The best barometer for public opinion in any new city is the local taxi-driver. Opinionated, blunt and matter-of-fact, they have the ears on the ground more than most high-profile political analysts.
On the long trip from the airport to the Delhi suburb of Noida this week, the taxi driver was determined to make Narendra Modi win (“Hum to Modijiko hi jitayenge) in India’s general elections to be held in seven phases from 11-19 April.
Under Modi, the streets were cleaner, the roads better, he said, adding that he had 24-hour water supply and the quality of government schools had improved.
But didn’t Modi’s demonetising of high denomination notes create a crisis? Yes, but the hardships were justifiable because it was designed to flush out black money, he said. Even so, the driver felt Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Adami Party (AAP) would retain its rule in the Delhi region.
The summer heat is building up in India’s capital, and adding to it is the election fever. India still struggles with poverty, joblessness, farmer suicides, and intolerance, and Modi’s strategy appears to be to make Indians forget about these problems and reap patriotic mileage from the recent confrontation with Pakistan, and the test of an anti-satellite missile.
India watching from Nepal, Rameshwar Bohara
A political pilgrim, Om Astha Rai