Terror strike election boost waning for Modi: Survey

Mrs Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, a leader of India's main opposition Congress party and sister of party president Rahul Gandhi, speaking with women during an election campaign meeting in Ayodhya, India, last Friday.
Mrs Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, a leader of India's main opposition Congress party and sister of party president Rahul Gandhi, speaking with women during an election campaign meeting in Ayodhya, India, last Friday.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI • The potential benefits accruing to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling alliance from a spike in nationalist sentiment following recent clashes with arch rival Pakistan might be waning, results of a nationwide opinion poll suggested.

Tensions with Pakistan soared after a suicide bomb attack in the Indian part of the disputed Kashmir region killed 40 Indian paramilitary police officers last month.

The bombing was claimed by a Pakistan-based militant group.

That led national sentiment on security and terror-related issues in India to peak at nearly 29 per cent earlier this month after India retaliated with airstrikes on a suspected militant camp in northern Pakistan, according to polling agency CVoter.

However, it has since waned to about 15 per cent, as tensions have cooled, the agency said, citing its daily tracker of national sentiment.

"A cliff-fall for (the) security narrative complicates BJP's positioning as this is one issue where BJP comprehensively dominates the Congress and in fact entire opposition," CVoter said, referring to Mr Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which will face off against the main opposition Congress in the general election scheduled to begin on April 11.

Pollsters say the airstrikes and nationalist rhetoric had diverted attention away from socio-economic issues, including increasing unemployment and an agrarian crisis, that critics have often used to lambast Mr Modi's policies.

The new poll numbers suggest those issues may be back on voters' minds, CVoter said.

A coalition led by Mr Modi's BJP is expected to retain power in the looming general election.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 31, 2019, with the headline 'Terror strike election boost waning for Modi: Survey'. Print Edition | Subscribe