Narendra Modi's BJP on top as people turn to bite the UPA govt's hand that feeds

Nov 11 2013, 17:56 IST
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Many in this new middle class believe the next step up the income ladder will come when Narendra Modi assumes power. In picture: A tailor (R) waits for customers at his shop at Kasba Bonli town in Rajasthan. (Reuters) Many in this new middle class believe the next step up the income ladder will come when Narendra Modi assumes power. In picture: A tailor (R) waits for customers at his shop at Kasba Bonli town in Rajasthan. (Reuters)
SummaryGujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has emerged on top going into general elections.

a decade ago, social scientists and politicians say.

Rural consumer spending grew by 36 percent, higher than the 33 percent rise in urban areas, between 2009 and 2012, according to government data.

A national census in 2011 found that 14 percent of India's urban population of about 400 million lived in these towns, double that of a decade earlier. Boston Consulting Group calculates 24 percent of Indian households are now found in small towns.

MAKING HEADWAY

Modi has directly addressed this demographic shift, catering speeches to the new constituency and promising urban amenities such as around-the-clock electricity and broadband internet connections to communities similar to Kasba Bonli.

Opinion polls suggest he is making headway. In a recent Nielsen survey of two largely rural states, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, that contain a quarter of India's population, Modi emerged as the most popular candidate for prime minister.

In Rajasthan, the state in which Kasba Bonli lies, the Congress and the BJP are neck and neck in the villages with support from 46 percent of voters each, according to a July poll by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), a think-tank.

However, in towns of less than 100,000 people, which fall under the semi-urban category, BJP scored 56 percent to Congress's 40 percent.

India electoral mathematics is complicated, taking in local issues as well as caste and religion, making it hard to forecast results. But Rajasthan and four other states hold provincial elections over the next month, which will provide a pointer to how far Modi's popularity extends and how Congress may fare in the national election.

"If you look at people in the (semi-urban) category, they have benefited from education and reservation policies for lower castes. But increasingly our surveys show that, as people get more educated and affluent, the possibility of them voting for the BJP is much higher," said Sanjay Lodha, who co-ordinates CSDS' polls in Rajasthan.

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