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Is Narendra Modi facing anti-incumbency after four years of being in power?
To answer this question we have to compare some of the former Prime Ministers of India. However, from that list would like to set aside Jawaharlal Nehru's name because it would be difficult to ascertain whether the Congress' uninterrupted rule under him was due the individual charisma of Nehru or the party. Further, there was also a public gratification towards the Congress party based on the perception that it had fought for India's freedom.

The first Prime Minister for comparison is Indira Gandhi who won the 1967 general election getting 283 seats. However, it would be difficult to say whether she was popular during her tenure from 1967-1971 because the Congress party split vertically. Indira Gandhi was expelled from the Congress following which she formed a government with outside support from Communist parties and other smaller parties. 

However, in the 1971 election, Indira Gandhi won by her individual credentials. The win was very big as INC (R) led by Indira got 352 seats. That was a period when EC recognised INC (O) as the original INC. Thus, Indira Gandhi was the first prime minister to win a majority mandate by her individual credentials (mostly due to the 1971 Indo-Pak war which resulted in the formation of Bangladesh.).

However, after a tremendous mandate within a couple of years Indira Gandhi started to feel anti-incumbency following the JP movement. She imposed the Emergency in 1975 and lost election of 1977.

In the 1980 general election Indira Gandhi returned to power with a larger mandate (374 seats). The public trusted more on Indira Gandhi because of the divisions in the Janata Party due to various reasons (opportunistic power hungry politics). However, after two years of her tenure she started becoming unpopular because of many reasons. Operation Blue Star was one of her most controversial decisions during her tenure despite many lending her support in national interest. But then, there was no dearth of those who opposed it. Ultimately Indira Gandhi paid the price for it and was assassinated in 1984.

In 1984, Indira's elder son Rajiv Gandhi carried forward Congress' rule by getting 404 seats. The mandate was mainly for sympathy towards Indira Gandhi's assassination. Nevertheless, Rajiv Gandhi soon came to be recognised as gentleman Prime Minister because of his vision and public display of grace. For his first 18 months of his tenure even his enemies/rivals couldn't oppose him heartily. He was loved and admired by everyone. But after 18 month his popularity started reducing drastically. Lots of reasons were there including the Shah Bano case, sending IPKF to Sri Lanka, rebellion by VP Singh and allegations of kickbacks in the Bofors gun deal. In 1989 the Congress lost power to VP Singh-led Janata Dal coalition.

Since then, only Narendra Modi is the sole Prime Minister who won a majority mandate (282 seats) for his party. Thus Narendra Modi can be compared with Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.

After Modi's 4 year of tenure it can be seen that there's anti-incumbency against the BJP but not against Narendra Modi. Forget about opinion polls, last Gujarat and Karnataka elections speak about his popularity.

In Gujarat, Vijay Rupani as the chief minister was really insignificant apart from the BJP facing around 25 years of incumbency. The Congress led by Rahul Gandhi made mostly a successful cast coalition. Had Narendra Modi not campaigned personally with individual appeal, the BJP could have lost the election severely. But it was Narendra Modi who personally took up the responsibility and succeeded in retaining power singlehandedly not only facing the problems like GST, demonetization etc but also the opposition's caste equation. One may argue it was Narendra Modi's home state.

In Karnataka, before Modi's entry in to the campaign all opinion surveys showed that the Congress had five per cent more vote share than the BJP. Some predicted that the Congress will retain power with a majority and some said that the Congress will be single largest party with 90-110 seats whereas BJP will get 65-85 seats. But when Narendra Modi entered the election campaign arena, BSY was sidelined. Twenty one rallies by Narendra Modi in a week's time changed all the equations ending BJP's tally on 104 seats limiting the Congress to 78 seats. Ask any expert he will definitely say that it's Modi who in his individual capacity made the BJP the single largest party in Karnataka adding some 5-6 per cent of additional vote share.

Add to that now BJP's growing clout in the Northeast, Bengal, Odisha and Kerala. So it's highly possible that Narednra Modi will retain power with a majority mandate. If that happens then he will be compared with Indira Gandhi's return to power in 1971.

The above shows that Narendra Modi has retained his popularity even after four years of tenure. Yes, the BJP has lost popularity but Narendra Modi has enough popularity to compensate for BJP's falling popularity. Will this help in 2019? Well only time will tell.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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