Team Modi has reasons to worry. The results of an opinion poll soon after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley delivered his third budget points to increasing unhappiness; and that worse days might be ahead.
The C Voter poll revolved around three questions: Inflation and inflation expectations; economic well being in the last one year and expectations for the next year. The most dangerous message for Team Modi comes from what middle class Indians think about their economic well being. In 2015, about 35 per cent of those polled thought their well-being had improved since 2014; in 2016, that figure has dropped to just above 27 per cent.
Team Modi should be even more worried about what Indians expect in the future. In 2015, more than 55 per cent of those polled were of the opinion that their quality of life will improve over the next year. In 2016, it has dropped down to about 46 per cent. You do to need to be a pundit to figure out what this means for the slogan "Achhe Din". Votaries of this regime keep harping on the fact that the manner in which inflation, as reflected in the wholesale price index, has been controlled and brought down deserves kudos. But what do ordinary Indians think? After Jaitley presented his 2015-16 budget last year, more than 17 per cent of those polled thought that prices would come down significantly in the coming year. This year, the proportion of these optimists has dropped to just 9 per cent.
Clearly, middle class India is not revolting against the NDA regime the way it started doing against the UPA in 2011. Many other polls conducted by C Voter and other agencies also reveal that Modi remains by far the most popular and tallest political leader of the country. But Modi supporters do need to glance back at contemporary history. In 2003, Atal Bihari Vajpayee as as popular and towering over others as Modi is today. And yet, Indian voters delivered a verdict in 2004 that stunned pundits, psephologists and the BJP.
Modi has more than enough time to recalibrate and reconnect with voters. But then again, how much time does he really have?