In the popular movie Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani, released a decade ago, matinee icon Shah Rukh Khan challenges others to try and understand being Indian. …Jitni bhi tum samjhoge utni hogi hairani…(the more you understand, the more bewildered you will be) his tumble and dance number goes. Foreign travellers in India would perhaps identify with the song. They can only marvel at the numerous paradoxes this vast country throws up at every turn.
In what could come as a shock to the critic, projections based on a survey show India would not only vote the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance back to power if elections are held today, but also to more seats in Parliament. In a nationwide survey conducted by Centre for the Study of Developing Societies over the past month for Forbes India, CNN-IBN and CNBC-TV18, people continued to retain faith in the Congress Party. Rahul Gandhi’s rural jaunts and high-profile padyatras seem to have paid off as he emerges the clear choice for the top job. Gandhi’s rise also coincides with a sharp drop in Manmohan Singh’s popularity. The massive corruption scandals and steep price rise under his watch have shaken the faith people had in the economist-politician.
One of the reasons for the UPA’s popularity seems to be its left-of-centre policies. Majority of the people are sceptical of the private sector and want the government to remain the lead actor. That coupled with the TINA (there is no alternative) factor seems to have turned the tide in Congress’ favour despite the consistent bad press. The negative publicity, however, does not appear to have percolated all the way down as a significant number of people have not even heard of the many corruption scandals.
Besides, principal opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is simply unpopular. Party president Nitin Gadkari is the last choice among BJP leaders to become prime minister. People would prefer Gujarat strongman Narendra Modi as prime minister, but in the overall choices, no BJP leader even figures among the first three for the top job.
The survey has revealed a very interesting picture of the nation, one very different from what television channels broadcast and English media portrays. The economic condition seems to have more or less remained unchanged in the past few years though most also do not see their lot improving much. On many contentious issues such as land acquisition, the urban voice is shriller than the rural. More urban voters, who are unlikely to own land, were against land acquisition than their rural counterparts who are most likely to be dispossessed.
Forbes India presents, in the following pages, one of the most exhaustive surveys ever conducted on the state of the nation. We have published the most important findings in these pages.
How the Survey Was Done
The findings presented in the State of the Nation Survey 2011 are based on a survey conducted by Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi, in 19 states of India.
A total of 1,300 locations were randomly selected (four polling stations each in 325 Assembly Constituencies). The survey could not be conducted at 10 locations (four in Assam due to floods, four in Chhattisgarh due to security risk and two in Andhra Pradesh). We have not received data from three assembly constituencies in Orissa (12 locations) as field investigators could not return in time from polling stations in remote areas.
UPA STRENGTHENS ITS POSITION
THE BIG FIGHTS
GOVERNANCE HAS DETERIORATED