Editorial: Unemployment & Price Rise Hurt — But Are Not Electoral Issues

Editorial: Unemployment & Price Rise Hurt — But Are Not Electoral Issues

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Friday, April 12, 2024, 09:59 PM IST
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The poll-related outcomes from the Lokniti-CSDS survey across states of India merit a closer look for several reasons. Issues that a majority marked as significant — unemployment, price rise, corruption — are not reflecting in a substantive manner in the election campaigns; the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ignores them completely pretending they do not exist while the Opposition parties make a noise about them in unimaginative ways that do not inspire confidence among voters. The findings also point to long-term trends and shifts that have happened in the polity over the past decade; an important one is on corruption. Governments in India, including that of Dr Manmohan Singh, were voted out on the issue of corruption but, while nearly 55% respondents believe corruption has increased in the past five years, only 8% listed it as an electoral issue.

Nearly 60% of the over 10,000 respondents stated that getting a job had become more difficult now than it was five years ago and 71% said that prices had increased considerably in the second term of the Modi-led government. As jobs shrink and prices rise, the combined intersectional impact has been on people’s standard of living or quality of life which has dropped across both rural and urban segments. Yet, the support for the Prime Minister, seen in other pre-poll surveys has not been greatly dented nor has the opposition’s strategy to embarrass him on jobs and price rise worked. This is in line with the finding on corruption. Development, the BJP’s major poll plank, convenient to parties because it is an umbrella term that can mean anything, is an electoral issue although most people believe that the development in the last five years has been primarily “for the rich”.

The trends allow a glance into the psyche of the nation. Economic issues such as high rates of unemployment, unprecedented price rise, and daylight corruption have been decoupled from the government seeking a third straight term in office. India’s voters feel the pain of these issues but are not willing to let it influence their voting preferences — a segregation of the economy and polity, as it were. This is a tectonic shift in the life of the nation and deserves a comprehensive closer study by political scientists. If a government in harness is free from anti-incumbency factors, especially economic issues, then no political party in power needs to worry about the people’s mandate. This is not how democracy is meant to be.

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