Lakhs of Indians had a similar experience as Saiful – an email addressed personally to them, from none other than the Prime Minister of India. This feeling is captured aptly in the words of Sumeet Ambe : “ When you get such emails, feel's proud that I have done something good for my country members. PM Narendra Modi Our PM Narendra Modi Thank you.” .
So, what happened? On what topic did these citizens communicate with the government and receive a direct response from the Prime Minister himself? Let’s rewind to 8th November, 2016. This is the date when Prime Minister announced the government’s decision that from the midnight of the that day, old 500 and 1000 Rupee notes would cease to be legal tender. But what did the people of the country feel about this decision? Did they agree with the government or disagreed? Did they have suggestions and opinions to give whether they agreed or disagreed?
Every attempt was made to suggest that the Prime Minister’s decision was out of sync with the ground realities. The truth was far from that. After demonetization Parliamentary, Assembly and local polls were held across India. BJP secured decisive wins in MP, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat and Maharashtra including in areas where it was never historically strong. In West Bengal and Tripura it came 2nd with a whooping rise in vote share.
The combined opposition Bharat Bandh was a damp squib. Not only did leading opposition parties refuse to support the Bandh but also the Bandh was rejected comprehensively by the people of India.
It is thus not surprising that the survey on the Narendra Modi App gave the numbers it did. This survey was in spirit with his consistent belief in participative governance. He also invited ideas and suggestions from the people taking part in the survey.
Some important aspects pertaining to the survey are:
- The sample size of the survey is 10.20 lakhs. Such a large sample size on a policy or a political issue a first in India.
- Responses have been received from 684 districts of India (out of total 687). Each of the 36 states and Union Territories have been represented. In terms of width and scale, this is a staggering response.
- The survey was open for anyone to take. There was no entry barrier. You agreed with the demonetisation drive? All right, download the app and say so. You disagreed? You had the same option as well.
- Post the launch of the survey, the app dominated the top 10 trends of most searched app on both Android and iPhone stores. The spike in the downloads, which is publicly available data on the play stores, as also the actual responses received indicates that a large number of participants of the survey were those who downloaded the app after the survey was launched.
- The design of the survey was very attractive, technologically savvy and yet seeking responses on a serious policy issue. For example, on the primary question of the issues of banning old 500 and 1000 Rupee notes, the respondents could answer byspinning the wheel of a dial on a five point of scale from Very Good to Very Poor – thus giving them a complete scale of options to express their view.
The response to the survey, state wise, makes for compelling reading. The BJP does not have any historical presence in many of the states represented in the survey. Yet, the level of support for this move, as can be seen in the below graphics, is same or even higher than the national average.
Response of the citizens from each of the states and union territories, tabulated for the two most important and pertinent questions of the survey.
But this was not all. As each of the survey responses were read and analyzed, the comments and suggestions were bucketed under two broad categories: Suggestions and Issues. These were then forwarded the Union Ministry of Finance and NITI Ayog, who used them as an important input in framing their policy tweaks and responses and the communication outreach respectively.
Prime Minister Modi personally made it a point to read many of these suggestions. He was so humbled by the overwhelming response of the people, who not only congratulated him but also gave many constructive ideas, that he decided to personally respond to each of the participants of the survey. His instructions were explicit. He will not only respond to those vast majority who supported his move, but will also personally respond to those who voted against the move.
Writing to those who supported the drive, Prime Minister Modi said,
Your opinion and insight is a source of great strength. I thank you for the faith you have placed in me and the Government.
Writing to those who disagreed with him, Prime Minister said
I value the insightful feedback that you have shared. It inspires us to work even harder in fulfilling the dreams and aspirations of the people of India. The views and feedback that you have shared will help us strengthen aspects of the implementation of this very important step taken by the Government with regard to high value currency notes.
It is not every day that the Prime Minister of India personally writes to you. That too when you have disagreed with him. But that is what makes Prime Minister Narendra Modi different. He values each and every constructive opinion. Especially criticism. It is this consistent and transparent virtue that has made him so popular across all the sections and segments of society – those who vote for him on the internet and those who vote for him and his party in the ballot box.