The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) released the results of its latest Consumer Confidence survey on August 1, 2018. These surveys ask questions about current and future (year ahead) perceptions about income, employment and the general economic situation. The difference between future and current perception on improvement can be taken as a good proxy for anti-incumbency, or the lack of it.
These values had started increasing from the end of 2012 and peaked in mid-2014. This was also the period when Narendra Modi was leading the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) ‘Achhe Din’ campaign for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
This suggests that the electorate felt it was worse off under the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rule, and believed that the BJP’s coming to power would improve matters.
By March 2015, these values had come down significantly, signalling the end of the euphoria around the BJP’s campaign.
The declining trend continued till November 2016, but there was a short spike in December 2016.
This suggests that people might have believed the government’s claims that demonetisation would lead to a large-scale purge against black money and hence improve their well being. The curve has largely been flat since 2017. There is an important political takeaway from this trend. The BJP will probably not enjoy the tail winds it enjoyed in 2014 in the next elections. However, a lack of hope that the economic situation will improve significantly in the next one year — economic mismanagement is an important Opposition charge against this government — also suggests that the electorate has so far not placed its bet on an anti-Modi campaign, like it did in an anti UPA one in late 2012. A status quo in these trends suggests it may still be advantage BJP in 2019 at a time when the Opposition is banding together