Yogi Adityanath retains his position as India’s No. 1 chief minister; Kejriwal and Mamata to follow
(Photo by Chandradeep Kumar)
Perception management is a critical factor in determining the popularity of a chief minister. No one exemplifies this better than Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath, who faces an assembly election in barely six months. Once again, he has emerged as India’s best-performing chief minister in the August 2021 Mood of the Nation (MOTN) survey, albeit with a significant decline in popularity—from 25 per cent in the MOTN January 2021 survey to 19 per cent now.
Adityanath, with a firebrand and doer image, is distinct from his predecessors in several ways, such as his focus on infrastructure development in Uttar Pradesh and rejig of the social arithmetic with a mix of nationalism and micro-caste management. There was buzz about some in Adityanath’s cabinet wanting to be projected as the BJP’s ‘CM face’ for the upcoming assembly election. However, the decks seem to have been cleared for Adityanath to lead the party into the polls.
Ranked the second and third best chief ministers by MOTN respondents are Arvind Kejriwal (14 per cent) and Mamata Banerjee (11 per cent). While Kejriwal’s popularity remains unchanged from the previous MOTN survey, Mamata’s has improved. Behind them is first-time CM Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy (6 per cent), whose popularity has declined from a year ago (11 per cent in MOTN August 2020) despite the slew of sops and welfare measures he has announced in Andhra Pradesh. Reddy does not figure in the top 10 list in the assessment of their own chief ministers by the respondents of every state.
Though it’s early days for Tamil Nadu chief minister M.K. Stalin, who assumed office on May 7, he tops the list of most popular CMs in their home states. His government has been working to fulfil the poll promises. Makkalai Thedi Maruthuvam, aimed at taking preliminary healthcare to people’s doorsteps, is part of the DMK government’s seven-point vision to improve the quality of life of citizens. The scheme will screen those above 45 years of age and others with infirmities through doortodoor check-ups. Another initiative is Ungal Thogudhiyil Muthalamaichar, the chief minister’s integrated public grievance redressal platform. The Rs 4,000 Covid-19 cash relief for rice ration card holders was among the schemes unveiled on the day Stalin took charge.
Handling of the pandemic, according to the MOTN survey, was a major benchmark for respondents while gauging the performance of the chief ministers. Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s Mission Shakti has turned out to be a major initiative, covering 7 million women in self-help groups. Patnaik considers them as the driving force of his state’s economic growth. It is to them that he has extended financial grants for running temporary health centres, stitching face masks and spreading public awareness on Covid.
People-centric development programmes and populist schemes are also major contributory factors in shaping the images of chief ministers. The MOTN survey suggests that Pinarayi Vijayan (Kerala), Uddhav Thackeray (Maharashtra) and Mamata Banerjee—all of different political hues—have at least 30 per cent of respondents within their states endorsing them. While a flagship scheme draws legions of supporters, it is welfare measures touching the lives of the disadvantaged, particularly in education and health, that add critical mass to CMs’ popularity. Voters readily accept those who deliver.
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