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?