Pedestrians walk past stores at Crawford Market at night in Mumbai, India. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

Aspiring Middle Class Emerges as Key Electoral Bloc in India’s Election

(Bloomberg) --

The middle class is emerging as a key electoral force in India.

While political parties compete to attract poor people, they’re also trying to win over this new and growing segment, which makes up about one-third of the country’s 1.3 billion population and wields considerable clout in shaping public opinions.

Leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the main opposition Congress party are targeting the dominant middle class bloc with speeches and campaign promises.

After providing tax relief in the February budget, the BJP vowed in its manifesto to further revise tax slabs and benefits to put more cash and greater purchasing power in the hands of middle-income families. It’s also pledged to ensure the middle class get access to education, employment opportunities and urban infrastructure for a better quality of life.

Upwardly Mobile

As the economy grows and incomes increase, people are moving out of poverty and joining the middle class. They’re aspiring to provide their children better education, ensure clean drinking water, start a business, own a car and credit card and take a vacation.

Its size varies between 20 percent to as much as 40 percent of the population. According to Centre for the Study of Developing Societies -- Lokniti survey, about 36 percent of population was middle class in 2014.

Aspiring Middle Class Emerges as Key Electoral Bloc in India’s Election

The 2014 elections witnessed a major shift in voting preferences. The middle class rejected the Congress-led coalition government because of corruption allegations, price rises and poor governance. The voters belonging to the poor and lower classes -- who were previously the core supporters of Congress -- also moved away from the party, contributing to its worst ever election performance.

The BJP, which is seen as largely a party of urban upper-middle class, also expanded its support base significantly in rural areas, contributing to Modi’s ability to secure the biggest mandate in three decades.

Aspiring Middle Class Emerges as Key Electoral Bloc in India’s Election

ELECTION & MARKETS:

After four phases of elections, the average voting percentage is 67 percent, almost comparable to 67.6 percent in 2014. A one percent increase from the current trend could produce the largest turnout since 1947, Soumya Kanti Ghosh, chief economist at State Bank of India said in a note.

WHAT TO WATCH:

  • Movement of cyclone Fani that’s set to hit country’s eastern coast on Friday
  • Modi to address election rallies Friday in Rajasthan
  • Congress President Rahul Gandhi to address public meetings in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

IN THE MEDIA:

  • Decide on complaints against Modi, Shah by Monday, top court tells commission: PTI
  • What young India wants from the government: Mint
  • Mamata invokes 1857 Mutiny for her oust Modi campaign: PTI

LATEST COMMENTS:

  • “Nationalism means solving the problems of the people of the country,” Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, general secretary of the Congress party, said in an interview to PTI. “The greatest patriotism of any politician, of any government, would be to be able to hear the people when they speak, would be to be democratic, to be able to strengthen the institutions that strengthen the public voice, not weaken it."
  • "Modi ji is working tirelessly for the nation," said BJP chief Amit Shah. "On the other hand, the Congress president goes on leave regularly and even his mother is unaware of his whereabouts" when temperature in India goes up, Shah said referring to Rahul Gandhi.

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