Opinion Polls – What do they signify

7 June, 2021 | newsx bureau

Opinion Polls Opinions

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who scored highest public approval ratings during the first wave of the pandemic, has suffered heavy erosion in the second wave.

I was on a panel recently discussing latest C-voter opinion poll, that is a long term continuous tracking of popularity of leaders, people’s response about various govt policies and problems that nation faces and their own problems. I am not one who likes such opinion polls only if they favour my world view. I take them with a little pinch of salt, but, I think they do serve a purpose and provide a good indication of state of the nation in the eyes of common people. When Yashwant Deshmukh said that they had taken opinion of 3.5 lakh people, I was not sure, if it was a cumulative number of the sample size of every opinion poll over two years. If it is the sample size for each poll, it is commendable. Most of the people on different panels argued about these findings purely for scoring political points. But, let us look behind the numbers.

People have approved the central government’s moves to fulfilling promises being made since long by the ruling party, BJP. These are Nullification of Article 370, clearing the way for Ram Mandir reconstruction (though this issue was resolved through court of law, the way government supported post judgement actions gave people a positive feel), banning Triple Talaq and CAA, that provides huge relief to minorities residing outside India and suffer worse persecution in Islamic neighbourhood because of their religion. They believe that the party they chose, stands by its promises.

Covid travelling from Wuhan is the biggest challenge to the world and worst pandemic the world has seen in its history. It is bound to have fall out on the government. However, Prime Minister who scored highest public approval ratings during the first wave of the pandemic, has suffered heavy erosion in the second wave. The surprising part is that people hold central government more responsible for control of the pandemic than the state governments, who actually are the owners of health management. I see two reasons behind it.

One, Modi ji got the credit for the first wave management, so he will also get the discredit for the second wave. Two, people have no faith or expectations from the state governments, they are looking upto centre for every solution. This is not a good development for our democracy. The federal approach to manage the country, the state and the local bodies including Panchayats is a well thought out system. But, the political shenanigans of local politicians and their interest only in making money has eroded people’s confidence in local level politicians.

Blaming Kumbh mela for second wave is the success of left illiberal lobby. Uttarakhand government had agreed to Kumbh mela arrangements when wave 1 had subsided. It had very strict protocols for entering the mela site. Number of infect people was lowest possible even at its peak during the Kumbh and also later on because of strict protocols. Studies now tell us that Farmer rallies mainly from Punjab was a major contributor to spread of the second wave. It is also clear that the second wave, which was like a sudden tsunami came from states which had no elections. Beginning from Maharashtra. Worst management evidenced by figures was in non-BJP ruled states. As soon as the tsunami hit us, PM Modi got into fire fighting mode. But, he or his government did not find time to explain to the people what had actually happened and how the fire fighting has turned the tide within a couple of weeks. In the meanwhile, the opposition which has governments in many states created enough chaos to shift the blame entirely onto BJP and PM Modi.

Covid vaccination was going better than most countries. However, our opposition played vicious politics against India manufactured vaccines that led to unprecedented vaccine hesitancy. Vaccine centres were mostly under populated after initial rush. But, blame goes to Modi ji.

People feel, and rightly so, that Modi ji shouldn’t have addressed rallies. But, they forget that all political parties addressed rallies, including most vocal Rahul Gandhi. They also forget that in 2020 Bihar elections, opposition parties refused to go for virtual campaigning as suggested by Election Commission. They also forget that Panchayat election was imposed on UP by the courts despite UP government asking it to be postponed due to Covid. It shows that people have such high trust in PM Modi that they have different yard stick for Modi ji as against that of opposition leaders.

40% of the people are asking the government to take back Farm laws though they were passed by their own chosen parliament. However, it is revealing that 30% of rural population that really understands farming, doesn’t wish the government to drop Farm Laws. It shows that urban population is exhausted by this unseemly confrontation. It just wishes to chose easier path, while more sturdy rural populace is not moved so easily.

If you analyse these views, it shows major failure of communication from government. Whether it was CAA, or Farmer Bills or handling of Covid crises. Will BJP as a party understand this serious problem, or will it lurch from elections to elections, winning most, losing some?

More seriously, people seem to have no expectations from state government, nor have politicians and opinion leaders have been able to educate people about responsibilities of the central, state bodies and local bodies. This does not bode well for grass root democracy. This can go against opposition parties who wish to thrive only on negative perceptions.

The so-called civil society movements have become agenda driven with no interest in educating people and galvanising them into action. I say, so-called because most of these, definitely not all, movements are elite class movements, not grass roots. We need to work more honestly at grass roots with people who are direct beneficiaries or sufferers of the government policies.