India: Voters demand jobs and lower prices, survey shows

The country starts voting in a seven-phase general election on April 19 that Modi is expected to win easily

By Reuters

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Photo: Reuters
Photo: Reuters

Published: Sat 13 Apr 2024, 11:25 AM

Unemployment and inflation are the main concerns of Indian voters but Prime Minister Narendra Modi's strong leadership, his party's nationalist agenda and India's rising global stature will likely help his re-election bid, a survey shows.

The findings illustrate that benefits of India's world beating growth are not evenly spread for its 1.4 billion people as the creation of jobs, despite Modi's domestic manufacturing push over the last 10 years, is still a challenge.

India starts voting in a seven-phase general election on April 19 that Modi is expected to win easily. Votes will be counted on June 4.

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Unemployment was the primary concern of 27 per cent of the 10,000 voters surveyed by Lokniti-CSDS across 19 of India's 28 states, with rising prices coming second at 23 per cent, the Hindu newspaper said.

India is the world's fastest growing major economy and its fifth-largest. But nearly two thirds, or 62 per cent of those surveyed, said finding jobs had become more difficult in the last five years - Modi's second term as prime minister.

The unemployment rate rose to 5.4 per cent in 2022/23, from 4.9 per cent in 2013/14 just before Modi swept to power, and nearly 16 per cent of urban youth in the 15-29 years age group remained unemployed in 2022/23 due to poor skills and a lack of quality jobs, official data shows.

Although 22 per cent said "the most liked action" of Modi's government was the construction of a grand Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Ram on a site that was contested by minority Muslims, only 8 per cent said it was their primary concern.

Modi supervised the consecration of the Ram temple in January, a move increasingly used by his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in its election campaign to highlight the completion of a long-standing Hindu demand.

On Friday, Modi attacked the main opposition Congress party for refusing the invitation to the temple inauguration.

"Ram devotees of the entire world have seen this arrogance of yours ... this is an election game for you," Modi said in a campaign speech in the federal territory of Jammu and Kashmir.

Congress had refused to attend the inauguration, saying it had been converted into a "political project" of the BJP and that the consecration had been brought forward "for electoral gain".

At least 48 per cent respondents said the temple would consolidate a Hindu identity, but a huge majority (79 per cent) said India belonged to citizens of all religions equally, not just Hindus.

Voters were also drawn by the growing international standing of India, with highly publicised events such as India's presidency of the G20 bloc last year, and New Delhi hosting the G20 leaders in September.

About 8 per cent of the survey's respondents said they liked the government's push to create a better international image of India.


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