Tale of two high commands played out in consecutive weeks in Indian politics. The Bharatiya Janata Party high command suddenly replaced Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani with a rank outsider from the Patidar caste-community group, Bhupendra Patel. The Congress high command replaced its Chief Minister in Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh, amid much public spectacle and anticipation and replaced him with a rank outsider, Charanjit Singh Channi, a Dalit Sikh.
Expectedly, Delhi media was abuzz with excitement, rumours and speculations. You may recall Prashnam did a quick survey to check voter feedback in Gujarat to find that most Patidars were not as enthused about the choice of Bhupendra Patil by the BJP leadership as the new Gujarat CM.
Prashnam repeated this survey in Punjab. We contacted 1,240 voters across all districts in the state. The sample stratification of those surveyed is as follows: 44% Jat Sikhs, 22% Dalit Sikhs, 19% Dalit Hindus, 16% Non-Dalit Hindus.
Punjab’s underlying population caste mix is roughly 32% Dalits, 30% Jat Sikhs and 40% rest. So, our survey oversampled Jat Sikhs and under sampled Hindus. Our analysis uses standard scientific techniques to weight and correct these sampling biases.
We asked these 1,240 voters two questions.
Q1: The Congress party has appointed Charanjit Singh Channi as the new chief minister of Punjab. What is your view on this?
1: Yes, the decision to appoint Channi as the new CM was correct
2: Replacing Capt. Amarinder Singh as CM was correct, but Channi was not the right choice
3: Replacing Capt. Amarinder Singh was not correct
4: I do not have a view
Q2: Who should be the CM face of the Congress for the upcoming assembly election?
1: Navjot Singh Sidhu
2: Capt. Amarinder Singh
3: Charanjit Singh Channi
4: I do not have a view
Also read: Gujarat’s Patidar voters not excited by BJP CM Bhupendra Patel, survey finds
63% of Punjabis approve of the change in leadership
In a ringing endorsement for the Congress party’s decision, 63% of people surveyed approved of the decision to replace Capt. Amarinder Singh with Charanjit Singh Channi.
Expectedly, an overwhelming 73% of Dalit Sikhs and 65% of Dalit Hindus approve of the Congress party’s decision. Dalits form the largest segment of voters in Punjab.
Overall, 76% of all voters surveyed said it was the right decision to remove Capt Amarinder Singh as CM. This may come as a shock to Delhi media but not to regular readers of this column.
In our 13-state survey to gauge chief ministers’ approval ratings, Punjab and Uttarakhand CMs were found to be the most unpopular CMs in India. It must be remarked that the three most unpopular CMs in our earlier survey – Uttarakhand, Punjab and Gujarat – have all been replaced by their leadership in the past few weeks, perhaps a vindication of the validity of the survey.
Also read: Uddhav Thackeray, Shivraj Singh Chouhan most popular CMs in 13-state approval ratings
Sidhu is the most popular CM face for the Congress
On who should be the Congress party’s CM face in the next election, Navjot Singh Sidhu emerged as the most popular choice followed by the new CM, Charanjit Singh Channi. Capt. Amarinder Singh was a distant third among the three but still holds support among non-Dalit Hindus.
Dalits preferred Channi as the next CM face while Jat Sikhs preferred Sidhu. Dalits and Jat Sikhs form roughly 65% of Punjab’s voters and so the combination of the two seems to be an optimum mix for the Congress party. Interestingly, nearly 80% of voters surveyed said there should be a CM face for the election, which will likely be held in February-March 2022.
These findings can come as a big surprise to the Delhi media establishment that spun narratives about the unpopularity of the Congress party’s move and that it can potentially backfire. This survey clearly shows that it was a hugely popular move among the voters in Punjab and Round 1 of this battle seems to have been won decisively by the Congress party leadership.
It is natural that those whose views are contrary to these findings may question the credibility and motives of this survey. As always, Prashnam puts out the detailed survey methodology and raw data for anyone to verify, something no other survey agency in India has the gumption to do.
Prashnam, in keeping with its principles of transparency and integrity, makes available the entire raw data of this survey here for analysts and researchers to verify and analyse further.
Note: This column was written with help from Prashnam’s team members.
Rajesh Jain is founder, Prashnam, an AI technology start-up that aims to make opinion gathering more scientific, easy, fast, and affordable. He tweets @rajeshjain. Views are personal.
The article is part of ThePrint-Prashnam Vox Pop series.
(Edited by Prashant)