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Why people endorse Modi’s economic performance despite economic slowdown

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In India Today’s Mood of The Nation Survey, carried out in July 2019, 60 per cent respondents said that the Narendra Modi-led NDA government’s economic performance was better than that of the UPA. Note that it was better only by contrast; the question was not whether it was good enough by itself. More interestingly, a significant 45 per cent respondents said their economic status had improved since Narendra Modi became Prime Minister in 2014.

These results are hard to reconcile with the reality of an economy slowing down. Even before the elections, we knew, thanks to a leaked report, that unemployment was at a historic high in India. There’s nobody who can say that demonetisation and a poorly implemented GST did not hurt the economy. What, then, explains Modi’s popularity, his Teflon coating, in the face of these harsh economic realities?

There are several factors at play. One is low inflation, which is Modi’s only real concern when it comes to the economy. Growth and job creation are being sacrificed to keep inflation low, so that people don’t complain of “mehengai (expenses)”, of daily necessities becoming unaffordable.

Another is Modi’s welfare schemes. Indians have for far too long been used to a mai-baap state. If the government is keeping inflation low and building me a house and a toilet and giving me Rs 6,000 in cash every year just for having a farm, what else do I want? Try explaining to people that even private sector job creation depends on the government’s policies.

Then there is the general faith in Modi, which is de-linked to any issues. It is not Hindutva or the economy or surgical strikes – it’s just that people like Modi, in the way they like a film star. Modi can do no wrong. Thirty-five per cent respondents said Modi’s ‘strong leader’ image was the reason why he won the 2019 election. Balakot was a separate point, which 16 per cent felt was the reason.


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