A clear majority (53 per cent) of Tamil Nadu voters feel Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi is best fitted to be Prime Minister of India, with other possible contenders CM Jayalalithaa, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and PM Manmohan Singh trailing far behind in ratings.
Hard to believe? No wonder, ‘Shock result!’ was the blaring headline of the cover story in the current issue of Junior Vikatan, the mass circulation Tamil magazine which carried out and published this public opinion survey with a sample of 4490 respondents spread across the state.
The results show a high level of popular dissatisfaction in Tamil Nadu with the performance of the PM and the UPA government at the Centre, with the voters welcoming the projection of Narendra Modi as the leader of an alternative government.
This may seem incongruous in a state in which the ‘national party’ BJP has negligible presence and zero representation in the state assembly and the national Parliament, and not much hope of improving this position; but the result is consistent with many national level surveys which show Narendra Modi’s personal popularity running far ahead of his party’s electoral reach across the country.
Forty-nine per cent of the respondents to the survey rate UPA government’s performance at the Centre as ‘Poor’, with another 45 per cent rating it as ‘Average’. The rating of PM Manmohan Singh’s own performance is hardly better.
Among the chief reasons for their dissatisfaction, 42 per cent name the overall inflation in prices; 31 per cent the rise in petrol and LPG prices specifically; and 27 per cent the serial scams in 2G spectrum, coal block allocations, etc that the UPA government has presided over.
Asked whether they would vote for the Congress-led UPA alliance in the next Lok Sabha poll, 47 per cent of the respondents give a clear and resounding ‘No’ in reply; only 14 per cent say ’Yes’; and 39 per cent are yet undecided.
Against this background, it seems quite understandable that the electorate should be looking for a strong and decisive leadership at the Centre. As many as 60 per cent of the respondents say they would ‘welcome’ BJP’s projection of Narendra Modi as its leader and PM candidate. Only 12 per cent say they oppose it and 28 per cent have no opinion.
And 56 per cent say Modi has the necessary stature to be the Prime Minister of the country with only 18 per cent saying he doesn’t.
Asked as to what they foresee should Narendra Modi become Prime Minister, as many as 57 per cent say it would be a ‘change for the better’; a small number say there would be communal riots; and 24 per cent foresee no particular change.
There cannot be any doubt that with Narendra Modi at the helm the BJP has an extraordinary opportunity of coming back into reckoning as the natural party of government at the Centre; and of making new electoral inroads across the country beyond its traditional strongholds. As far as Tamil Nadu is concerned, the party may not be able to make much headway in terms of winning any Lok Sabha seats this time (unless it gets into a pre-poll alliance with the AIADMK or the DMDK), but if it can put up credible candidates and if Narendra Modi campaigns in key urban centres, it can definitely build up a sizeable vote share that can potentially be converted into seats the next time it fights as part of an alliance.