Wednesday, December 30, 2009


The world over, obituaries are being written. The most common phrase in the cricketing world nowadays is 'ODIs are dead. Long live the T20s'. Sachin has proposed a master stroke (so named because it came from the master himself and for no particular affiliation to his suggestion).

In the midst of all this comes a humble suggestion from a cricket fan of 20 years (my age 23, take out 3 years, the time it took for me to learn what a television is). Bring us back the 1992 world cup! Agreed, I was just out of kinter garden and possibly am expected to know nothing about the World Cup. But, a little self defense before my credibility is questioned. Once, I faked illness to sit and watch the highlights of a match I had missed.

Well, now that my credibility issue is cleared, here are the reasons why I feel so passionately about that World Cup. It was the model World cup in all the senses. It had everything.

The jerseys. Coloured clothing for the first time and that was before the days when every square centimeter on a jersey was written off to a corporate giant. The design of the shirts could not have been any simpler. And the colours, the 9 participating teams had 9 distince colours. That wasn't an age when a slightly faded Sri Lankan blue shirt could be passed off for an Indian jersey and not all teams were crazy about getting green and yellow on their jerseys. A birds eye view would have revealed which two teams were playing and not some microscopic level research of jerseys to identify the different teams as is the case now. The customary start of the tournament pic featuring all the 9 teams is possibly the best of its kind.

The pitches. Australia and New Zealand were the hosts and one may not possibly need to elaborate more on the nature of the pitches. Long before sporting pictures became a hot phrase, this tournament was actually played on those. The variety of grounds in which matches were played is mindboggling. From the insanely huge MCG, in the times when boundaries were actually the advertising boards and not a 'sponsored' rope brought in 20 yards from the boundary to the lovely looking Wellington, the viewer was transported to a different world every single day. And yes, there were no standardised pitches, Perth was fast and Adelaide was the batting beauty it still is.

The crowds. Australia is possibly the most sport oriented country in the world and boy do they love their sports. And New Zealand proved that you actually don't need a billion people to fill up your cricket stadiums. It helped that there were so many day night matches, but my guess is even if every single match was played as a pure day game, the crowds would not have diminished a single bit. They were responsible for adding even more colour to the already colourful tournament.

The format. Nine teams. Each plays the other one one time each. The top four go through to the semi-finals. Simple, straight forward and so totally fair. The best teams who consistently won over the rest were the deserving semi finalists. No two ways about it. No unnecessary additions like a super eight, which as a concept still baffles me. The length of the tournament gave enough time for teams to come back from the dumps , as Pakistan clearly demonstrated, but not so long that the teams and the audience started to think that Wrold Cups had ceased to be a once in 4 year event but a 4 year event in itself.

The innovation. Much before Sanath Jayasuriya made a mockery of Prabhakar and hit Defraitas for a six which started from the Kotla and landed at the Red fort, an individual named Mark Greatbatch showed the world what one could achieve in the first few overs of a one day match. Slam wham bang was the only game this guy knew and not one person regrets it. And spinners opening the bowling? Whoever thought of that before. Dipak Patel and his captain Martin Crowe threw on the world possibly the biggest surprise of the past 2 decades and it worked seamlessly (pun may have been intended) as well.

The memories. Jonty Rhodes running Inzamam out. Javed Miandad jumping up and down to mock at Kiran More. Aamir Sohail kneeling down on the hallowed turf of the MCG offering his thanks to the Almighty at the end of it all.

The cricket. This was perhaps the biggest positive. Be it Jadeja diving full length to dismiss Steve Waugh Allan Border or Inzamam helping the cricket ball get acquainted with every single blade of grass, and a few spectators as well, with his blinding hitting through the end stages of the tournament or Wasim Akram showing the world what the whole deal about making the ball talk was, this tournament was perhaps the most complete entertainment package as far as the game was concerned.

The underdog story or maybe should we say underdogs. New Zealand and Pakistan weren't exactly expected to set the grounds ablaze. But thats what they did, and especially in their semi-final face off. Imran Khan taking pain killer after pain killer to lead Pakistan to their biggest cricketing moment ever. And what about South Africa? Just a year on from their international reappearance after a long break, they surprised and wooed us with their sensational cricket and they would have possibly completed the mother of all comebacks if not for....

The controversy. England v South Africa,22nd March 1992. Need I say more?

And yes, again. Need I say more?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The best I have watched

The other day, ( I seem to notice that is how a lot of my posts begin and therefore the unwillingness to change it) on my way to a cricket match (which shall feature later) I was narrating to the fellow travelers incidents from various matches that I have witnessed from a seat in the cricket stadium. It is then that I realized that if I made the list of the top moments that I have watched it would pretty much be a compilation of the top cricketing moments of the past decade from an Indian perspective. Here goes the list, not in any particular order.

India vs Pakistan, Chennai, 1999

This is one match no one on either side of the subcontinent's Line of Control would forget for the rest of their lives. For the 40000 odd who were present on that fateful final day, this was one of those matches which came closest to satiating all the human sensory needs. The final day began with India looking set to push on to an emotional victory with two of their best batsmen in at the start of the day. One of them would last not too long and the other would not last long enough. One got out to a peach of a delivery and the other would deliver possibly the greatest innings in a losing cause. And in the midst of all this to add to the drama was what in gully cricket terminology was a 'one pitch' catch to dismiss Saurav Ganguly. As India lost their top order barring Sachin within 100 runs, it seemed like it would be a much shorter stay at the stadium than most of us had anticipated. This was until Mongia showed exceptional grit and in his company Sachin began to blossom. This was not so much an innings of booming cover drives and sweeps over midwicket for six, but instead it was a lesson in geometry. So well did Sachin work the angles that it seemed like no field set up could contain him. He repeatedly swept Saqlain, then the biggest threat in a super star studded Pakistani bowling lineup, fine to collect two runs. As the match seemed to drift away from Pakistan, the crowd started to get into the act. As Salim Malik walked back to his position at deep midwicket, the loud cheers from the crowd got his attention and in his typical nonchalant style he conveyed back to the crowd that it would only be a matter of time before Pakistan would regain control. And surely enough within the next 20 minutes, Mongia took the ugliest swipe possible to hole out to Waqar off Wasim's bowling. If ever there was a cricketing definition of kamikaze, this was it, except of course the fact that this was an act of stupidity and not bravery. Sunil Joshi was the next man in and his straight six into the sightscreen produced a thumping noise which reverberated around the ground. This joy was however to be short lived and in its place descended a pall of gloom. Sachin got out holing out to Akram at deep cover attempting a swipe over midwicket off a Saqlain doosra. What followed after that was a procession by the Indian batsmen, from the pavilion onto the pitch and back. India would go on to lose by 12 runs and this defeat would forever rankle Sachin and the rest of the Indian public forever. What followed that though was unprecedented. As Wasim Akram and his men somehow got a brain wave to take a victory lap, what must have been apprehension about the reception they'll get turned into astonishment. As the Pakistanis made their way around the ground, the spectators stood up to give them a standing ovation, in a gesture which would go on to heal the wounds of the past in a manner which could seldom be achieved through diplomatic measures. The power of cricket and sport in general to act as a healer was made evident that day.

India vs Australia, 3rd Test, Chennai, 2001, 5th day

India had completed one of the greatest test victories just a few days back and here in Chennai they were on the verge of completing perhaps the greatest come from behind series victories. India began the day needing to skittle out the Aussies quickly and Steve Waugh was the one man who was capable of tying up the loose ends for Australia and India needed to get him out early. And they did and quickly Harbhajan wrapped the innings up and picked up 8 wickets in the innings. The atmosphere was terrific as the target was not that big a challenge and India had plenty of overs to achieve the same. Each one sitting in the stands knew they were going to witness something special. And special it was. After SS Das had got out early, local boy Ramesh and by now Indian super hero VVS Laxman set the stadium alight with some breathtaking strokes until a terrible mix up did Ramesh in. After a flurry of boundaries Sachin would also return to the pavilion and the usual death like silence ensued. As more wickets began to tumble the hearts began to flutter. Chennai 99 was back to haunt the crowd. But at the other end it seemed like Laxman could no wrong and while he was there a sense of calmness prevailed until Mark Waugh decided to take matters into his own hands. Literally. Laxman pulled an absolute half tracker from Miller with a power he was unknown for. If I had been a little older my eyes wouldn't have moved fast enough to catch what has been the best catch I have ever witnessed in a cricket stadium. The ball had well passed Mark Waugh when with a full stretch dive Waugh caught the ball. All with his usual grace well intact. All hope suddenly seemed lost. India had done it again. After snatching victory from the Aussies in the previous match, they now seemed determined to return the favor. A couple more wickets fell. Surely, it was going to be one of those romantic stories with a tragic end. Harbhajan Singh strode out to bat and one sensed the script writer had it written to perfection. With Dighe digging in, India crawled to very near the finish post. A Dighe drive through the slips had Warne running after the ball at a speed not seen from him since he was a teenager. Harbhajan drove McGrath powerfully and just as the crowd thought it was all over, the ball would go straight into the hands of the cover fielder. Again, a powerful drive. Again straight to the fielder. And then it happened. For a second or two my mind went blank. I could see nothing, feel nothing. It was the same for the more than 40000 who had assembled that day. And then the stadium erupted. India had WON! They had beaten the world champions. And this day was etched in my memories forever.

Saeed Anwar, 194, India vs Pakistan, Chennai 1997

This was my first match in a cricket stadium and what an initiation it would prove to be. A contest with lesser happenings might have possibly meant I would never return to the stadium. This was a battle. Nothing less. India and Pakistan facing each other on the 50th year of independence for both the nations in an tournament aptly named the Independence Cup. It also meant it was 50 years since some of the bloodiest scenes witnessed in the Indian subcontinent. India had won the war at the World Cup the previous year and this was their chance for revenge. And for some reason Saeed Anwar seemed to have taken it upon himself to exact that revenge. I think I may be pardoned if I say I don't remember much else about the match apart from his innings. Shahid Afridi was supposed to be the danger man. The man most likely to cause utter destruction. So when he was sent back early, India would have safely assumed that they were not going to face a huge target. Anwar, though, had other ideas. Though his entire innings was brutal in its impact and beautiful in its execution, one particular aspect stood out. Anwar's savage attack on India's best bowler. In a span of half a dozen deliveries, Anwar had lofted Anil Kumble to three sixes in the long on and midwicket region. As Anwar got closer and closer to the world record, the buzz in the crowd grew louder. And as he passed the world record, I am sure for some time he would have thought he was playing in Lahore or Karachi for such was the ovation he got. To be honest, it would not be an exaggeration to state that every single spectator felt a tinge of sadness when Ganguly took a stumbling catch at short square leg to dismiss Anwar, six short of the first ever ODI double century, a feat no one came close to beating till February 24th 2010. More importantly, that day, I learned how important it is to appreciate good cricket and a great innings.

Sehwag 81 off 68 balls, India v England , Chennai, 2008

Seldom does an innings lasting 68 balls so dramatically change the course of a test match. And to think that the change of course took only half the 68 deliveries in the real sense is what is even more fascinating. India had toiled long and hard in the field that day. Dismissing England was proving to be much more difficult than had been imagined. Strauss especially was playing out of his skin and his century in both the innings looked like pretty much sealing the match for England. Through a combination of some reverse swing and inspired bowling, India managed to skittle out the lower order and a declaration by Strauss left India with seemingly a little too much to do. Through a couple of days in the match I had the opportunity to sit with the Barmy Army and it was an experience by itself. To see such a bunch of dedicated cricket fans and to witness their singing and cheering for their cricketers was a reassuring sight for a cricket addict like me. Through most of the fourth day, the folks in the Barmy Army had been singing and dancing and throwing taunts at the Indian fans. Until Sehwag started his blitzkrieg. The home crowd found its voice and the Barmy Army lost theirs. Brutal cuts, upper cuts and a lot more never seen before , never after seen shots were unleashed by the man. It seemed only a matter of time before he got to his century. But alas, he fell victim to Swann late in the day. As he trudged off the pitch, one felt that while he had every right to be disappointed, we the crowd had nothing to complain about. Tendulkar and Yuvraj would lead India to a famous victory the next day, but for once even the commentators and the match referee got it spot on in handing the man of the match award to Sehwag.

More to follow in Part 2!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Run Sachin Run!

If my mind was a 800 TB memory dump with 400 TB of images, Sachin would possibly occupy 100 TB of that space.

Sharjah 1998 : Shane Warne is being taken to the cleaners by Sachin. Shane Warne decides to come around the wicket. Shane Warne barely lets go of the ball. Sachin is half way down the track. The ball lands up in the hands of one of the thousands of adoring fans in the stadium. The crowd goes mad. A nation falls madly in love. The love story continues unabated. No breakups. Little squabbles, yes. But fights, no.

Chennai 1999 : India chase 271 for what would be one of the greatest victories of all time. Top order collapses. Dravid gets possibly the best delivery he'd face in his career. Ganguly gets out to what is described in gully cricket parlance as 'one pitch catch' (or was it two). Nayan joins Sachin. Mind goes back to Nayan's counter punching innings at Sharjah which almost everyone else seem to have forgotten. Hope surfaces. Sachin cuts and sweeps and sweeps. The author of this piece gets ready to celebrate with the other 40000 at the stadium. Sachin goes for his first ungainly swipe, Akram pouches the catch. India lose.

Once in a while comes this player whom everyone wants to own. Someone who you feel so privileged to watch and you are so in love with that you would seldom want to get into arguments about that player for the fear of hearing anything negative about him. Our generation possibly got insanely lucky in that regard : Pete Sampras, Roger Federer, Tiger Woods, Micheal Jordan, Micheal Schumacher and our very own Sachin Tendulkar. Of the lot, Sachin is perhaps the least global and the most endearing of the lot. For 20 long years, he has enthralled a nation, gave them a reason to celebrate, an object to deify and he has done so without as much as a whiff of celebrity like behaviour. When I was a kid, somewhere I heard this silly rule that if an individual lives on the same rented space for more than 12 years, he has ownership rights to the space. If that be the case, Sachin possibly owns a billion minds and hearts by now.

In some senses Sachin is more than a genius, he is like a genie to all of us. You could almost hear him whis(h)per 'Make a wish now and I'll make your wish come true'. There have been failures, yes, but then, if the Himalayas were just a continuous stretch of land at an altitude of 8000 metres, it'll cease to be the colossal mountain range it is and became just a tall plateau. For long periods of time Sachin has produced the runs with his team in ruins. Harsha Bhogle calls him the 10 for 2 man. The innings at Cape Town in 1997 when in the matter of 2 sessions, Sachin along with Azhar made Donald & Co look like club bowlers remains fresh in the mind. That it took a blinder of a catch (Adam Bacher) to put an end to that innings is an indication of how impenetrable Sachin can be on his best days.

For possibly the greatest batsman of all time, some of the most enduring images come from his bowling feats. His dismissal of Moin Khan late on the third day at Multan to ensure that India finished that day firmly on top would do even Shane Warne proud. Perhaps his first big moment in India is his last over heroics in the Hero cup semifinal. Hidden in the many heroics of the Adelaide test (referred to as Dravid's test) is a 2 wicket burst by Sachin to ensure that a fighting stand between Waugh and Martyn was cut short. This is perhaps the story of the man. There may have been victories where he would not have contributed with the bat, but hidden somewhere in the subtext would be that critical wicket, a crucial catch, a contribution which would have turned the tide in India's favour.

Comparisons will be drawn with Lara and Ponting. About their ability to close out matches or their ability to demolish the opposition in a manner unlike Sachin. But those critiques are for later. This is moment to cherish what Sachin has given to the millions of cricket connoisseurs across the globe. Millions are not numbers easily associated with people, but then so not are 30,000 international runs.

P.S : (PJ warning) The inspiration for the title comes from a mix of two other title contenders : An Ode to Sachin and Odu Sachin Odu.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


(Four word : Very high PJ levels.)

Gotcha, if you thought this was about the secret liaisons of a famed commentator made much more famous here. Gotcha again, if you thought this was about the escapades of a not so famous and not made famous anywhere yet, gentleman whose web avatar exists here. Besides, he is the Shastry with the y. (Shastry, hoping a return favor for this plug).

This in fact is on a very sensitive topic which might start of a centuries long debate. This hopes to identify the reasons for a peculiarity prevalent amongst the followers or rather the priests of the two sects of Hinduism, Shaivism and Vaishnavism. Whilst there beliefs and practices are largely similar there is the small matter of appearance which has bothered me over the past few months. Why is it that the Iyengar(Vaishnavite) priests are so much more hefty and fatter than their Iyer(Shaivite) peers?

This , ladies and gentlemen , is a question which has resulted in much existential angst for me. Even Dasavatharam the movie presents a similar picture. Rangaraja Nambi is shown to be a strong priest who thrashes the meek Shaivites. Now, we all know how well researched Kamal's movies are and therefore I will take it that even at that age and time, the Iyengars were better built than Iyers, at least in the matter of priests.

I thought about it for a long time and then it struck me.

Reason number one (Raison d'etre) :

The butter. Poor Betty who bought bitter butter and then had to go in search of better butter. Had she been aware of Iyengar temples, her search would have ended right at one of those. With the ownership rights of Krishna and Hanuman, the two apparently greatest butter specialists in mythology, there is no shortage of butter at there temples. And to top it off, since Hanuman is supposed to be really huge and it is a custom to apply the butter on the whole idol, one can imagine the quantity of butter that goes into this process. And quite obviously, as every good human being knows, one should not waste any consumable item. Thus forced to act as good samaritans, my assumption is that the priests rather unwillingly partake the butter later, much to the chagrin of the many thousand devotees who possibly believe that it is the Lord himself who uses the butter up for his early morning toast.

Reason number two :

Money. Look at the Shaivite conundrum. They have to worship the God of Death and Destruction, while the Vaishnavites are to worship the God who is responsible for happy existence on earth. Now it is only natural that all Shaivites therefore are slightly apprehensive about praying excessively and appealing more than necessary through generous grants to the temples of the sect. The last thing they'd want is for Shiva to discover a major affinity for them and send his brother in arm , Yama riding on his buffalo , to their house. (As a slight distraction, one wonders if its time to change the buffalo to a bullet. Imagine Yama riding this bullet to force them to bite this bullet).

Reason number three : (Raison d'ethree)

Money. This one is because of an amazing myth which some mega-intelligent Vaishnavite had the brains to create. Lord Venkatesha who resides peacefully in his abode at Tirupathi, owes a hell a lot of cash to the money man of Indian mythology, Kuberan. Now as dutiful devotees, it is only too obvious that the best way to please the lord would be to help him repay the loan. Now, this is where the mega-intelligence grows to giga-intelligence. The man who started the story did not tell the world what the exact loan amount was. This meant that till the time Lord Venkatesha appears to the world and delivers a thank you speech for saving him from bankruptcy a la the US government and Goldman Sachs, the (poor) people will have to keep filling up his coffers.

Now with so much money, the most obvious thing to do would be to ensure that all the hungry devotees are well fed. In the honorable intention that no devotee's hunger should be left unsatiated, the amount of food cooked will far exceed the amount of food consumed by them. And again as good samaritans, the priests ... ( you know the story).

These people are my initial findings. I shall over the course of time try and dig deeper into this great mystery. Any additions from your side are welcome.

P.S In the extreme event that any individual reading this feels offended by my comments, I would like to state that the post was intended to be humorous and not offensive. For the rest of you who are offended by the lack of humor, I deeply and sincerely apologize. Ya right!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Gooooaaaaaaaaal ..

Two moments in the Barcelona v Man U final yesterday showed why Barca are.. Barca.

One: Three white shirts surround one tiny opponent. Opponent is brought to the floor. Three white shirts are delighted with their little piece of work. The tiny one takes 0.5 seconds to get up and start all over again.

Two : One giant 'defender' and another heavy defender from the Blaugrana sprint full speed into the box. Their opponents.

Much has been said about Messi V Ronaldo and Iniesta + Xavi and I shall not add volume to that. But that said I do have to wonder about how the commentary during the match was so outstandingly partisan. It is a pattern which is been there for a while. When a non English team beats an English one, do not praise the winner but start condoling the loser. If an English team wins, the opponents don't even matter. I think I saw Ronaldo's face a dozen times in the moments after the match, Messi's : once. I hate to admit this, but Ronaldo certainly played like a champion, at least till he recklessly pushed Puyol.

And a couple of other thoughts, is it just me or does anyone else also feel that Barca are being praised a little over the top. For all the fluidity and at times mesmerizing play, this definitely wasn't Barca at their best. This was more clinical than captivating.

P.S : I had made three sporting predictions this year : Liverpool winning BPL. liverpool came second. Royal Challengers winning the IPL (yes, I actually did). They came second. And finally Barca winning the CL. So, its 1 + 1/2 + 1/2 on 3. Not bad eh?

Monday, May 18, 2009


I promise not to do ANY election forecasts. Not for the next five years at least. No.

So, while the great Indian democratic exercise ends and the great Indian democratic circus is set to roll, here a few (no, not phew, that's just for the title) points to ponder.

1) While our neighbours are fighting battles to save their countries and there is a greater political instability in large parts of the world, we not only know who our next Prime Minister is , but also who the one after him is going to be.

2) Modi is no magician with a magic wand who only needs to appear in a place and ahoy! , everyone votes for the BJP. In fact, votes have disappeared right under his nose.

3) Kumari Mayawati and Ms. Jayalalitha , your planned flights to the capital are now ridiculed as flights of fantasy.

4) While on Ms. Jayalalitha, it is learnt that she has a bad taste in her mouth due to M&M s, DMK style. (Since I can't seem to find the link and the above may not be self explanatory, Ms J has claimed the DMK won, thanks to Money and Muscle power. Denials are hard to find though)

5) Continuing on the theme of tastes, Kerala has now become a Karela for the Left. (No puns about the bad tastes of the author will be encouraged)

6) And just for the heck of continiuing on the theme of vegetables. I wish we had the power to vote out television anchors. On top of the list, (if you are Tamizh and you watch CNN IBN and you are not a fan of the channel and I need to close this bracket) Sagharika 'Ghose". My (future) Bengali friends may now collectively exclaim ' Oh my Gosh! '

7) M Karunanidhi, has now managed to 'fast' track yet another of his family members into a prominent political post.

8) Mamata di has given the TC to the Left from Bengal. It looks like the Left has reached a dead end (the Bangalore kind maybe?).

9) A soon to be popular quiz of face book will be 'Which kind of a Gandhi are you?'. Here's a sample question:

1) You belong to ?

a) THE Gandhi Family

b) The GANDHI Family

c) The Gandhi FAMILY

d) The Gandhi Family

If you chose A , you are Rahul Gandhi

If you chose B , you are Tushhar Gandhi

If you chose C , you are Varun Gandhi

If you chose none of the above, indicating an inner fear of Capitals , you are Gopalkrishna Gandhi.

10) Because I have this inherent preference for double digits.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My money is on XXX : Part Four, the Finale

Well, this one's been like the proverbial Indian Railways train. Leaving in a hurry, sticking to the schedule till the small segment between the last but one stop and the destination, where there's a inexplicable delay. But then what matters is that the destination has been reached. Also, there was the little matter of SC banning exit polls and the need to avoid any legal hassles. ;)

The most defining reason however is that try as I might it was impossible to find the issues at hand in the remaining set of states. Quite ironically, the closer one gets to the Capital , the lesser seem to be the concrete issues in play. So , as D day gets ever closer, I present before you the final set of predictions.

Delhi :

A brief introduction : To use an American term, this is a swing state. Not so much because it contributes decisively towards the final standings, but more so because whoever comes out on trumps in this state has tended to take away the honors at the Centre. A quirk deserving of a historic city and capital.

Issues :

Sheila Dixit :

One of the , if not the only, Congress leader(s) who can rub shoulders with 10 Janpath. She managed to withstand anti-incumbency, not once but twice and it is her face that people will be voting for if they cast their votes for the Congress.

BJP honor at stake :

Having lost all but one seat to the Congress in the previous election, BJP will look to regain not just the seats but also their pride. Their task is not definitely easy, as evidenced by their staggering loss in the recently held assembly elections. However, national elections have a totally different flavor in this state.

Tytler + Sajjan Kumar :

Both of them were amongst the high profile Congress winners from Delhi and this time neither of them would be contesting. This might affect the Congress as Delhi has tended to vote by the candidate and not the party. It will be interesting to see if either of them created a strong enough vote bank to pass on to their successors.

My bet is on :

Expect the BJP to perform better than 2009. Predicting the winner for the whole state will be risky proposition. It will be 4-3. But who will be the one with the four is a hazardous guess at the moment, as is any prediction for the nation as a whole. It will be extremely interesting to see if the one who takes Delhi the state does indeed take Delhi , the capital.

Jammu & Kashmir :

A brief introduction :

A state perennially on the boil and in the news for terrorism, seperatist movements and occasional communal tensions. Though only boasting of six constituencies, the significance of Indian elections in these territories is beyond written words. Has the distinction of having elections in all the five phases, showcasing the difficulties and the importance of holding peaceful elections in this state.

Issues :

Amarnath land transfer row :

A issue which held the state captive for a long time has surprisingly remained out of public eye close to the election time. BJP will have felt that it would have done enough to get the Jammu constituency with its very high Hindu population under its belt, thus marking its debut in this state.

Sopore Killings :

This was an issue which dented the image of the Army in these parts and with the Chief Minister earlier promising complete justice in this case, it has the potential to become an emotive issue come polling day. However, if Omar does use this to his advantage, Congress which is likely to be the affected party will not to be too bothered.

My bet is on :

The National Conference will possibly take 3 seats, with the Congress and BJP taking 2 and 1 respectively, effectively making it 5 for the Congress from this state.

Punjab :

A very critical state for both the Congress and the BJP. For the BJP, this state has its most stable and one of its longest serving allies , the Akali Dal. It is for this reason that the NDA chose Ludhiana to showcase its strength.

Issues/Key individuals :

Manmohan SINGH :

Strangely, an individual who has been elected to the Rajya Sabha from Assam has become one of the focal points of the Congress campaign. The simple reason being that that person is a Sikh and the Prime Minister of India. By using him as their icon, Congress have looked to blunt the Sikh emotional monopoly claimed by the Akali Dal.

Amarinder Singh :

Another Sikh, another important leader but important in a totally different manner. While the Akalis and the BJP will look to exploit his corrupt image, Amarinder has been willing to take the back seat and do the planning for the party.

Sukhbir Singh Badal :

For the junior Badal, this election will be a test of his capabilities as he is likely more or less to lead the Akali efforts. If Akalis do perform well , it will be a successful show of strength from one of the many second generation family politicians.

Rahul Gandhi's laboratory :

Reports suggest that Rahul Gandhi has chosen Punjab as a testing ground for his policy of infusing more young blood into the political space, due to its high youth voter percentage. Though the candidates he has introduced are second generation politicians, it will be interesting to see if his strategy works.

My bet is on :

Expect the Congress to ride on a little bit of anti-incumbency, a little bit on the Manmohan factor and trump in 5-6 seats. Akali Dal might therefore lose a couple of seats and end up at 4-5 while the BJP would do well to retain the 3 seats they won last time. A 8-5 verdict for NDA vs UPA from Punjab.

Haryana :

A brief introduction :

A state which produced a swing, not as noticeable as Kerala or WB , but none the less crucial swing from the NDA to the Congress in the last general elections. From no seats in 2004 to 9 seats in 2009, this state provided a much needed boost to the Congress tally.

Issues :

NDA-INLD tie up :

INLD chose to contest the 2004 elections on its own , rather than in alliance with the BJP and paid the price by not winning even a single seat. By contesting together this time, INLD and NDA will ensure that the anti-government votes aren't split. The BSP will however try and play spoilsport.

My bet is on :

Expect a major boost to the fortunes of the NDA this time from this state.

NDA - 7-9 seats

Congress - 2-3 seats.

Himachal Pradesh + Uttarakhand:

A brief introduction :

Both of the states are those which rely heavily on tourism to set the cash registers ringing. Politically, neither have attained much national significance. While one is a fairly new state, the other has very few seats to make much of an impact.

Key issues :

BJP leaders :

The one commonality between these two states is that both the states are ruled by the BJP. Both the chief ministers are strong personalities and how much they will be able to avoid local anti-incumbency and highlight their achievements if any will decide how many seats the BJP can get.

My bet is on :

A fairly even split between the two leading parties over all.

BJP - 4-5

Congress - 4-5

Uttar Pradesh :

A brief introduction :

The home turf of the Gandhi family. Amethi and Rae Bareilly have seen the rise of more than one Gandhi.

The birth place of Ram, the cradle of BJP's rise to a big national player and home to its only Prime Minister.

The current stronghold of the "Dalit ki Beti".

A land of umpteen riches , if one were to believe Amar Singh and his "brothers" like Amitabh.

A state with a electoral history so rich that nothing that I can write will suffice.

And most importantly, THE key for any government formation with 80 seats.

Issues :

We'll take it party wise.


Mayawati seems to consider this as pretty much a cake walk given the amount of time she has spent campaigning outside the state. Pretty much the single most popular politician in the state , she holds an 'unswayable' hold on the Dalit, BC and OBC votes. Along with her strategist-in-chief SC Mishra, she hopes to create a Lower Caste-Brahmin combinatorial vote bank which will pretty much seal the deal for her in the state. Innumerable statues of the CM herself have been unveiled in the state. Will it create a positive feeling on the voters as they go out to vote or remind them of ugly things remains to be seen.

Samajwadi Party :

It should be Samajwadi Parties going by the bitter infighting between the tall party leader Azam Khan and the glib talking, deal making Amar Singh. Things have turned extremely ugly and how it will affect the party is to be seen. Of particular significance will be the impact on the Muslim vote back, which is the SP's back bone in the state. Mulayam does not seem to have done enough to get all the momentum he lost to BSP in the previous state assembly elections back.


From the high of 57 seats in 1998 to the abysmal low of 10 in 2004, BJP has seen it all in UP. The state unit seems to have lost all its strength and will be banking on high profile candidates to fetch whatever seats possible. Varun Gandhi's hate speech may just about win him Philibit, but it will cost the party in all other places. BSP, once an ally will think twice before extending a hand to the BJP for fear of isolating the Muslim vote bank. The loss of Vajpayee will hurt a lot. Not only is one sure shot seat gone , but also the energy of his campaigns and his speeches which won over the masses in state. Ram and Ayodhya no longer seem to entice the voting masses.

Congress :

What can one say about a party which can 'celebrate' its 25th year anniversary of any decent showing in a state which has been the election hone groud of its first family since independence. Totally disencchanted ground workers coupled with a total failure to grasp the changing social hierarchy in the state has ensured that the Congress barely reaches double figures in the general elections for the past half a dozen times. Repeated forays of its scion Rahul Gandhi, has failed to enthuse the voters and maybe even the workers. Will have to fight hard to retain any significance it has in the state.

Another issue which usually raises its head during election time in UP is corruption charges against Mayawati and Mulayam. However, with both NDA and UPA having to finally depend on the winner of this state to form the government at the centre, they are keeping quiet over these issues.

My bet is on :

BSP will ride on the wave which won it a massive majority in the state elections a couple of years back. SP will have to be lose quite a lot of states it won last time and face another few years with declined national role. Both BJP and Congress will have to work hard to retain even their existing numbers. BJP though might gain a couple of seats.

BSP - 43-47 seats

SP - 15-20 seats

BJP - 10-13 seats

Congress - 8-10 seats.

Well then, that completes my look at the key states, the issues that dominate election 2009 and my predictions for each of them.

Here then is the final picture :

A more clear and slightly more approximate party wise picture would be (click to view in more detail):

Now , if we are to consider the most natural allies (Congress-NCP) and the most natural non-allies(Congress-BJD/TDP), the basic post poll alliances would be like :

New NDA : NDA + BJD + TDP + TRS - 215-220 seats.

New UPA : UPA + NCP + Left + JD(S) + Praja Rajyam - TC - 225-230 seats.

The others :

BSP(45), SP(17), ADMK (16), MDMK + PMK (7), JMM(3).

So the scenario now will resemble something like this :

The easiest solution to this would be for BSP to join hands with the Congress. Once this happens and inch extremely close to / just cross the magical 272 number, we can expect the lesser parties like PMK,MDMK,JMM to gravitate towards this alliance and lend it further stability.

Will Sonia tie up with BSP and risk BSP further eroding its core vote banks?

What will be extremely interesting is if UPA fall about 5 short of majority. Will they risk dropping the DMK for ADMK or will they try to not fail the no- confidence motion and run a minority government in order to ensure the Chanakya of Indian politics, Karunanidhi, is on their side. How much longer can they expect Karunanidhi to be in active politics given his health? This is turning out a better thriller than last year's IPL finals.

Will the Left agree to Manmohan as PM in this case? Or will Congress use this opportunity and present to us a new PM in Rahul Gandhi? I would suppose the Left wouldn't mind Manmohan Singh as much as they currently have us believe.

Given the extremely tight numbers, another scenario is for BJP to ally with the BSP and ADMK , thus taking it past 272. Here again , the smaller parties will migrate towards this alliance. However, BJP has bitter alliance experiences with the BSP and this might stand in the way , but will not be a path blocker.

To me, the final scenario pretty much depends on whom the President invites to come forward and form the government. This time more than ever, the President's choice will be critical and in case the post poll alliances aren't formed in reasonable time , then the coalition which the President invites will somehow cobble up a patchy alliance. Who will this be favorable to? We'll know in a week's time.

Two final, wild predictions before I close what's been a draining effort but an enlightening one at that.

Mayawati as Deputy PM. Next general elections in early 2011 : A three horse race between Modi , Rahul Gandhi and Mayawati.

I leave you with this 'pinch' dialogue : Gone are the days when people used to cast their votes. Nowadays they only 'caste' them.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

My money is on XXX.. part III

A little anecdote. Today , a friend of mine , who would come under well educated bracket (considering me and him have the same degree, he has to) suggested that he gets scared when he sees a devout Muslim start praying on the train he's traveling in. This totally shocked me , for ,nowhere in his life could he have possibly experienced something which had developed such a fear psychosis. To think that such a cliche exists even amongst the not scarred, supposedly middle class junta was scary. And this is what I had to say : "I'd rather lose my life trusting my fellow travelers rather than lose my sleep fearing them" . Any party which chooses to use this line shall have to pay royalty rights. And a certain young political greenhorn might have to pay slightly more as he has to pay for something else(yes, if found guilty and all those legal terms).

So today we look eastward. With a state known for its heavy political activism and a few states which are very rarely in the limelight, this is possibly the most intriguing of the four zones and perhaps personally, the most difficult to explore.

Orissa :

A brief introduction :

Home to the legend Biju Patnaik , and currenlty under the rule of his son, this state with its richness in natural resources and a great history is an example on how these factors alone need not contribute to the general welfare of the citizens in the state.

Issues :


The not so openly stated but the primary reason why the BJP - BJD alliance broke. (Apart from Naveen's national political ambitions i.e). Communal violence has often flared up in this part of the state , drawing accusations that the right wing organizations arer using this as some sort of a testing ground. Expect a heavily polarized set up to favor the BJP, at least in these parts.

BJP-BJD alliance break down :

A master stroke from Naveen Patnaik, who believed that his rather clean image would be sullied by further association with BJP. Also ensures that when the counting is done, BJD will have more seats to offer at the bargaining table. Also, even though BJP must be feeling like the bride whose fiancee ran off on the marriage day, this will not stop it from hoping that BJD will come back to it, if they have a good shot at forming the government.

Anti-incumbency :

Considering that Naveen Patnaik is in his second term as Cm , one might think that there will be a heavy vote against the goverment , but with his clean image and with his father's legacy still very much intact, Naveen Patnaik would be confident of a good show again.

My bet is on :

Expect a powerful performance from BJD , who are likley to emerge with an improved tally. Also , some of BJP's seats may now be gained by the Congress.

BJD- 14 seats

Congress - 4 seats

BJP = 3 seats

West Bengal

A brief introduction :

A communist bastion. Every elections, analysts predict a backlash from the public on the government and massive gains for the opposition. But somehow, it never materialzes and the Left manages to keep its fortress secure. A state with many complex issues this time around.

Singur, Nandigram and the like :

Sometimes even when a giant falls, its big enough to dwarf the little opponent. This could well be the case with relation to these issues. Though, the Left will face a backlash in these areas, the effect might not be widespread and the Left might not be affected adversely. Singur is a case where the public are as disenchanted with Trinamool as with the Left. So it might well be the case of known devil against the unknown one.

TC-Congress alliance :

Unlike last time, when there was no clear cut alliance between these two Left opponents, this time they seem to be in a mood to fight together. This will definitely give a boost to their respective tallies. How much of a boost, will be answered just a bit later.

Gorkhaland :

An issue whose handling by Buddhadeb left a lot to be desired at that point of time, will it might come back to haunt him this time? This issue again will not have a pan Bengal effect but in its localized nature, it might still hurt the left's tally.

My bet is on :

While the TC and Congress might better their performance from the previous time, Bengal might still be more comfortable riding on the Left side.

Left Front : 29-31 seats

TC : 4-5 seats

Congress : 8- 10 seats

Bihar + Jharkand :

JP Narayan would be tossing in his grave at the state of affairs in his home state. A propenent of social equality and in the eys of many, the leader of India's second freedom struggle, he will find most pitiable the state of affairs in Bihar which has turned into a caste politics laboratory , with very little development over the past few decades, due to reasons well known.

Key issues :

UPA break up:

Congress got extremely hurt at not even being considered a party worthy enought o be part of seat sharing talks and hastily pulled out of tyhe alliance announcing its plan to contest almost all the seats on its own. While the intent maybe right, in the sense that they wouldn't want to be totally sidelined in such a big state, but then the fact is that they have absolutely no ground support to be able to go it alone.

The SP-RJD+LJP troika :

Lalu's attempt to ensure that no major caste goes unrepresented in his alliance and also an strengthen his Muslim vote bank , through the Samajwadi Party. While the spin off may not be as positive as hoped for, it has done enough to convince the Congress that Lalu mighty be more demanding this time around , should the Congress be in desperate need to shore up their tally in Parliament.

Naxalism (Jharkhand):

Despirte the popularity of the Salwaa Judum movement, naxalism is still pretty widespread in this more prosperous sister state of Bihar. There have already been death threats and boycott calls issued by the naxals and how much this will affect the voter turn out would be a thing to watch. A lower turn out is likely to favor the JMM - Congress combine.

Key Players :

Nitish Kumar : He's been seen as some kind of a messiah in Bihar with his focus on development being in sharp contrast to what the people have been used to for quite a while. Swept to power quite convincingly in the assemble elections and will be hoping to carry forward the momentum into the Lok Sabha polls. He's been quite uneasy with the right wing image of the BJP, but is likely to stick on because moving away would been splitting of the anti RJD votes.

Lalu Prasad Yadav: The man who has quietly carried out the transformation of Railways into a massive profit making organization, (the means of doing so has been a reflection of his street smart thinking) and a star guest speaker at leading management institutes across the globe , he has a tough job at hand , considering that the ground situation has changed a lot since the last LS polls. Will do everything possible to ensure he stays an important player at the national level. His constant assurance that he's still part of the UPA might not be seen well at the Congress HQ but is a move aimed at comforting the voters that he's not an opportunist or a traitor.

My bet is on:

Bihar :

21 seats is too much for RJD to replicate and this could be one state where there will be massive gains for the NDA (not necessarily the BJP). Expect a wave of populism for the JD (U) , despite the recent expulsion of party stalwart George Fernandes. BJP could gain from the rubbing off of this goodwill on them.

JD(U) - 21-23 seats
BJP - 6-8 seats
RJD - 6-8 seats
LJP - 2-3 seats
Congress - 2-3 seats

Jharkhand :

With President's rule in place, a less vocal Shibhu Soren and BJP - JD (U) rifts emerging, this is possible becoming an increasingly complex state to predict. Still, a shift towards the BJP is the most likely outcome and Congress could lose quite a percentage of seats from this state.

BJP - 6-7 seats
Jharkhand Mukthi Morcha - 3-4 seats
Congress - 2-3 seats
RJD - 2-3 seats

Assam + the North eastern states

A brief Introduction :

A region which is very rarely in the media spotlight, one of the more visually enchanting regions of India and contributes a disproportionate number of seats with respect to its size. Assam, could provide gains for the BJP.

Key issues :

Illegal Migration :

Migration from Bangladesh is one of the more emotional issues in this election with action being promised to stop this. However, one more accusation is that parties have generally tended to ignore this issue and used these people as vote banks instead.

Ultras :

Assam has been the site of heavy militancy for a long time now, and though the seriousness of the issue is possibly on par with that in J&K , not as much attention . media and otherwise, seems to be given to the issue. BJP would possibly be looking to leverage its strong anti-terror image to bag a few extra seats.

Rise of the BJP :

BJP has steadily risen in its popularity and the fact that it wil be playing the major partner in its alliance with the local party Asom Gona Parishad(AGP), though as part of a deal to concede the major party to AGP in the assembly elections, shows that it has become a serious contender in this region.

President's rule in Meghalaya :

The dismissal of the NCP led Meghalaya Progressive Alliance , could impact the Congress' image in the upcoming elections. Though the opposition will be its national partner , NCP, Congress would still be hurting should it lose it popularity and its seat here.

My bet is on :

Expect the BJP-AGP alliance to sweep Assam and the BJP to try and coinsolidate its position by adding a seat or two in the other states of the region. Congress will have to look somewhere else for making up its lost seats in this region.

Assam :

BJP - 6-8 seats

AGP - 3-5 seats

Congress - 2-3 seats

The others :

Congress - 2-3 seats

CPI (M) - 1-2 seats

BJP - 1-2 seats

Others (includes NCP) - 5-6 seats

The story so far :

It looks to developing into a three horse race, with the third front having done extremely well this time around. Point to note : if the BJD had been on NDA's side, they could well have shot into the lead. Advaniji, are you reading this?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

My money is on XXX.. Part 2 ..

Just a small thought before heading into the analysis and predictions. Why do almost all Indian parties have three word names : BJP,RJD,CPM,PDP,NCP,DMK and the list goes on. And even if by chance they have one short, they add one : JD (S) , JD (U). Strange.

Maharashtra ( + Goa):

A brief introduction :

Always a close fought state. Last time was a classic example, with the four leading parties almost perfectly splitting the 48 seats available. With the Shiv Sena having undergone a split since last time and with an aging leader, question marks are being raised about how battle ready the party is. Also home to the perennial PM hope, Sharad Pawar. Things are looking extremely interesting this time around.

Issues :

Terror attacks:

November 26th will carry a lot more significance in these elections than on the state polls held a few months back. Congress , which had secured a bounty in the Mumbai region last time will now have a tough time defending them .With the public sentiment also nt quite in favor of Sena in Mumbai, BJP might just get a minor bonus in this region.

Shiv Sena - NCP alliance :

This will be a sort of a political coup unlike any before, two powerful parties ,who haven't previously seen eye to eye, getting together. Oh sorry, we have seen that before, but well, that's what best describes this alliance. If it happens NCP will lose and Shiv Sena will gain .


Communal tensions caused by the blasts are unlikely to subside. Considering that BJP has the sitting MP here, it will make for an interesting watch to see if they play the Hindutva card.

Farmer suicides:

For a long time the name Vidarbha , unfortunately, became synonymous with farmer suicides. Despite the big relief program for the farmers, its trickle down effect is yet to be felt. Will Congress/NCP dare raise the issue of having provided for relief at the risk of antagonizing the people of the region by daring to take even the slightest credit out of the whole issue. Interestingly, it is the BJP which holds quite a few seats in this area.

Key players:

Sharad Pawar, as mentioned earlier, will be licking his lips at the thought of a hung Parliament. He will play the key factors of experience, non-communalist past and his easy manner with the other top honchos to try and get the top post he so desperately craves for.

(No) Pramod Mahajan was BJP's go to man for almost everything, especially Maharashtra. He was the one man who could talk business with the Sena and do it hard. His top notch organizational and fund raising skills will be sorely missed by the party at an all India level.

Casino Scandal (Goa):

One of those variations of corruption issues which rock the country during the election time, this one involves allegations by the opposition (BJP) against the ruling coalition (Cong + NCP) over irregularities in allotting licenses for casinos in the state. Is getting rather high decibel levels of late.

My bet is on :

Expect the NCP to gain over last time and Congress to lose some, in effect not affecting the NCP + Congress total from last time. BJP will be desperate to make some gains , but the lack of a strong leadership in the state will continue to haunt them. The old tiger would want to ensure that his cubs will has some prey to feed on when he's done with the hunting in a short while and this could just about spur the Sena to do reasonable well.


Congress - 7-8 seats

NCP - 13-14 seats

BJP - 11-12 seats

Shiv Sena - 13-14 seats


NCP - 1

BJP - 1


A brief introduction :

Mahatma's home state, a former Congress safe state, now firmly in the BJP's hands. On our list so far, the first state which will see a direct BJP v Congress fight. Has seen a lot of strong regional leaders since the 90s from SS Vaghela to Keshubhai Patel but none of them can claim to have had the kind of hold on the state that Narendra Modi has.

Issues :

Development :

One of the very few states where development will actually be an issue. Modi will put in his report card for the last 7 years in front of the public and ask them to judge. Recent comments by top business leaders about Modi's administrative skills will have given him a mass image boost. Combined with his no- nonsense corruption free image, it makes Modi the man to beat this election.


More than 7 years on, the flame just refuses to die down. The opposition are ever willing to rake up this issue and election time means even more incentive to do so. The recent issue over declaring those missing officially dead has managed to bring the issue back into focus, just in time for the opposition.

Surat and Diamond industry :

This promises to be a substantial issue this election, with the opposition claiming that the worsening situation here and the increasing number of suicides are more representative of the actual situation in these parts.

My bet is on :

BJP should do strongly yet again, for , barring the Surat issue the rest of the state doesn't seem to have any issues with the present government , at least as far as those who vote are concerned. Gains for the BJP and losses for the Congress .

BJP - 17-19 seats

Congress - 7-8 seats

Rajasthan :

A brief introduction :

Land of the Rajputs, a key state for the fortunes of both the national parties as this is again a straight one on one between them. Has witnessed turbulent times due to caste issues in the recent past and is amongst the most caste dominated as far as choices in the candidate lists are concerned.

Issues :


Believe it or not, this is snowballing into a major issue in Jaipur, with the Congress government accusing Modi of taking the matches away from Jaipur as revenge for his loss in the Rajasthan Cricket Association elections. Of course, his perceived closeness to former CM Vasundara Raje will be exploited by the Congress in this issue.

Corruption :

The present government has been keen to try and tie up the previous Government to as many corruption charges as possible. With the present government barely a few months old, it will not be subject to much scrutiny on this count and this will have a tremendous negative impact on the BJP.

Lack of BJP leaders:

While Vasundara Raje was in power all seemed well in the BJP camp and they would have thought that they had set up a strong base in the state through her. However, since the end of her reign, BJP seems to be affected by lack of clear leadership in the state unit, while the Congress which usually suffers from this phenomenon has its house in order , thanks mainly to the fact that they are in power.

My bet is on:

Expect a complete reversal of fortune from last time, when BJP grabbed more than 80% of the seats. Congress will look to maximize their gains from here to compensate for other losses.

Congress - 20-22 seats

BJP- 3-4 seats

Madhya Pradesh + Chattisgarh :

The third straight BJP v Congress face to face on our list, this one seems to present a slightly better picture for the BJP than Rajasthan. Last time saw BJP do remarkably well reducing Congress to just six seats and helping itself to a massive 34. A good performance here will give the BJP's tally a much needed boost.

Issues :

SS Chauhan & Raman Singh

This will boil down to an almost Gujarat like situation where it will be the BJP's CMs versus the Congress party. Here again BJP will rely on a development agenda and Mr Clean image of its CMs. With Chauhan, and to a lesser extent Raman Singh, having ridden a massive wave of support to form the government just a few months back, BJP will look to keep the momentum going and win as many as possible.

Lack of leaders from Congress :

A state which was once home to Madhavrao Scindia , a Congress icon, MP has failed to produce any other leaders of his stature and this has cost it heavily in the recent past. Scindia's heir, Jyothiraditya's appeal is limited to regions around Gwalior. Kamal Nath , Commerce Minister, is not exactly a leader who will draw in the masses and the votes.

Return of the prodigal daughter :

Uma Bharti has indicated that she'll be supporting Advani for PM and the likelihood of her campaigning for BJP will be a mixed bag for the party, as there are chances
of power squabbles in the state if she returns to the fold.

One rupee / kg rice (Chattisgarh):

Raman Singh has through his two terms as the CM tried to project a pro poor image and his populist schemes for rice, wheat and other essential commodities are proving to be a huge hit and are likely to favor the party in these elections.

My bet is on :

BJP can look to extend their good show in the assembly elections , and though a 25-4 verdict may be too much to expect, MP will possibly one of the few states where the BJP will have a big percentage of seats from .

Madhya Pradesh :

BJP - 20-23 seats

Congress - 7-8 seats

Chattisgarh :

BJP - 8-9 seats

Congress- 3-4 seats

Though numerically BJP seems to have done well in round 2, compared to last time, it is likely to see a reduction in its numbers primarily due to its free fall in Rajasthan.

Congress , on the other hand looks like holding on to its tally in most of the states and gaining heavily in Rajasthan.

Just to sum up things so far :

So at the halfway stage, it looks like the Congress has managed to get more parts of its face forward.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

My money is on XXX..

where XXX = UPA/NDA/TTF (the third front). Any other naughty thoughts need to be banished right now.

Anyways, this is an attempt at doing something I have not done before, at least in written form : predict the outcome of an event , a mega event at that one. The risk of possible humiliation if I get things horribly wrong is overridden by the possible fame and fortune of getting it even 90% right. (Ya right!) With a month to go for the first phase, I have chosen to do a four part piece on the results of the upcoming general elections. Each part will focus on one among the four geographical divisions of India(NEWS). I shall start in the more comfortable home ground of the south.

With a total of 129 seats, this zone has a very big say in how the Parliament shapes up. However this zone has not been the home to too many Prime Ministers , primarily due to the strength of the regional parties.

Tamil Nadu

A brief introduction:

Shifted from being a Congress bastion in the early days after Independence to being a bipolar battle field between DMK(Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam) and ADMK(Anna DMK). Anti - incumbency at its second most violent. The UPA won all 39 seats on offer last time.

Key issues:
LTTE. Neither front though has done anything to claim an absolute advantage on this issue.

Lawyers v Police : Not as big an issue, but kind of underlines a law and order problem which the opposition can be expected to take advantage as elections come closer.

Unclear alliances : Though just over a month is left, no one is clear about who is on whose side. It looks increasingly like ADMK may be able to take away a couple of parties from the DMK's front.

Dark horse: No longer. DMDK (Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam) , actor turned politician Vijayakanth's political party has not done enough top stay in the public conscience or make any significant dents into the vote share of the other regional parties. An alliance with one of them is the best bet.

My bet is on: Expect a dead heat between DMK and ADMK, because the anti incumbency has not set in as much as the opposition would have wanted. But then ADMK will improve quite a lot from its tally of last time. (Not such a tough proposition considering they got zero, but still.)

DMK + Congress = 15-18 seats.

ADMK = 15-18 seats

PMK + MDMK + Left = 5-8 seats.

Andhra Pradesh :

A brief introduction:

Tough to standardise. The main areas are Coastal AP , Rayalseema, Telengana
and Hyderabad.Each one has a different issue. Yet another early Congress bastion, completely hijacked by NTR and has his son in law, Chandrababu Naidu trying to use his legacy to gain votes from the still loyal NTR fans.

Issues :

Telengana: A very highly volatile issue with promises flying thick and fast for the creation of the state. Basically has a pro telengana alliance building up between TDP and TRS. BJP has also thrown its hat into the ring promising a new state as soon as they come into power.

Satyam saga: Limited to the urban areas, expect allegations and counter allegations , till the election gets over at least. Is likely to be linked up with the issue of corruption.

Key players: YS Rajasekhar Reddy and Chandrababu Naidu. YSR is referred to ,at times ,as the Modi of AP for his authoritarian stands on many issues and this has resulted in erosion of support from AP congress leaders. Likely to ride the storm though. Naidu and TDP have been considerably weakened by desertions by some top leaders and there is widespread discontent in the party.

Dark horse: Unlike his Tamil Nadu counterpart, expect Mega star Chiranjeevi to have some influence on these elections. A fresh political force with massive grass roots support , an alternative to two parties the people are tired with, Praja Rajyam can expect to rock the boat a little.

My bet is on :

Congress can not hope to repeat their pretty big haul in 2004. But don't expect them to lose very heavily, thanks to fractures in the opposition. Yet another state from which BJP will have absolutely nothing to show.

Congress : 15-18 seats.

TDP : 13-16 seats .

TRS : 5-6 seats

Praja Rajyam : 3-4 seats


A brief introduction:

Has seen a lot of power shifts in the recent past. From Congress to JD(S) to the BJP every one will be hoping to get a share of the pie, in this state which is BJP's only contributor from the south. A state which has taken a communal tinge of late.


Development :

While Yedyurappa has barely been in power for a few months, he has already established himself as a string leader. Has announced lot of plans for the state and is likely to go in with the development agenda.

Return of the Dreamer:

Considering the time spent by Deve Gowda sleeping on the stage, he must have dreamt a lot about returning as the PM some day. He has managed to get together some kind of an alliance to project his re-emergence as a national player. Do not expect the man to walk silently into the sun set.

Caste equations and communal issues:

There has been an upsurge in the caste talk in the political circles in Karnataka, and attempts being made by the opposition to get a sizable vote share even among the CM's Lingayat caste. With the recent events involving Sri Ram Sene and also previous allegations of anti minority behavior on the BJP in the Mangalore region, communal issues could play a part in these elections.

My bet is on:

Considering that only recently the people had given a big thumbs up for the BJP, one can expect a favorable public mood towards the BJP. However with a large number of seats from Karnataka,already in the pocket, the gains will be minimal if any. With the possible resurgence of the Gowdas, BJP will have to fight pretty hard if they want to increase their tally to 20.

BJP : 15-16 seats

JD (S) : 6-7 seats

Congress : 5-6 seats


A brief introduction:

Anti incumbency at its most violent. Known for extreme swings against the ruling party. The Congress especially have a not so fond memory of the mauling they got last time. Could prove decisive this time to both Congress' and the Left's hopes.


Infighting in the CPI(M) :

Achuthanandan versus Pinarayi Vijayan has snowballed into a major controversy and with the top brass rooting for Vijayan, the CM is being seen as extremely distanced from his party.

Economic slowdown:

With a lot of Indian expatriates having been forced to return from the Gulf, the state is in a mini economic crisis, having not only lost a chunk of its income but also being forced to find employment for those returning.


An extension of the Achuthanandan- Vijayan fight, this government faces a crisis in public confidence. Those who believed in the rather strict communist discipline and looked at the CPI(M) as the less corrupt of the parties are now forced to do a rethink.

My bet is on:

An almost clean sweep by the Congress and therefore a considerable weakening of the Left Front's national clout.

Congress : 16-18 seats

Left Front : 3-4 seats

That concludes the first round of the big fight, and at the moment it looks like the Congress has its nose firmly ahead.

P.S : The above are personal observations and remarks, open to correction in case of factual errors and for debate in case of diverse opinions.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Stray Wonderings : Part III

Wonder what Mrs. Singh had to say about this one. Seems like the stomach is not the only way to get to the man's heart.

While most human's can not possibly overcome the loss of one partner, here's someone who's gone through four times the anguish and still come out on top.

Subsidises what? Subsidises! What!?

This is what i'd term a 'classic' reference.

If only our economy was as resplendent as this home page of a leading daily wants us to believe.

Text only:

If I had the power to make one single law I'd use it to ban the reckless concatenation of "sation/zation (pronounced : say/zay shun)" to every imaginable word. Hearing Prannoy Roy saying "extremetisation" was the final straw. We have had enough of it I say, from globalization to talibanisation and TN Seshan to alsatian.

Our honorable home minister P Chidambaram to the even more honorable Barkha Dutt yesterday following the Lahore attacks , answering a query on Pakistan paying the price for covertly abetting terrorism : "we all know what happens when we ride the tiger". Yes Mr Home Minister, we most certainly know what happens when we ride THE tiger.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Ten questions for AR Rahman

1) There is a story going around that you were thrown out of your school. If that is true, how could you keep your mouth shut through this ? (Kindly read YGP's comments)

2) Why o Why did you have to begin your oscar acceptance speech with that 'joke' which left the audience shell shocked ? (Instead you could have said "thank you for providing me the 'Keys' which will open the door to hollywood." Atleast I would have laughed at it.)

3) How could you let Silambarasan touch those little goldies and rob them of whatever little significance they have?

4) Why so much respect for an award which has as a nominee for best film, Rab Ne.. "I have won an Oscar but Filmfare is Asia’s biggest award function so I am here." , when you could have so easily said , "Boss, listen, such functions are an absolute mockery of film awards". (But then you could have so easily said the same at the Oscars, and didn't.)

5)Why did you not slap a defamation law suit against those bleddy Americans who called you a Rack Man and changed your name from A R Rahman to A J Rahman? ( Though by letting one's imagination run a little, A J can be expanded as Allah Jesus, thereby promoting the message of peace that you hold so dear)

6) What is your fascination with using so many layers in your music? (Almost like saying : Layers, No song can have just one.)

7) For an individual who's otherwise so modest, why so much love for your music that you often let it drown the lyrics in a song? (Have listened to New york nagaram some 30 times and am yet to figure out the lyrics)

8) When was the last time you gave us a memorable Tamizh album? (as a small side question, when will you next?)

9) What , according to you, makes you the great genius you are? (A R Rahman fans appeasement question)

10) Do you have any questions for us?

Monday, February 16, 2009

On the issue of Adaptation.

A reliable source of debate is Indian cinema (of which Bollywood is often taken as a token representative, by mistake) versus Western cinema (Hollywood taking the role of Bollywood). This short piece takes a look at just one of the aspects which differentiates the two whilst not attempting to argue for which is better off. Adaptations.

If one takes a look back at the classics of Western cinema, one common thread running through them is that they are adapted from a book, which may or may not have succeeded on its own. And in the case that the author of the book is alive and kicking, then he/ she would most often that not be a part of the movie scripting team. This ensures that the basic premise of the book is not compromised and helps in capturing its spirit. The success of any movie depends on the strength of the script and also owes a large part to the conviction which the director and the cast have in the movie. This is where a movie adapted from a book scores , because the technical team of the movie and its cast have a solid idea of what their final outcome should resemble. And they take up such a project only if they believe in it.

Coming to Indian cinema, while such a system exists and has produced many a masterpiece, it is still not widely prevalent. It has been used most frequently by the established greats of Indian cinema , from Satyajit Ray to Adoor Goplakrishnan. One director who's an exception to this rule is Maniratnam. Though Thalapathi was a modern adaptation of a timeless classic, most of his other movies have seen him write his own script. This is possible though only due to his diligent research which again is dependent on books as the source.

A possible explanation is the strong oral tradition when it comes to passing on of stories. While India is very rich in its literature of the earlier civilizations, it is very common that even those stories are passed on from generation to generation through oral recitals. Another feature is the embellishment of the stories in songs, Villu paathu and Hari katha being two examples of its use in varied settings and cultures. This was evident in early Indian cinema where most of the movies were what Westerners would classify as musicals. A corruption of these ideals has what has led to the songs and item numbers which are used as stop gap and for entertainment rather than as a means to move the movie forward.

Having digressed a little, to bring back into focus the issue of adaptations, there are attempts being made in the Indian film industry of late to try and adapt novels into movies. However, the criterion seems to be more about the popularity of the novel rather than its adaptability. This curtails the creative freedom of the director because the popularity of the book would mean that the director has to try and stick to it almost verbatim. One wishes that in the future directors look at reworking popular and not so popular literature onto the celluloid. A happy marriage between the written word and moving images is critical for the success of both.

Friday, February 13, 2009

TN 03 FEB 2009

Well Well Well! That's one well each for the three Tamil Nadu players picked for the NZ tour's test squad.

I do understand that the world is not what it used to be and that people have lost their money and minds , but this is incredulous. Hail stones in Chennai last year would possibly the closest on the bizarreness meter. Mr N Srinivasan and Mr Krishnamachari Srikkanth, with their piousness firmly stamped on their foreheads, have gone on to tread a path no man has dared to and ,with great respect for the future generations , never will.

8 players from Bombay was the norm a few decades back and 6 from Karnataka was a given in the 90s. Then came the bad boy of Indian cricket. Dada would take none of this regional bias nonsense. He insisted that he needed 11 players who best represented the country, not 3 players who best represented each selector in the panel. I might have my own favorites and prejudices,, he decreed, but you shall not have any. To his credit, he delivered. Period.

But then one constant through all the 76 years of Indian cricket was the shabby treatment meted out to players from a few particular states. It was as though at the first selection meeting there was an 'un'lucky draw and the names of these states were drawn. To name a few of these states: West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Having spent a considerable part of my ,still, early life in Chennai , I would take up Tamil Nadu to illustrate my point, and in order to not strain my memory too much I shall quote three names S Sharath, Diwakar Vasu and Reuben Paul of the top of my head.All these three may consider themselves pretty unlucky and the first one might be thinking he played in the wrong side of 2000 A.D.

While it is often stated that Sharath was plain unlucky to belong to an era coincinded with that of the Fab Four, it is a point worth wondering that another team mate of his, barely as talented as him got a break (that he failed to latch on it in the true spirit of most Tamil Nadu cricketers is another issue). It certainly would not have been asking for too much to name him at least as a back up batsman, but then he was repeatedly overlooked for players of lesser calibre. To his credit, he continued to pile up the runs and to the collective heartburn of cricket fans in the state he would repeatedly be overlooked.

At a time when decent fast bowlers were at a premium and left armers were an absolute rarity , unlike now, Diwakar Vasu presented a good option. That he would sometimes bowl left arm spin should have added to his chances. But then while many from across the nation were given a trial , he was not even in the fray. Add his reasonable batting skills into the mix and it becomes even more appalling why he never was given a break.

What Dhoni was to the Indian team when he made his debut, Reuben Paul was to Tamil Nadu during his career. An extremely aggressive batsman, he would set an innings ablaze with his six hitting skills and was a very reliable keeper. Considering that there was a stage when Indian keepers did anything but keep their places , he must have been a contender at some stage. But then the selection policy was so strange that while a good keeper who couldn't bat would be dropped for being an incompetent batsman ,another average keeper who could contribute a bit with the bat was given the boot for not keeping well enough. Considering that the Indian first class scene at that point wasn't quite spoilt with such riches , a fair trial to Reuben might have been the way to go.

The common thread running through the careers of these three talented cricketers was the blind eye that the national selectors displayed towards them.

Fast forward to the present. Three Tamil Nadu players in the same squad is something unheard of. My memory serves up times when there were two at the maximum, and those too in seasons when Tamil Nadu and its players had done very well in the Ranji season. That none of these three will feature in the first eleven is a fact, but then if ever there was an affirmative action policy in Indian cricket selection, this is it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Naan Kadavul : Aghori um Aghoram um

Those who had read this would have possibly been expecting this(not awaiting, expecting). So here goes.

What Hariharan Sriram was totally floored by: For a Bala movie the story, screenplay or the acting performances would possibly be the contenders for this, but then the winner ,hands down, are the stunt sequences. There may have only two proper fight sequences but they had an apt raw feel and the brutality of every hit sent a chill down the spine. Super Subburaya, super appu. The dialogues come a close second for being terse and meaningful. Not too many dialogues which do not create an impact. As a couple of characters say "Oru vasagam sonallum thiru vasagam sonna" and "avan romba paesa mattan , aana paesina vivaram aavum irukkum vivahaaram aavum irukkum".

What he was amazed by, but rather expectedly: Illayaraja's background score. The native feel that he's managed to bring in is something which only he can. Though slightly off key, strangely so, in a couple of places it was still the kind of music which enhances the movie. Not exactly Pithamagan levels, but infinitely better than his own magan.

What he was captivated by : In a dark movie, and this qualifies on both counts, the visuals need to be able to carry the impact and Arthur Wilson handles this more than competently. Watch out for some jaw dropping camera work in the final chase sequence and in the few moments before the interval.

What he felt let down by : The rather amateurish direction in the opening scene, giving it a soap opera feel. The poorly developed second rung of characters (barring Rudran's mother and Murugan). Although the lead pair have enhanced their acting reputations, one felt that their acting was repetitive and not as impactful as in Bala's earlier movies. The rather short screen time allocated towards the Aghori sadhus.

What he still can't get over : The acting and the screen presence of all the mentally and physically challenged people in the movie. Kudos to Bala for having utilized them as he has.

What he was pleasantly by : The humour quotient. From the scene in the police station to the one liners from Elee (a standout performance from amongst the physically challenged) Bala ensures that there are enough light moments between the emotionally heavy ones. The dialogues as earlier mentioned are a big help.

What he thinks are the standout performances : Pooja , for her acting and dialogue delivery in the last scene alone qualifies for this. The villain of the movie, (screen name Thandavan) seems to have gotten right into the skin of the character and will possibly be widely sought after in Kollywood after this. Credit to Bala for having yet again developed a very strong role for the villain. Arya can take the consolation price. :)

What he finds extremely funny : The U/A rating. Still unable to fathom which part of the movie the censor board found suitable for the U audience.

What his final verdict is : Having chosen to explore hitherto unexplored aspects , Bala manages to shock and awe and is now on his way to defining a stamp of his own, which no one can ever hope to replicate. A bit of a let down after Pithamagan though.

P.S : For every person you recommend this post to Google / Microsoft / Yahoo , which ever is not bankrupt by then will track you down and pay you $1000. And Ford will also give away itself for one lucky winner.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The porposal.

Warning: Slightly more understandable for Tamizh audience. Translation/Transliteration though attempted may not convey the 'joke'.

No, the title is not a typo. Let me explain.

End December. Radio Mirchi(Chennai) was having one of its year end specials, where the caller will have to call up and narrate the most "mokkai" thing he had done that year (an event which everyone except you seems to want to remember and share).

Caller: Vannakam Sir(Salutations! Sir.)

RJ : Vannakam .. sollunga. (Return Salutations! Please go ahead and bore us to death with what you have to say.)

After some banter which is least important and therefore omitted. (I forgot that part.)

Caller: Sir, na panna mokkayaan vishayam ennana.. (an event which everyone except I seems to want to remember and share is .. )

RJ(doing a tremendous job of feigning interest) : Ah.. Sollunga. (Damn!! (to himself) Tell me.(to the caller))

Na romba naala oru ponnu kooda chaat panninden sir. (For a long time, I was desperately trying to hook up with this female on the internet).

Anda ponnum oru naal vaanga beach la meet pannalamunu sollichu (That female also seemed to be desperate in equal measure and suggested we meet at the beach and take it 'forward')

Naanum romba espect panni ponen sir. (Like a hungry dog which rushes towards a bone with its tongue stuck out, I also agreed and went to the beach)

Anga poi paartha daan therinjudu, en life eh damage nu. (But after seeing her I realized the age old adage of The swelling is proportional to the size of the finger (like a flashback in a flashback, i shall translate the above back into tamil forming a rather confusing chain .. Viraluketha Veekam)) is totally true. So, my family, Total Damage)

Anda ponnum PORPOSE pannidichunga .. (That female being well versed in the life's teachings of answering the door as soon as opportunity knocks porposed, sorry , proposed, to me. )

RJ: Ennadu.. anda ponnu ungalukku PORPOSE panniducha?? (I really tried, but then just could not capture the essence of that statement in any translation. for (int i=0;i<(1/0);i++) {And no, the above is not a translation. ; })

P.S My inspiration for the above post is this. So any rude comments/ire may be directed there. Anything remotely positive maybe registered on the comments here. Thank you.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire: A series of fortunate co-incidences

Lets play this little game. And no, this doesn't win you 2 crore rupees,oops 20 million.

You are a citizen in one of those first world countries. Close your eyes and tell me what are the images that you visualize when I say India. Like in Who Wants to Be Millionaire I'll also give you options to make your job easier.

a) Taj Mahal
b) Beggars (specifically child beggars)
c) Muslim dons
d) Religious riots
e) Slums
f) More slums

If your answer is all of them and not much else, you are on Danny Boyle's side.

Now second question. Which amongst the following are thoroughly realistic?

a) Policemen and constables conducting interrogations in impeccable English.
b) Boys growing up in slums who go on to become thieves to make a living and in the process gain something more than just cash, a British accent.
c) A game show being shown live across news channels with what seems to be the entire nation hooked on.
d) The contestant being recognized by random people in the street. The contestant then having finished his round, sitting alone in one of Mumbai's most crowded railway stations a few hours later.

Now, if you think the answer is none of the above then move over to my side. And sorry, you do not have much company here.

For someone who has grown up watching Pakistani terrorists and Canadian doctors speaking tamizh , the above points shouldn't seem like major issues. But then I choose to apply the same yardstick and therefore ridicule the happenings on screen. Besides the afore mentioned movies did not go on to win Golden Globes.

Frankly, Slumdog Millionaire makes for a riveting drama. If I was born and brought up in the UK I would have lapped up every single frame of the movie. But being an Indian most of the movie seems to me like short selling of the true India to pander to the sensitivities of the western audience.

As stated earlier I hold nothing against the movie or its basic plot and the execution. An adaptation of Q and A by Vikas Swarup, the narrative which crisscrosses between the present and the past, is a delight and is captured beautifully on camera, starting from the initial "chase sequence" to the game show. Every single actor fits the bill perfectly, from the young Salim and Jamal to Shaurabh Shukla as Sergeant(?) Srinivas. The movie , though , belongs to Dev Patel and Anil Kapoor. Dev Patel wins your heart (besides the money, of course) with an understated performance. But, I would stick my neck out and say that it is Anil Kapoor who delivers the film's best with a calculated over the top performance. Freido Pinto looks simple and stunning. AR Rahman's background score for this movie cannot escape mention in any review and to state the well known and the widely accepted, it is simply stunning.

On the whole it is a good drama and any more significance to it will depend on which side of the Indian border you reside in.