DU Beat looks at the results of its exclusive election survey, ‘DU Mandate: The 2019 General Elections’. The results are out and the first part explores the students’ views on the Prime Minister, his Cabinet and the Government performance.
With a little over 85 per cent DU students hoping to vote for the first-time, this election holds greater significance for the students. While over 72 per cent said they would be voting, the remaining who didn’t plan to vote or weren’t certain about it, mostly explained that their voter ID cards belonged to a different state than Delhi; some others said that they hadn’t had theirs made.
Asked to select the three biggest achievements of the government, there seemed to be a considerable consensus that the government performed best in the field of ‘Foreign Affairs and Diplomacy’ with 69 per cent respondents choosing it as one of their three preferences. Accounting for the overlapping preferences, ‘Defence and National Security’ and ‘Welfare Policies’ followed with 52.7 and 51 per cent votes respectively.
Understandably so, the Government had been able to create its image of being a tough and determined one. The post-Uri and post-Balakot strikes, the Rafale deal despite its controversies, had turned the tide in the government’s favour in terms of defence and national security. The support that India received from the international community after the Pulwama attacks and in its bid to have the Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar designated as a global terrorist also served well. Making schemes like ‘Swachh Bharat’, ‘Ujjwala Yojana’ and ‘Jan Dhan Yojana’ some of its hallmark policies, the government seems to have drawn support for attempting to bring grassroot change.
Conversely, in the fields of ‘Economy’, ‘Delivering on Electoral Promises’ and ‘Ensuring Press Freedom’, the government performed worst with 52.7, 36.7 and 32.3 per cent people respectively naming these as one of the three biggest failures of the government. A close fourth was ‘ensuring civil liberties and rights of citizens’.
These failures can be understood in light of the demonetisation exercise along with a faulty GST, which adversely affected the economy, especially in the informal sector. A sharp fall in employment, which reports claimed has hit a 49-year low, was a far cry from the BJP’s promise of providing 2.5 crore jobs per year. Moreover, death threats to and killings of journalists by people considered to be close to the ruling party and its affiliates, the imposition of seditious charges and severe laws like the National Security Act (NSA) on students, activists and journalists and branding many as ‘anti-national’ had been widely criticised. The multiple lynchings severely damaged the status of fundamental rights.
The Prime Minister seems to have attracted diverse opinions on a personal level. Mr. Modi was described by 34 per cent respondents as being ‘strong, bold’, while another 30.5 per cent felt that ‘nation first’ was one of the three best descriptive terms for him. ‘Manipulative and shrewd’ emerged as the third best adjective for the Prime Minister.
This falls in line with the achievements and failures of the government. A reasonable correlation can be drawn between the voted successes in national security and diplomacy and the description of Mr. Modi as being a strong leader who puts the nation first. On the other hand, a similar correlation perhaps exist between high percentage of being ‘communal, divisive’ and the failures in ensuring civil liberties in the light of lynchings, and so does between low pragmatism and failures in the economic sphere.
When asked to select a maximum of three of the best performing ministers of the union government, a considerable majority of 65.6 per cent chose Sushma Swaraj, the Minister of External Affairs, as one among the three. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and the Minister of Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari, were each selected by 34.7 per cent of the voters. This again substantiates the consensus on defence and foreign affairs being two biggest achievements of the government, as per the survey. Mr. Gadkari had also been hailed as one of the best performing ministers of the government especially because of his work with road-building. He also came to the fore due to speculation that he might emerge as a possible prime ministerial candidate in case of a hung assembly.
While the rating for the Council of Ministers seems similar to that of the Prime Minister, with both being rated highest at 3 out of 5, the rating for the former tended to concentrate more around the Centre. However, the rating for the Prime Minister drew 13.5 and 16.3 per cent votes at the two extremes of 1 and 5 out of 5 respectively – indicating a much more polarised and divided opinion over Mr. Modi’s personal performance as compared to that of his Council of Ministers who drew less than 10 per cent votes at either extremes of the scale.
Keeping in line with the performance rating of the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers, the overall performance of the government also was largely considered average, with 27.1 per cent respondents voting it 3 out of 5. However, at a more general level, the ratings of the government tended to be nearer to those of the Prime Minister – for instance, both drew over 12 per cent votes at the extremes.
The general consensus seems to be that the government’s performance was largely mediocre. Marked by gains in spheres of defence, national security and foreign affairs along with fiascos in terms of employment, delivering on poll promises and ensuring press freedom and civil liberties, the government stands at an interesting position. If it managed its external affairs well, the same cannot be said for matters home.
These achievements and failures are being seen in the run-up to the elections as well. The BJP has raised its national security and Pakistan rhetoric to a fever pitch. “Modiji ki sena” (Modi’s army) has come to the fore at the expense of jobs and vikaas. The picture being painted of Mr. Modi isn’t one of a harbinger of change, but that of the only true patriot in a sea of sharks.
(Feature image) – Hindustan Times
(Graph sources) ‘DU Mandate: The 2019 General Elections’ by DU Beat.