BJP President Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 

Less Than a Year to 2019 Polls, What is the Mood of the Nation?

With the 2019 general elections less than a year away, CSDS-Lokniti, along with ABP News, conducted a survey to gauge the mood of the nation. 15,859 respondents across 19 states participated in the exercise, which was conducted between 28 April and 17 May.

The survey tracks the level of anti-incumbency against the Modi government, the on-ground sentiment in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, and among other things, also gauges the relative popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress President Rahul Gandhi.

What bearing could the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) alliance, which has marked a new phase in Opposition understanding, have on the findings of this Mood of the Nation survey? The Quint spoke to Professor Sanjay Kumar, Director of the Centre for the Studies of Developing Societies (CSDS) to find out.

How popular is the Modi government, and what are the chances of it being re-elected?

On the basis of the survey, there is a clear indication that PM Modi and the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government may get re-elected. However, the survey does indicate that the popularity of the Modi government is on the decline. If we compare the data that we have collected in this round with that of the previous rounds of the survey, we can see clear signs of decline in the current government’s popularity. Also there is a clear sign of decline in the popularity of Modi as the prime minister.

Maharashtra, UP and Bihar– who have you considered as part of the NDA? Political equations of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress seem to be in a bit of a flux. Especially when you consider the states of Maharashtra and UP.

In Maharashtra, we have still considered Shiv Sena an ally of the BJP. In UP, the allies of 2014 are still with the party. In Bihar, there has been some movement. Janata Dal (United) has now joined the alliance, which takes NDA’s vote-share in the state to great heights. And one party has moved out of the alliance.

Speaking about Bihar specifically, how would you react to the  anecdotal reports of Tejashhwi Yadav and the Rashtriya Janata Dal making a comeback? Or the changing equations between the Opposition parties in Uttar Pradesh. And in Maharashtra,  a war is brewing between the BJP and the Shiv Sena. What do you think we can expect next year, taking these factors into consideration?

With the BJP’s increasing presence in Bihar, one can see that their vote-share has been increasing. Compared to 2014, there has been an at least a 10 percent increase. Due to a decline in Nitish Kumar’s popularity, JD(U)’s vote-share has received a hit as well. As for Lalu, there is a bit of sympathy for him after he was imprisoned.

According to the survey, RJD’s popularity is declining, while that of the Congress is rising.

In UP, the BJP is still with its allies. However, the alliance is getting shaky, and simultaneously the Samajwadi Party’s popularity is increasing. If the Bahujan Samaj Party and SP get into an alliance, then the BJP will suffer. And if the Congress also joins this alliance, then the entire game will change in UP, with the BJP being possibly restricted to only 8-10 seats in the 2019 elections.

If the current alliances are consolidated in the months leading up to 2019, how will that impact the findings of your study?

The NDA has a good hold in Bihar. Only if the JD(U) leaves the alliance, will the UPA have a chance to do well in the state. However, if the UPA just includes the Congress, the RJD and two or three small parties, the BJP may still have a chance to win fairly in the state, according to our data.

In the 2014 elections, the BJP, in UP, got 71 seats alone and 73 with their alliance. If the situation changes, then the party could be reduced to just 8-10 seats.

In Maharashtra, there are clear signs that the Shiv Sena is walking out of the alliance. We, however, have still considered the Shiv Sena as an ally of the BJP. But if the Shiv Sena does walk out of the alliance, it will actually give an advantage to the BJP, if the Congress and NCP do not form an alliance as well.

If the Congress, Shiv Sena and NCP come together, then the BJP will be defeated. However, this alliance doesn’t seem likely. In Maharashtra, there are four corner candidates and the BJP could still emerge as the largest party, with 30-35 seats.

According to your survey, what is the relative position of Modi and Rahul Gandhi in the 2019 elections?

Narendra Modi is the most popular minister, according to our survey, but between January 2017 and May 2018, his popularity has taken a hit. Rahul Gandhi’s popularity, meanwhile, has been on the rise, but I feel that this is slightly artificial. This is because the people who say he should be Prime Minister now, were saying it should be Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh not too long ago.

Rahul Gandhi’s popularity has increased because that of Narendra Modi has taken a hit.

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