January 25, 2019 / 3:47 PM / 3 months ago

Indian PM Modi's popularity at all-time low; rival Gandhi closing in: poll

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi poses after the ceremonial reception for South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa at the forecourt of India's Rashtrapati Bhavan Presidential Palace in New Delhi, India, January 25, 2019. REUTERS/Altaf Hussain

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ratings have dropped to their lowest-ever level, but he still leads in popularity before a national election expected in the next few months, an India Today poll showed on Friday.

Modi is facing discontent over lack of jobs for young people and a weak farm economy, and polls have forecast his ruling alliance will fall short of a majority in the election due by May.

The India Today poll, which was conducted from Dec. 20 to Jan. 8, showed his popularity rating at 46 percent. That’s down from 65 percent in January 2017, a little over a month after he announced a nationwide ban of 500- and 1,000-rupee notes.

Nearly 900 million people will be eligible to vote in the election and surveys to predict how they will vote have often gone wrong.

Rahul Gandhi, the main challenger to Modi and leader of the opposition Congress party, has seen his ratings rise from a low of 10 percent two years ago to his all-time high of 34 percent, 12 percentage points shy of Modi.

The poll interviewed 12,166 voters across 97 parliamentary constituencies out of the total 543 constituencies in India.

In an earlier poll by India Today, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led alliance was forecast to win 237 seats, down from 336. The Congress alliance was expected to take 166 seats, up from 59 won in the 2014 elections.

Modi’s popularity began to wane after his sudden move to ban large rupee notes, then imposed tax reforms that hurt small traders and led to several factories closing.

The aftershocks of the two moves were exacerbated by falling commodity prices, which affected the incomes of a largely agrarian society. [nL3N1ZO4YR]

Reporting by Promit Mukherjee, writing by Sanjeev Miglani, editing by Larry King

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