went to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi while Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi could gather merely 5% of the votes. 13% of the participants chose neither.
Around the same time, another opinion poll made it to the front page of every news site but it was different from the one that Bhagat took. 'Lens on News' conducted a comprehensive opinion poll in Bihar with a similar question- "who is the best PM after the next Lok Sabha elections?"
Conducted towards the end of Jun (as contemporary as it gets), the Lens on News Poll criss crossed Bihar and covered the views of a sample of 2147 voters across 9 seats that spanned across the length and breadth of the state. While taking into account the numbers, we must note that the survey not only covered Bihar's geographic spread but also its demographic diversity.
The findings of the poll can truly leave even the biggest of political pundits in India stunned. Leading the pack was Narendra Modi yet again with 36% of the total votes followed by Rahul Gandhi at 15%. Bihar's incumbent Chief Minister Nitish Kumar stood a poor 3rd with 12%. In a direct contest between Nitish Kumar and Narendra Modi, 71% of the respondents believed Modi's stature is higher as compared to that of his Bihar counterpart and 61% of the people disapproved of Nitish's rigid posture against Modi. Most interestingly, the poll revealed that 38% of the people would prefer voting BJP as compared to 16% for JD(U) if Narendra Modi is to lead the party in 2014.
The point of this article is not to paint the town red merely with the results of the survey (because they have already become the toast of social media and beyond). What I do seek to bring out are some of the salient features that may miss the eye but merit great attention.
NATURE OF RESPONDENTS:
As I have mentioned above, the nature of respondents who answered the surveys is strikingly different. Chetan Bhagat drew his answers from a largely well aware, techno savvy group of people while the Lens on News Polls drew answers from the interiors of Bihar's hinterland for whom the Internet is a luxury.
Interestingly, both these groups of people fall outside the BJP's core group of voters drawn to the party fold on the basis of its ideology. While there is immense middle class penetration by the BJP (by and large the group of people answering Chetan Bhagat's polls) this class is not known to have any fixed loyalties to any party. Infact, in 2009, it was widely believed that they had actually preferred 'Singh is King' Dr Manmohan Singh over any other leader, party or front. Thus, one cannot ignore this wave of support from the educated, upwardly mobile and techno savvy sections of society for Narendra Modi.
Similarly, Bihar has been a tough one for the BJP. The caste equations and overtly socialist political climate has not made BJP one of the most popular parties there. Despite undeniable support, the party has still required a big brother to capture power in the state. It may be recalled that LK Advani's 1990 Rath Yatra was halted in Bihar only. Despite this, for Narendra Modi to lead the race for PM and even take the BJP at pole position in the state is a conclusion that cannot be taken lightly.