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India@75 survey: Patel, Bose seen as unsung; Nehru, Gandhi as over-credited

On average, respondents believe that Nehru and Gandhi were over-credited, whereas Bose and Patel were seen as significantly under-credited. Ambedkar was at a more neutral point (Photo: Hindustan Times)Premium
On average, respondents believe that Nehru and Gandhi were over-credited, whereas Bose and Patel were seen as significantly under-credited. Ambedkar was at a more neutral point (Photo: Hindustan Times)

The sentiment was driven by BJP supporters, older Indians and those who depend on newspapers and TV for their news, the latest round of the YouGov-Mint-CPR Millennial Survey has found.

Most Indians feel that the country’s founding leaders had a significant role in nation-building, but Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi are largely seen as over-credited for their role, and Subhas Chandra Bose and Vallabhbhai Patel as under-credited. This sentiment runs the strongest among supporters of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which found a large support base in the latest round of YouGov-Mint-CPR Millennial Survey.

The survey was held in June and July in the run-up to India completing 75 years of independence. The occasion is useful to evaluate where the nation’s collective understanding of the freedom movement and nation-building stands. Respondents were asked to evaluate the role of five leaders—Nehru, Gandhi, Bose, Patel, and B.R. Ambedkar—in the freedom struggle and nation-building, as a way to assess the nation’s collective interpretation of history. Several differences in perception were evident, especially along party lines.

The survey was conducted jointly by the Indian arm of the global market research firm YouGov, Mint, and the Delhi-based think tank Centre for Policy Research (CPR). It was the eighth in a series of bi-annual online surveys aimed at examining the aspirations, anxieties, and attitudes of India’s digital natives.

Role and credit

For all five leaders, the share of respondents who rated their role as “significant" or “very significant" exceeded 50%. Bose and Patel found the highest favour, with above 70% respondents rating their role highly. For Nehru, this share was 52%, the lowest among the five leaders. On the other hand, as many as 27% respondents felt Nehru played a “little" or “very little" role in the freedom movement and nation-building.

The survey also asked respondents how much credit each of the five leaders had received for their role. Here, respondents felt Bose and Gandhi had captured the public imagination the most, but the others were not far behind.

But partisan cleavages galore

However, when considering both questions together, political differences start to emerge on the amount of credit the leaders have got commensurate with their role. More than 50% of the respondents believe that all five leaders have got their fair share of credit (this refers to a respondent giving the same rating on both “role" and “credit"). However, partisan lines are stark among those who see the leaders as over-credited (higher rating for “credit" than for “role") or under-credited (higher rating for “role" than for “credit").

To measure this, we looked at the average gap between the “role" and “credit" ratings given by each respondent. A gap of zero means the respondent sees the leader as adequately credited. A positive value indicates that the leader is under-credited for their role, and a negative value indicates the opposite.

On average, respondents believe that Nehru and Gandhi were over-credited, whereas Bose and Patel were seen as significantly under-credited. Ambedkar was at a more neutral point.

This sentiment is particularly true for those who identify with the BJP the most. While respondents from other parties such as the Aam Aadmi Party had slightly less severe assessments, the direction of their responses did not change from their BJP counterparts.

The Congress is the only party whose supporters have a different trend, most of whom seem to believe that all leaders have been commensurately credited and celebrated. The average rating for role and credit by Congress supporters didn’t see any notable divergence.

Demographic divides

There are some surprising as well as unsurprising results when considering the gap between role and credit ratings.

Indians across age groups find Nehru and Gandhi as over-credited and Bose and Patel as under-credited. However, the divergence is the most pronounced among the older age groups. Among millennials and post-millennials, this difference shrinks slightly, but the direction stays the same.

An analysis based on respondents’ primary media sources shows results contrary to popular belief that social media platforms or WhatsApp forwards are a key driver of polarizing views about historical leaders. Those who consume conventional modes of media, such as newspapers and TV news, are more likely to see Nehru and Gandhi as over-credited and Bose and Patel as under-credited.

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

This is one of six parts in a data journalism series based on the YouGov-Mint-CPR survey held in the run-up to India completing 75 years of independence. Read all the parts here.

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