The political hot potatoes on which urban India disagrees with the BJP

Urban Indians interviewed in the survey were split down the middle on whether the inauguration in Ayodhya was a rectification of historical wrongs faced by Hindus (51%) or an electorally motivated move by the BJP to woo Hindu voters (49%). Photo: AP
Urban Indians interviewed in the survey were split down the middle on whether the inauguration in Ayodhya was a rectification of historical wrongs faced by Hindus (51%) or an electorally motivated move by the BJP to woo Hindu voters (49%). Photo: AP

Summary

  • Support for the party in power may be at an all-time high, but that doesn’t mean Indians agree with it on everything. Simultaneous elections have few takers even among BJP supporters, and many agree with the Opposition on the caste census, the latest YouGov-Mint-CPR Millennial Survey found.

The first part of this series, published on Monday, showed that support for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had increased substantially in the latest round of the YouGov-Mint-CPR Millennial Survey, with nearly 47% of the respondents favouring the party. Limited trust in the Opposition alliance and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s personal appeal have played a major role in this surge.

However, this doesn't mean there is support for the BJP’s position on all key issues related to its 2024 election campaign. Multiple opinion polls continue to highlight unemployment and price rise as key widespread concerns. But what about non-economic issues?

First, the Ram temple. Urban Indians interviewed in the survey were split down the middle on whether the inauguration in Ayodhya was a rectification of historical wrongs faced by Hindus (51%) or an electorally motivated move by the BJP to woo Hindu voters (49%). The survey took place a few weeks before the 22 January event.

Roughly two-thirds of BJP supporters in the survey saw the event as redemption for Hindus, but among supporters of the Congress and regional parties, the majority view (over 60%) was that its timing was a poll gimmick.

Three of every five respondents from minority religions viewed the event from the election lens, as did those from the scheduled tribes (61%). Those from the scheduled castes (50%) and other backward classes (51%) showed a halfway split. In southern states, just 45% viewed the event as a corrective measure for Hindus; in other regions, the share was more than half.

The online survey, held in December 2023, had 12,544 respondents from more than 200 cities and towns. Around 44% of them were born after 1996, and 40% were born between 1981 and 1996.

Now in its 11th round, the biannual survey is conducted by Mint in association with survey partner YouGov India and Delhi-based think-tank Centre for Policy Research (CPR), to examine the aspirations, anxieties and attitudes of India’s digital natives.

Nuanced nationalism

The BJP has made serious efforts to create a narrative of India’s flourishing global stature and, to varying degrees, has tried to attribute the success of events such as the hosting of G20 summit and the moon landing, among others, to the government.

The survey showed this narrative has worked to some extent. More than half of respondents said the goverment played some role — direct or indirect — in India’s wins at the Oscars last year, its record medals tally at the Asian Games, and the Chandrayaan mission. (The shares of those who saw a direct role were 25%, 42%, and 44%, respectively.) BJP supporters were more likely to credit the government.

On questions of national security, respondents' views were measured. Against the backdrop of the Israel-Hamas conflict, the survey asked respondents how India should react to cross-border terrorism. Around 54% said India must show restraint as it is the wisest and most practical path, while 46% said military action should be authorised without a second thought.

The Modi government’s strikes inside Pakistani territory in February 2019 were a big part of its campaign for the national elections that year. With fresh elections looming five years later, even among BJP supporters, more than half (54%) favoured restraint.

Tensions with Pakistan have always marred relations between the two neighbours on many fronts, including cricket. India has not hosted the Pakistani cricket team for a bilateral series since January 2013. Around 53% of respondents sought a change to this policy, whereas the rest (47%) said they preferred the status quo.

Surprises for the BJP

The recent caste census in Bihar has led to the Opposition clamouring for a nationwide version. Around 53% of the survey’s respondents agreed, saying India must conduct nationwide enumeration as it could help draft policies to uplift historically marginalised castes. The rest (47%) said that this would sow discord in society. Views were somewhat similar across party lines, even among BJP supporters. A nationwide caste census found support even among those from dominant castes (51%).

On the BJP's proposal to hold all state and national elections simultaneously, an overwhelming 63% of the respondents disagreed, saying democracy is stronger when elections are held at multiple levels and at different frequencies. The remaining 37% held the opposing view – that asynchronous elections were a waste of time and resources. Even among BJP supporters, ‘One Nation One Election’ proposal did not find many takers, with 62% opposing it.

While the BJP has an edge on the Ram temple matter and the narrative of India’s rising global image, a large number of respondents support the caste census and reject the idea of simultaneous elections. These findings offer openings that the Opposition parties could use to challenge the incumbent. But they may have lost crucial time in managing contradictions among allies.

(The authors are associated with the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi)

This is the second part of a series about the findings of the 11th round of the survey. The next part will look at how urban Indians engage with political discourse through social media. Note that these surveys are skewed towards urban well-to-do netizens, with 89% respondents falling under the “NCCS-A" socio-economic category of consumers. Full methodology note here.)

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