VOTER OPINION POLLS

Falling BJP support, GST anger and questions about Jay Shah: Data from new Gujarat survey

Latest ABP-Lokniti-CSDS survey shows the BJP still in the lead, but with a much smaller margin than it had two months ago.

If you looked at it purely from a binary win-lose point of view, not much seems to have changed in Gujarat. The Bharatiya Janata Party is still on course to win in the upcoming state assembly elections, as it has done for two decades now, despite the noise that the Opposition and local community leaders have managed to make. A closer look at the latest ABP-Lokniti-CSDS election survey, however, reveals much happening beneath the surface that should worry the saffron party.

Take voting intention, which is seen as a proxy for likely vote share. When Lokniti-CSDS surveyed likely Gujarat voters in the first half of August 2017, they found that the BJP was likely to get nearly 60% of the vote. When the same survey was done in the last week of October however, that number had come down to 47%, with the entire 12% gain going to the Congress.

Overall voting intention figures still heavily favour the BJP – there are six percentage points between it and the Congress – but such a massive swing in just over two months suggests a major shift, one that could still gather momentum ahead of polls which begin only on December 9.

For context, here is the vote share percentage in Gujarat state assembly elections over the last three decades. The BJP has, especially in the last decade and a half, cemented a comfortably consistent lead over the Congress.

At the very least this suggests that anecdotal evidence and media reporting about the closest fight in the state in years is being reflected in survey figures as well. This is important in particular because of the lesson of Uttar Pradesh. In that election, earlier in 2017, anecdotal evidence and reportage seemed to suggest that the Congress-Samajwadi Party combine would be a formidable competitor against the BJP. Yet, when the final results were announced, the saffron party comfortably swept the state, raising questions about the media reporting that did not seem to entirely reflect the scale of support for the BJP.

A similar impression has emerged from Gujarat in the last month and a half particularly, alongside reports of dissatisfaction with the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax. The trader class in Gujarat in particular was hit hard both by demonetisation and GST, prompting the Centre and state to announce a number of sops in an attempt to quell the disaffection.

Nevertheless, as per Lokniti-CSDS’ figures, more and more people in Gujarat are unhappy with the Goods and Services Tax.

It is important to remember that there is no direct analogue to voting results: Voters who are deeply unhappy with GST may nevertheless vote for the BJP, if they believe it serves other purposes or there is no other option. Moreover, other polls still show the BJP in a better situation.

But Lokniti-CSDS’ survey is useful in charting out changes in public opinion over the course of the last few months. The falling support for GST, for example, seems to be one of the many things that is also affecting people’s opinions of the Centre and the state’s governance records. Between May and October, satisfaction with Central governance has fallen from 75% to 54%. Figures for the state suggest a similar drop.

The Lokniti-CSDS goes into many more details, looking at trader unhappiness with the BJP, the popularity of the Congress’ ‘Vikas Gando Thayo Chhe’ (Development gone crazy) campaign and the persistent support of women for the saffron party. Among these data points is one that is new to the survey, since it is based on a news report from October 8.

The Wire had published a story pointing out a huge increase in revenue for a company owned by Jay Shah, son of BJP President Amit Shah, which also raised questions about numerous loans that his other companies had received. The BJP promptly trotted out Cabinet ministers among others to defend Jay Shah while also filing a defamation case against the news organisation for its report.


Lokniti-CSDS’ survey finds that, despite the BJP’s attempts to defend Jay Shah and the defamation case, a substantial number of people – including nearly 50% of traditional BJP voters – think an inquiry is needed into the workings of the firm owned by Amit Shah’s son.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.

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This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.