For the past month or so, there has been a lot of media coverage over the drop in the approval ratings of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Many opeds have been written and TV debates conducted on the topic.
Some commentators and Opposition leaders have even gone to the extent of claiming that the decline of Modi has begun.
Local polling agency C-Voter and data intelligence company Morning Consult reported a decline in popularity ratings of Modi and his government on account of ‘mishandling of the second wave of COVID-19’ during May.
C-Voter found the number of respondents ‘very much satisfied’ with PM Modi's performance registered a massive drop from 65% to 37%.
The rise in cases, shortage of oxygen and beds, piling up of bodies outside crematoriums, economic devastation caused by the pandemic, led to criticism of Modi even from a section of hard core supporters.
Most analysts missed three important facts:
(i) The approval ratings of most of the global leaders which Morning Consult tracks witnessed a decline during the period,
(ii) Modi continued to be at the top of the charts despite the blip, and
(iii) It’s quite natural for people to be angry with the current dispensation during such a period of gloom.
Modi’s net approval ratings have however increased from 31% on May 8, 2021 to 37% on June 8. It was 34 on June 6.
This improvement is a result of prime minister’s speech on June 7 in which he took four major decisions:
75% of vaccines from domestic producers will be procured by the Centre and provided to states for free;
Vaccination will be provided free of cost to all adults above 18 years of age. Those who wish to get vaccinated in private hospitals, 25% quota will continue and at a fixed price;
Private hospitals will not be allowed to indulge into profiteering from the pandemic, service charge capped at Rs 150 per jab; and
Free ration for 80 crore beneficiaries to be continued till November to help poor households tide over the economic hardship caused by the second wave of the pandemic.
These announcements have come as a respite to the public. States have been struggling to vaccinate the 18-45 age group after requesting for the same.
Private hospitals were charging outrageous prices. The poor were struggling to make ends meet after lockdown in most states in April and May.
Many analysts, medical professionals and even states were requesting the prime minister to centralise the procurement process as the original policy was better and Modi took this feedback in cognisance. The government undertook a course correction.
The improvement in ratings shows that despite the high number of casualties in the second wave, the Indian public still trusts the prime minister and counts him as the only leader capable of leading us out of this crisis.
It also shows that people have a lot of faith in the prime minister as opposed to the chief ministers of various states, despite claims to the contrary by many of them.
The central government has committed that the entire eligible population will be inoculated by the end of the year. Other decisions on procurement, approval of more vaccines from global producers, sharing of the Covaxin patent with other producers, et cetera have increased the confidence of the citizens and led to the creation of a positive environment.
The decline in the number of cases and deaths and gradual re-opening of the economy have also contributed to this positivity.
This clearly shows that the fall in ratings was a transient phenomenon and not permanent as the Opposition had hoped for.