The trouble with research results is that by the time they are published they are so outdated, they might as well be pointless.
The Pew Research survey conducted across several nations—and India in particular regarding the performance of the Narendra Modi government—is a perfect case in point.
The survey reflects the Modi government's standing in April/May 2017.
The numbers show an overwhelming trust in the Modi regime: 85 percent of Indians trust their government.
That number, which was at 81 percent last year, peaked at 87 percent in 2015 (in the same Pew survey).
The popularity of the government seems consistent and defies the law of diminishing returns.
If one can get beyond the fact it has been six months since the respondents were contacted and the fact that that only a select few were chosen from a nation of 1.2 billion, it would be fair to say that the Modi magic endures.
The other concern with such exercises is that one does not know the antecedents or cultural, political, linguistic, financial, educational and social positions of those who took part in this telephone survey. India is such a vast and diverse nation that any limited polling short of going to the hustings would reflect the priorities of that region and could produce completely different results in different places.
Again, in the tumultuous Indian political environment, the dynamics change so swiftly that six months is almost a tenure and puts the results out of sync. As such, the data is that much less relevant.
And it cuts both ways: An unfriendly poll, based on a limited framework of lies, damned lies and statistics could have easily have led to a lower percentage, which would have been equally arbitrary and unfair.
So much importance is attached to these report cards. One wonders why.
Whether the government receives an A+ or a C- in various categories doesn't really matter as the numbers do not reflect the national mood today.
Since the poll was conducted, the Modi chariot has chugged along without any real challenger.
But the question is: Is Modi still held in the same esteem and unquestioning awe that he was at the start of 2017.
Now, that's something worthy of debate.
As the leader, all too often one pays the price for others' acts of commission and omission.
The disenchantment, if any, is at the ground level and is fed largely by unemployment, the financial confusion and uncertainty over exactly how much wholesome goodness there is in demonetisation, the hastily-imposed Goods and Services Tax and a general feeling of ‘what the hell’ that is beginning to permeate the national fabric.
Perhaps, this too shall pass. After all, sunlight filters in through strong leadership, stronger rhetoric—friends, Indians and countrymen, lend me your ears—and the oft-reiterated promise of a better tomorrow.
But there is one major difference between then and now (time periods which can be referred to as pre-GST and post-GST).
Financially, the common man is hurting.
He isn't impressed by the sleight of hand as the miraculous remedy which will cure his poverty does not materialise.
And that's not all.
India has become more divided when it comes to issues of caste, community and religion, not less.
Which is hurting the commonweal.
Be it the merciless thrashing of the lower castes, attacks on those who eat beef, the intolerance towards having a 'good time', the bans on alcohol, a certain way of dressing, the 'us vs them' mentality propagated at breakneck speed by social media platforms is percolating to the man on the street and making the nation bleed.
While these incidents may be spotty and isolated for now, going forward, the trend is dangerous.
More and more, individuals are taking non-issues and making outrageous remarks with the intent to inflame passions.
Perhaps there was the same sort of splintering in all those years of Congress rule, but in today's world these 'divisions' are louder, more in your face and thus come off as far more hostile.
As a result, they are capable of doing far greater damage, which requires that all of us be more circumspect.
Maybe media houses ought to interview a thousand plus respondents today and put the same questions to them.
The answers might be intriguing.
Modi might still be ahead of the class with 90 percent marks (and in need of tuition in one or two subjects).
But at least such a survey will be something we can sink our teeth into and give us something to work with, rather than looking back.
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Updated Date: Oct 18, 2017 15:24:29 IST