Indian voters want jobs, price reduction; cheer new Hindu temple, survey shows

By Thomson Reuters Apr 12, 2024 | 2:48 AM

By Shivam Patel

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Unemployment and inflation are the main concerns of Indian voters but Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s strong leadership, his party’s Hindu 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 starkly different for its 1.4 billion people as 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.

Unemployment was the primary concern of 27% of the 10,000 voters surveyed by Lokniti-CSDS across 19 of India’s 28 states, with the price rise coming second at 23%, the Hindu newspaper said.

Nearly two-thirds, or 62% of those surveyed, said finding jobs had become more difficult in the last five years, Modi’s second term as prime minister.

Although 22% 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% said it was their primary concern.

India is the world’s fastest growing major economy and its fifth-largest but unemployment and inflation have been nagging its rise.

The unemployment rate rose to 5.4% in 2022/23, from 4.9% in 2013/14 just before Modi swept to power, and nearly 16% 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.

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

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

Voters were also drawn by the growing international courtship 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% of the survey’s respondents said they liked the government’s push to create a better international image of India.

(Reporting by Shivam Patel in New Delhi; Editing by YP Rajesh and Raju Gopalakrishnan)