ZANE KRPAN WRITES — The Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, has been received extremely well since he won the 2014 election. His approval rating in August of 2020 was an astounding 78% and it has actually been higher in the past (Poll). In comparison to other world leaders, this is a shockingly high number. In the United States, President Donald Trump has just received a 44% (Poll) approval rating and in Russia President Vladimir Putin received an approval rating of 59% this last June (Poll). When comparing these numbers, though, it is important to dissect what the numbers allude to.
In the U.S. the approval rating of a President will most often follow the bipartisan split in the country, with numbers that do not vary far from the median mark. About half of those polled in the U.S. identify as Republican and the other half Democrat, which means a sharply divided country in which half the population is upset with the President.
So why is the approval of Modi so high?
The simple answer: Religion. Indian politics is deeply intertwined with religion.
The population of India is divided into two major religions: Hinduism and Islam. Hindus make up just 80% of India’s population and Islam, the second largest religion of the country, makes up only 14% percent. Lack of diversity like this has led to problems under the rule of Modi.
Since his election Modi has passed legislation that has empowered Hindus more than any other segment of the population, leading to frustrations among those of other religions. The Citizenship Amendment Act (Bill Explained) caused a large stir in India when it was signed into law on January 10th of this year, because of its discriminatory nature. In short, the bill allows Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Jain, Parsi, and Christian worshipers a quicker and easier road to citizenship than those of Islamic faith. In response to the new legislation, Islamic Indians took to the streets in opposition.
Still, the Citizenship Amendment Act remains in place. So today, Muslim Indians have moved the conversation away from their particular religion and are focusing instead on the rights of all Indian citizens (with the remaining question, why don’t Muslims enjoy the same rights as others?) With this more generalized appeal, will Muslim Indians draw enough attention to accomplish overturning the Citizenship Amendment Act? Given Modi’s approval rating, it will no doubt be a long haul.