PM Modi’s popularity slips due to COVID 2.0: cause for worry or a temporary blip?

·Columnist
·4-min read

The Modi government has been criticised by the Opposition leaders, by some local and international press and even by some right wing sympathisers over ‘mishandling’ of the second wave of coronavirus in India.

The highest number of daily cases in the world, large number of fatalities, shortages of hospital beds and oxygen, black marketeering of COVID-19 drugs, dead bodies floating in the Ganga have all added to the woes of Modi dispensation 2.0.

The slow progress on the vaccination front has led to many experts questioning the rationale for opening the vaccination for all from 1st of May.

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat also recently blamed the complacency on the part of the government, the administration and the public for the second wave that has swept the country.

Many analysts passed off the Bharatiya Janata Party’s inability to win Bengal due to the simmering discontent in the public against rising corona cases and deaths.

However, data shows that Trinamool Congress had won the elections by Phase 6, before the crisis snowballed into a major poll issue.

The BJP and the RSS leadership are concerned with the perception that the government dropped the ball on COVID, given that almost everyone in the ruling party's core support base is affected by the deadly pandemic.

It is being debated that the tsunami of COVID cases is testing Modi’s popularity like no other crisis.

According to C-Voter, the number of respondents who are ‘very satisfied’ with Modi’s performance has fallen sharply to 40%, down from 64% last year.

Those describing themselves as ‘not at all satisfied’ has increased to 32%, up from 15% last year (sample size 3,000).

Modi enjoys a larger than life image than his party as well as his government.

He is distinctly popular on account of casting himself as a man of the people; a leader who’s honest, transparent, and capable of delivering on economic development.

Modi has long been the head of state with the highest approval rating on Morning Consult's tracker of 13 world leaders. However, the net approval ratings have been declining since the end of March 2021.

The prime minister is a very smart politician and he knows the pulse of the people. He could sense the discomfort amongst his supporters and the population at large.

People wanted him to manage the situation proactively, for which he is known.

Three important announcements made over the weekend have helped soothe the nerves of the citizens of the country.

  1. The gap between two first and second doses of Covishield has been extended from 4-6 weeks to 12-16 weeks based on research findings in the UK. This is likely to lessen the burden on the vaccination programme.

  2. The formula for production of Covaxin will be shared by Bharat Biotech with other producers which will provide a boost to domestic manufacturing of the vaccine.

  3. 200 crore doses of vaccines will be made available in the market from August to December which effectively means that the entire adult population of the country will be inoculated by the end of the calendar year.

Further the government has announced that 551 PSA oxygen plants will be constructed in India from the PM CARES fund, one for each district.

Taking serious note of some reports about ventilators lying unutilised in storage in some states, Prime Minister Modi has announced an immediate audit of installation and operation of ventilators provided through the PM CARES Fund.

Voters and a section of the BJP’s supporters may have been dissatisfied with the administration's handling of the crisis, however, to assume that this could cost Modi dearly in 2024 general elections could be wishful thinking.

The election is almost 3 years away, providing Modi a long enough time to recover.

He has emerged on top of the earlier crises during demonetization, Pulwama incident, COVID 1.0 and the Ladakh face off with China.

Modi still gets a 60% rating on the question on who will be their preferred prime minister candidate in the C-Voter survey. The number of respondents who are undecided than committed to Rahul Gandhi has increased.

He resisted pressure to impose a national lockdown to control the spread of the virus which could have precipitated an economic crisis. The number of daily cases has reduced to less than 3 lakh, the lowest since April 21.

The number of recoveries are now more than daily addition to cases and we seem to have hit the peak. Modi needs to now ensure there are no hiccups in the vaccination program and India has the protection shield by December.

Along with this, the focus of the prime minister has to be on chartering a path to economic recovery and progress. What should be the steps taken to revert India to a 8%+ GDP growth?

If he is able to achieve the twin objectives of vaccination and growth then there could be no stopping Modi even in 2024.

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