Political Stock Exchange: Rahul, not Modi, preferred PM in Tamil Nadu and Kerala
Congress president Rahul Gandhi outpaces Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the crucial southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu as their preferred choice for the next PM, according to India Today's Political Stock Exchange (PSE).
Remember, a recent PSE survey had found Gandhi surpassing Modi in Andhra Pradesh as well for the PM's post.
The latest Kerala study highlighted what appears to be a moderate public response to the Sabarimala row. One-third of the respondents were found to be neutral in their reaction to the Supreme Court lifting the ban on women's entry into the shrine.
Overall, Kerala's chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and DMK president MK Stalin in neighbouring Tamil Nadu rank as the most popular leaders in the two southern states, the PSE showed.
Forty-two per cent of the respondents expressed satisfaction with the state's Left Democratic Front government led by Vijayan, according to the PSE. Twenty-seven per cent voiced dissatisfaction, while 26 per cent rated it average, the survey found.
CM Vijayan won the support of 27 per cent of the respondents who wanted him to run the state for another term. Congress leader Oommen Chandy secured the backing of 20 per cent.
Over the hot-button issue of women of menstruating age entering the Sabarimala temple, as many as 46 per cent of the respondents expressed dissatisfaction with the Supreme Court's landmark ruling last month.
But another 33 per cent remained non-committal about the verdict to end the centuries-old ban on women's admission. Twenty-one per cent found the court judgment satisfactory.
In the PSE survey, 41 per cent of respondents favoured a central ordinance to overturn the ruling while 26 per cent rejected such ideas.
"The Sabarimala issue is being used by the BJP. They are out to make brazen, naked kind of communalism. The Congress has played soft Hindutva. The UDF is vulnerable to poaching by the BJP," said psephologist Yogendra Yadav.
On its part, the saffron party treaded cautiously. "We clearly think this (Sabarimala) is a matter concerning faith and sentiment. No central minister reacted on the judgment," remarked BJP MP GVL Narasimha Rao.
Reminded of Union minister Maneka Gandhi's reaction to the ruling, he said, "As a minister, she has a different role. No minister in the government will comment against a judgment. The court will decide on this matter."
CPI(M) MP MB Rajesh accused the Sangh of double standards. "The duplicity of RSS-BJP has been exposed. When the Fadnavis government in Maharashtra implemented a similar court order removing the ban on women's entry to Shani Shingnapur temple, they implemented even without going for the legal option of appeal," she said.
The Kerala government, which is duty-bound to implement the verdict of SC, is "branded as atheist and anti-Hindu," he alleged.
In the PSE survey, unemployment emerged as the top concern of respondents in Kerala, followed by road conditions, price rise and drinking water.
NaMo versus RaGa
On the choice of the next prime minister, 38 per cent respondents supported Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, while 31 per cent backed PM Modi for the top job.
But Yadav insisted the BJP was catching up on the back of issues like Sabarimala. "The BJP is making a breakthrough. It has been very close from the two corners of Kerala in the last two elections. Is the BJP able to cross the threshold of electoral viability? They are way behind right now but they could use the issue like Sabarimala. The Left is vulnerable in Kerala," he said.
Rao claimed his party was set to gain in the upcoming polls. We won the Assembly seat in the last election. This will be a triangular contest. At 32 per cent, we will win a number of seats in Kerala, he added.
The BJP leader claimed both West Bengal and Kerala will unseat incumbents. "States like Kerala and West Bengal will melt suddenly. One sudden election, and there will be a massive swing," Rao said.
Congress leader Tom Vadakkan disagreed. "The Congress is not in trouble at all. Meltdown makes no sense. People in Kerala are very level-headed. They know who delivers."
In the 140-member Assembly, the LDF swept the 2016 elections, securing 91 constituencies to unseat the Congress-led United Democratic Front from power in the state.
The PSE study is based on telephonic interviews across 20 parliamentary constituencies of Kerala, with a sample size of 7,920.
Chief minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami's government appears to be facing considerable public disaffection in the state, with the PSE survey showing 54 per cent of respondents ticking the "dissatisfied" box. As few as 18 per cent found it to be satisfactory.
On the other hand, DMK chief MK Stalin sweeps the popularity chart, with 41 per cent supporting him as the next CM of Tamil Nadu. Palaniswami trailed at 10 per cent and actor-turned-politicians Kamal Haasan was at eight per cent ahead of Rajinikanth at six per cent, the PSE found.
"Rajinikanth has a lot of appeal. But in terms of political ideology, he has very little to say," Yadav said. "On the other hand, Kamal Haasan seems to be a serious contender for the vacuum left by Jayalalithaa."
In 2016, the AIADMK, then led by J Jayalalithaa, retained power in Tamil Nadu, winning 134 of the state's 232 constituencies on its own. But the party suffered a vertical split after Amma's death in December the same year.
According to the PSE survey, 62 per cent of Tamil Nadu residents believe the faction-ridden AIADMK will break up further before next Assembly elections.
More than 70 per cent say the government has not been functioning properly after Jayalalithaa's passing, the PSE showed.
Yadav agreed with the findings, saying the DMK faced no uncertainty unlike the AIADMK. "While Karunanidhi is no more, the party structure is intact. There is a clear inheritor, there is a clear successor. In case of the AIADMK, the entire thing seems to have collapsed. There is an implosion," Yadav said.
Unemployment topped the list of major issues for Tamil Nadu residents, followed by drinking water, price rise, rural connectivity and farm-related difficulties, the survey showed.
NaMo versus RaGa
Rahul Gandhi won 36 per cent of voter support and Modi 29 per cent as the next prime minister, according to the PSE.
"In places like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, the BJP is not a player at all. Modi's ratings get reflected there," Yadav said.
In his comments, the BJP's Rao argued that coalitions play a key role in Tamil Nadu politics. "It is a state where no single party has been in a position to contest election for a very long time, not even Amma. It's a state where coalition[s] matter," Rao said.
The PSE study is based on telephonic interview across 39 parliamentary constituencies of Tamil Nadu, with a sample size of 14,820.