New Delhi : BJP is yet to formally appoint Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate, but an overwhelming chunk of the country’s top business leaders is convinced he’s the best man for the job.
Almost three-fourths of 100 honchos polled in the ‘ET CEO Confidence Survey’ want Modi as PM. Rahul Gandhi is way behind — just 7% back him. India Inc’s leaders are sending two clear and separate messages — one on national leadership and another on politics. The first is this: After a long policy drought, CEOs are impatient for strong leadership, intent, decisions and action.
Modi, they seem to think, has more to show than Gandhi on all these counts. But India Inc’s big vote for Modi, this survey also suggests, is not necessarily an endorsement of his politics, but only a thumbs-up for his leadership. While 74% believe Modi will be a better PM than Gandhi.
Regardless of who wins, an overwhelming majority of business leaders said they wanted a stable government after the election, though neither the BJP or the Congress is expected to win a clear majority. The worry among investors is that a “third front” made up of regional parties with competing agendas may end up forming a fragile government that may not survive long.
Mr Gandhi represents the fourth generation of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that has led Congress, and India, for much of the time since independence from Britain in 1947. His late father, grandmother and great-grandfather were all prime ministers.
But after a decade in power, Congress is widely expected to struggle at the polls, as the economy is growing at its slowest rate in a decade, and the rupee’s plunge to record lows has evoked bad memories of an economic crisis in 1991.
“After a long policy drought, CEOs are impatient for strong leadership, intent, decisions and action. Modi they seem to think has more to show than Mr Gandhi on all these counts,” the Economic Times said in its comments on the results of the poll.
The survey was conducted by Nielsen between August 1 and the beginning of September and covered the chief executive officers of companies worth more than 5 billion Indian rupees across different industries.
Neither Mr Modi nor Mr Gandhi have been formally named as candidates and neither has publicly said they want the job, but the coming election has often been framed as a presidential-style race between the two men.
Indian business has in the past applauded Mr Modi as an investor-friendly chief minister who has led Gujarat to double-digit economic growth.
Business leaders surveyed in the poll, however, thought that the economy has bottomed out with 42 per cent forecasting a slight uptick in growth from the 4.4 per cent reported in the last quarter to over 5 per cent this year and the next. That is still far below the level policy makers say is needed to create jobs for the millions of youth joining the workforce.