August 8, 2011
Public disaffection is growing against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his government, even as it comes under challenge from a concerted opposition and civil society activists on multiple fronts over its non-performance, and even more, over its unresponsiveness to public opinion.
This is reflected in the results of a LensOnNews poll conducted in five metropolitan cities which finds that 61% of the respondents express themselves dissatisfied overall with the performance of the UPA government, against only 28% who say they are satisfied.
The degree of dissatisfaction is actually much stronger in regard to the performance of the government on the three big issues agitating the public – namely uncontrolled inflation, large-scale political corruption and the government’s lack of seriousness in fighting terrorism. On each of these issues, fully three-fourths of the respondents say they are dissatisfied with the government’s performance against only around 20% who are satisfied.
The satisfaction rating of the performance of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself is somewhat better than that of his government, but it is also alarmingly low – at just 35%. As many as 55% say they are dissatisfied with the PM’s performance.
If ‘Brand Manmohan Singh’ seems to be past its sell-by date, as a commentator put it recently, the reason is not only the PM’s poor performance on the job, but surely also that his own Congress Party has seen fit at this time to fast-track the candidature of its PM-in-waiting and scion of the ruling family, Rahul Gandhi – thus undermining the position of its own serving Prime Minister.
(The dramatic announcement last Wednesday of Sonia Gandhi’s illness also formally thrust Rahul Gandhi to the forefront of Congress party’s leadership. From being merely the general secretary in charge of Youth Congress, NSUI and Uttar Pradesh, he has now become part of the caretaker leadership panel. However, Digvijaya Singh’s pronouncements last June, out of the blue, that Rahul was ‘mature’ and had all the qualities of a prime minister, etc. was indication enough that the decision had already been made to foreground him in a leadership role).
Manmohan Singh is clearly a ‘lame duck’ PM already and his current government is functioning under a siege mentality. It would be difficult, however, to predict how the present crisis will play out. Will the Congress Party sometime soon dump Manmohan Singh and replace him with Rahul Gandhi (or with another ‘regent’-PM, perhaps A.K. Antony, till the time Rahul feels ready to take over); or will the government collapse and the country find itself facing mid-term elections even though no party wants to face the electorate at this time?
It is interesting, however, that to the LensOnNews Poll question, “If elections were to be held today, which party would you like to see leading the Government at the Centre?”, 42% of the respondents chose the BJP, as against 32% who chose the Congress. Eighteen per cent named other parties, while 8% had no response. Politics is always about choice, and the poll shows that, if elections were held now, the BJP as the principal opposition party stands to benefit from the strong anti-incumbency sentiment shaping up against the Congress.
It’s Rahul vs Modi now
If Rahul Gandhi is clearly the Congress Party’s next candidate for PM’s position, Narendra Modi is the strongest leader in BJP’s fold, at least in public perception, to challenge him. When LensOnNews matched up the three, Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi and Narendra Modi, one-for-one, the results are clear and unambiguous.
Rahul Gandhi is the preferred choice of 47% of the respondents when matched against Manmohan Singh who is the choice of just 31%. However, when matched up against Narendra Modi, Rahul falls behind with just 35% indicating their preference for him, as against 51% who prefer Modi.
Narendra Modi comes out a clear winner when matched up against Manmohan Singh too, 52% to 32%. Congress Party’s managers clearly are aware of what they are up against, as whatever the issue they go for the BJP’s jugular in knee-jerk fashion, particularly targeting Narendra Modi whenever they can.
This LenOnNews poll was carried out among a sample of around 1000 voters in five metropolitan cities (Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Delhi, Kolkata and Bangalore) between August 1 to 6. The findings are subject to a margin of error of 4%.
Even though the present poll is confined to five metropolitan cities, it is interesting that the findings are not significantly different from the ‘Mood of the Nation’ poll we published on June 19 (here), which polled a sample of 3800 registered voters in 40 parliamentary constituencies spread across 14 states. That poll found that 61% of the respondents wanted a change of government at this time and 46% preferred Rahul as PM over Manmohan Singh (34%), but that 53% preferred Modi over Rahul (38%).
This is the first in a series of monthly ‘tracking polls’ that LensOnNews will be conducting, tracking voter sentiment on the performance of the Central Government and the PM; the relative prospects of the leading rival parties in the next election; and the voter preferences for PM among the leading candidates.
Bring back POTA
Along with the core tracking poll questions, we shall also have ‘rider’ questions on a topical issue each time. This time our rider questions were on the topic of tackling terrorism. Asked whether they agreed with Rahul Gandhi’s statement (made in the aftermath of the 13/7 Mumbai blasts), that the Government has been successful in preventing 99% of terror attacks, 67% replied in the negative; and only 17% agreed with Rahul.
And again, asked whether in their opinion there is a need to have a strong anti-terror law like the POTA in order to be able to tackle terrorism, 67% said ‘Yes’, with only 20% saying ‘No’. The present UPA government, with its penchant for enacting legislation for guaranteeing all manner of ‘rights’ (right to information, right to employment, right to food, right to education) is, for reasons of vote-bank politics, chary of enacting a law against terror to secure the constitutionally guaranteed right to life of its citizens. Our poll shows that the ‘aam admi’ does not view this policy with favour.