Chastened Modi’s BJP Lost Ground in Rural India, Survey Suggests

(Bloomberg) -- A swing in rural votes contributed to the electoral setback that left Prime Minister Narendra Modi relying on a coalition to govern India, a survey indicates.

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Modi is due to be sworn in on Sunday after his Bharatiya Janata Party failed to win an outright general election majority for the first time in a decade, but received sufficient backing from allies to form a ruling administration.

The BJP’s support dropped 1% in villages and 3% in semi-rural towns compared with the 2019 poll, according to a survey by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. The Indian National Congress — the main party in the opposition bloc — gained 1% and 7% respectively in those areas.

The marathon election revealed a wave of discontent with Modi’s decade-long rule in relatively poorer parts of the country, emboldening opposition leader and Congress scion Rahul Gandhi. The CSDS survey canvassed more than 18,000 voters in a six-week period across 191 parliamentary constituencies.

Some of the main takeaways from the survey follow below:

  • Demographics: The BJP maintained its attraction for many young voters, with the BJP bloc getting 46% of the support among those up to 25 years old. The Congress alliance only managed a 33% share in that age group.

  • Gender: The Congress-led bloc’s popularity with men and women rose from five years ago. The vote share of the BJP and allies stalled.

  • Caste: The BJP lost some support from lower caste Hindus, including a 3% decline in the Dalit cohort. BJP campaign rhetoric that it would dominate parliament stoked fears among Dalits of a possible loss of constitutional rights to affirmative action, according to the CSDS. At the same time, the BJP maintained a 53% share of votes from upper caste Hindus.

  • Personality: The BJP centered much of its campaign on Modi’s popularity and value to the party. The survey showed 50% of those casting ballots viewed parties as the key variable rather than individual candidates.

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