India under Modi: Pew survey shows national pride has never been this high since Bangladesh war

A tsunami of euphoria and optimism is sweeping India. Indians are finally feeling that they are getting the deserved respect on the world stage, that their country is in safe hands and the future of their children is bright.

The source of their optimism is the source of their faith: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who, they believe, is taking India in the right direction and will ensure that the country's economic situation will improve a lot in one year.

Even Rahul Gandhi and his mother are benefitting from the surge in positive sentiments. The Gandhi scion is seen much more favourably by Indians than a few months ago, though his ratings (62%) remain way behind the PM's (87%). While the PM's ratings have gone up by nine points, Rahul's have gone up by 12. But then Rahul had a smaller base to begin with.

The mood of the nation has been revealed by a survey conducted by the Washington-based Pew Research Centre among 2,452 respondents between April 6 and May 19, 2015. It was released on September 17, the PM's birthday.

 India under Modi: Pew survey shows national pride has never been this high since Bangladesh war

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. PTI

Much has changed since Pew spoke to Indians about their country and politicians. Since May, the BJP has been attacked because of the revelations that some of its senior leaders had close links with Lalit Modi; the PM himself has been forced to withdraw the Land Acquisition bill and some of his key reforms have been thwarted by a recalcitrant Opposition.

Four months is a long time in politics, especially when they coincide with the end of the honeymoon period of a government. The Bihar elections, where Modi and his brand of development politics that was in currency during the 2014 Lok Sabha campaign, will perhaps give us an updated report-card on the government's performance and people's verdict.

Yet, there is not much to doubt that India has given up on the PM or the mood has changed significantly since the BJP swept into power in 2014. Modi still inspires hopes, dreams of achche din and visions of India's dominance on the world stage.

The Pew survey reminds us that Indians have shrugged off their cynicism, negativity, self-doubt and distrust of politicians after a long time. Arguably, the last time they felt so confident about a leader was in the initial years of Rajiv Gandhi's tenure. And the previous instance of a comparable surge in pride and self-respect was after the victory over Bangladesh. Naturally, it is an enormous opportunity for Modi to take advantage of the prevailing mood and implement some of his reforms and ideas.

The survey, however, raises a few red flags. Only 25% of the respondents were pleased with Modi's handling of the India-Pakistan relations; a huge contrast with the 66% score on his US diplomacy. "Despite visits to India by both Russian president Vladimir Putin and Chinese leaders Xi Jinping, and Modi's reciprocal visits to Russia and China, just 39% approve of the prime minister's (Modi's) handling of relations with China and only 37% approve of his dealings with Russia," according to the survey.

There might be a reality-check embedded for Indians in another survey conducted simultaneously by Pew. Since Modi's arrival, the belief that India gets the respect it deserves is up 12 percentage points. But, do people outside India also think so?

Pew asked 10,000 people in 10 Asian countries how much they trust Modi, Japan's PM Shinzo Abe and Jinping to do the right thing when it comes to world affairs.

"Overall Modi suffers from a lack of recognition. A quarter or more of respondents in six countries surveyed voiced no opinion about him as a leader," according to the survey among Asians.

Updated Date: Sep 19, 2015 10:51:50 IST