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.