NEW DELHI:once again, India has rallied around Mr. Modi.
Recent opinion polls show that in the past few months Mr. Modi’s already high approval ratings have soared even higher, touching 80, even 90 percent. Unlike two of the populist leaders to whom he is often compared, President Trump and President Vladimir Putin of Russia, Mr. Modi seems to be thriving in this crisis.
The result, some analysts say, is that if India continues to ride out the coronavirus in decent form, he may emerge with an even stronger hand when he and his party press nationalist policies. Much as the brinkmanship with Pakistan last year helped strengthen his re-election campaign, the deadly pandemic is bringing many Indians to his side.
Modi’s success, analysts say, may be more durable. He’s widely seen as a mobilizer, not a despot, which may explain why his nationwide stay-at-home lockdown, which he dropped on the country with four hours’ notice, has been largely obeyed. Even the softer, feel-good exercises he has insisted on, like asking Indians to stand in their doorways and clap at a certain time, or to light candles at another, have been followed by millions.
Many economists believe that the $260 billion relief package that Mr. Modi triumphantly announced this week, as he urged Indians to become more self-reliant, will hardly be enough.
But he never downplayed the virus threat or said India had capabilities it didn’t. And unlike in the United States, where partisan politics has gummed up the response and created great discord and even chaos, analysts say Modi has worked well with state-level officials across India, regardless of ideology.
The result is that the political landscape Mr. Modi, 69, has shaped over the past six years, since a surge in nationalism brought him to the top job in the world’s largest democracy, has only been shored up. He and his Party, dominate the airwaves. They move unchecked when implementing policies. The political opposition is practically invisible.
Though India is so big and it has performed fewer tests than many other nations, most independent health experts don’t believe that Mr. Modi’s government is hiding information.
What is clear is that many Indians feel thankful to him.Opinion polls indicate that much of India feels the same way. Morning Consult, an American firm that does online surveys in several countries, showed Mr. Modi outperforming other world leaders. His popularity is gauged at 80 percent, far above Mr. Trump, Mr. Putin, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain and several others.
Another poll, in the Times of India, a leading newspaper, showed that 93.5 percent of those surveyed felt Mr. Modi was handling the virus crisis effectively.