Posts Tagged ‘General Elections 2009’

‘The only person to blame for BJP loss is Advani’

11 June 2009

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How we behave as winners, it is said, reveals a lot about our character. How we behave as losers, it must be said, reveals even more. Suddenly Loh Purush becomes oh! purush? Vikas purush becomes wax purush.

The Tehelka article by Sudheendra Kulkarni, the Belgaum-born, Kannada-speaking, left-winger turned right-wing ideologue, examining the reasons for the defeat of the BJP in the elections has kicked off a raging debate of the sort the BJP wouldn’t want.

The party has washed its hands off, saying it is not its view. Even his mentor L.K. Advani has apparently dissociated from its content. Kulkarni has been accused of stabbing the party and sangh parivar from the front and back. Only a few have responded in kind.

anilphotokurtaAnil Chawla, a classmate of Kulkarni’s at IIT Bombay, has joined issue with a public letter discussing the BJP’s loss in general but Advani’s role in that defeat in particular. (Chawla had taken on Advani  in the Mohammad Ali Jinnah episode too.)

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Dear Sudheendra,

I have just read your “deeply introspective essay” about BJP’s defeat in recent elections. The article is described as introspective, but I failed to find anything that could be called introspection by any stretch of imagination. True, you say that “I too carry my share of responsibility”, but that is more courteous than introspective.

All through the essay, you look upon BJP as a patient lying on an operating table and your role as that of an outsider trying to see all that has gone wrong. The patient is being blamed for all that has gone wrong, without in any way blaming either the virus or the team of doctors who have brought the patient to the present critical state.

Please pardon me for being direct and on the face. I guess as a former classmate I can take this freedom.

I campaigned for Janata Party in 1977 elections. Ever since then I have been in and around the party (JP/BJP) working at various levels. Sure enough, I have not been an aide to L.K. Advani (LK) like you have been. Both of us began dabbling in public life together at IIT Bombay.

I have spent more than three decades in close proximity with BJP and RSS without ever being offered a post. I am not alone. There are thousands like me who have served in their own humble way.

What has always surprised me is that someone like you who was a committed fulltime communist for almost two decades, suddenly did an ideological somersault and landed up straight in the top rungs of BJP. When you are in mood for some introspection, please do think about this. Probably, the roots to the present malaise in BJP can be traced to your own personal journey.

When a communist suddenly becomes an ideologue for a party like BJP, there is bound to be skepticism and even some ridicule. It becomes imperative on the neo-convert to prove that there has been a genuine transformation of the soul and not just a change of coat. Even if the neo-convert does manage to prove his credentials, there is no way that he should ever be allowed to rule over the heads of people who have devoted their life to the cause.

In your case, (a) you have never proved that you have really changed and (b) you actually landed up on top of the ranks in a manner that is most inexplicable. I say that you have not been able to prove your credentials because I have read some of your articles and I can say with a fair level of confidence that you remain at heart a communist who is trying to put on the camouflage of a Hindu.

Dear Sudheendra, I have nothing against you personally. Your appointment as National Executive member of BJP, at the time of your joining BJP, and later as Prime Minister’s key aide had pleased me enormously. One always likes to see old friends in positions of power. The problem is that your case is not an isolated one, but a representative one. There are many in Delhi and Mumbai who have been able to gain access to LK’s coterie by hook or by crook and it is these who now rule over BJP.

When you analyze BJP and RSS with a cold surgeon-like approach, you ignore the role that LK’s family and coterie has come to play in the party. Elections of 2009 were not fought by BJP against Congress, but were reduced by LK and his gang to a war by LK against one and all.

The party has been systematically hijacked and decimated over the past decade and a half by LK’s coterie. You just need to look at the campaign material prepared by the party for the recent elections. There is only one face — LK’s. Even Atalji was not considered worthy of being put on the hoardings and posters.

Congress gained mileage from photographs of Gandhi and Nehru decades after their deaths. Communists continue to revere Lenin and Stalin till today. Contrast this with the way LK and his war team dumped Atalji most discourteously even though he is alive and continues to be revered by millions in the country.

You say that the BJP leadership is in disarray. If it is true, the only person who is responsible for the mess in the party is LK and no one else. He has ruled over the party with an iron hand for more than two decades. In fact, the words “Majboot Neta” (Strong Leader) that were used to describe LK during the recent election, apply only in respect of the way LK behaves in the matter of crushing his critics and opponents within the party. He is ruthless in demolishing anyone who as much as raises an eyebrow against him. He has no patience for anyone who even dreams of being his equal within the party.

Can you please name for me two people who are LK’s equals within BJP, in LK’s vision? LK’s desire to stand as a tallest leader made him choose only pygmies for all critical positions in the party. The only way that one could rise up in BJP with LK at helm was to act as a subservient spineless dwarf.

The problem with dwarfs is that while they are very good for boosting one’s ego, they have limited use when one faces a war-like situation. In the recent elections, LK decided to fight it all alone. LK and his family and coterie thought that their rag-tag army of laptop professionals could substitute for the well-oiled and tested machinery of BJP, ABVP and RSS. The irony is that the blame for the defeat is now being put on the doors of the organizations that were treated most shabbily when LK and his team were dreaming of victory.

LK and his team are now complaining that no one from BJP top leadership stood up to defend him when he was under attack. The fact is that among BJP leadership, the ones who command any stature were always ignored, attacked and pushed to the sideline by LK and his gang. So, when LK came under attack he looked around for support and found none. Of course, there were many rats who were raising their feeble voices in his support. Unfortunately, the voices of rats do not count. This is something that LK should have thought before he appointed rats in all the key positions.

You talk about the party’s social base. Did LK do anything in this regard during the past five years? The answer is an emphatic NO. When LK did his last yatra before 2004 elections, a photograph of his starting point was circulated. It showed LK standing with his daughter and wife. There were no BJP leaders on the dais. LK defended the presence of his family by saying that he drew strength from them.

This is the root of the problem. In the past decade or so, LK stopped drawing strength from the party or Sangh parivar, an  started leaning on his personal family ignoring the larger family to which small humble persons like me belong and from where we draw our strength. LK saw the party and Sangh pariwar as a tool to achieve his personal ambition at all costs. In the past decade, LK’s focus was on building his personal image, his family strengths, his mafia-like grip on the party. The thought of getting or building leaders who command or could potentially command respect in various social groups seems to have been far removed from LK’s mind.

I attended the function at Bhopal of LK’s unveiling of his autobiography in Hindi. What an unabashed projection by a person who has no achievements worth mentioning even in one paragraph! Future historians will mention LK as a classic example of a person who had illusions of grandeur. They will write that he was a manipulator who was ruthless to independent thought within his party and rose by methods that ruined the party. Having said that they would probably add – he saw films and wrote two eminently forgettable autobiographies.

What else is there to mention about LK’s lifetime achievements? Are there any articles / books written by him on social-political issues? At least I am not aware of any. He is a self-centered person who cannot see beyond himself and his interests. If he puts pen on paper it is to describe his own self because that is all that he can ever see. If he talks about Hinduism / Hindutwa or any political ideology or national issues, it sounds hollow because he has never applied his mind to anything except his own interests, his family, his career, his ambitions, his dreams etc.

You might respond by saying that all politicians today are like that. You would probably be right on that. But then they know that they are run-of-the-mill politicians with no illusions of being grand strong leaders. If LK had realized his own limitations, he would not have tried to fashion 2009 elections as an exercise to elect him as the prime minister.

The worst thing that happened in 2004 and 2009 elections is that the BJP, under the influence of LK, did not use the elections as an exercise to take party’s ideology forward. In days of Jansangh, when it used to be absolutely clear that there was no possibility of winning, the party would still fight. In those days, it used to be clear that fighting an election was an opportunity to propagate our ideology and thoughts to a bigger audience. In the 2009 election, the campaign was focused only on the persona of LK ignoring even the party’s manifesto.

As an old hand of the broad ideological historical process that I call as Hindu nationalistic movement, I have no serious regrets about BJP losing 2004 or 2009 elections. But I do regret that the party which was making an attempt in its initial years to define a new vision for Ekatm Manavwad (translated by me as Monistic Humanism) lost way.

I regret that instead of focusing on issues and ideas the party focused on an individual. I regret that the party for whom thousands shed blood and lives became a tool in the hands of some who want to live a seven-star lifestyle. I regret that personal ambitions and aspirations of one man became the focus of many organizations that are known for the sacrifices of their leaders.

Dear Sudheendra, I agree with you wholeheartedly when you say, “The BJP can indeed bounce back. But it can do so only if it first renews and empowers itself comprehensively — in its ideology, its geographical-social spread, its own political strength, its mass activity, its alliance-building, its cadre-based organizational network, and its leadership”. The difference is in approach. While you would like to probably do it with LK and his cronies at the helm, I shall like Sangh pariwar to put the dark days of LK and his cronies behind.

Sangh leadership must act to decisively purge BJP of LK and his individual-centered style of working. Competence and not loyalty to this or that individual must be the criterion for all appointments. Ideology must take centre-stage once again and those who can help with defining and clarifying ideological issues should be in key positions and not sycophants or moneybags.

I am making this letter public because I think that the issues that are discussed here are very important and need a wider debate. Of course, I know that this will put me at the risk of harsh retaliatory action by LK and his coterie. I guess that I have to take this risk in wider national interest. I hope I can count on you as an old friend if the action turns nasty.

With Best Wishes and Regards,

Anil Chawla

Also read: ‘The man who spread the dragon-seeds of hatred’

‘Advani offers nothing creative, only resentment

The Great Debator ducks out of a TV interview

A lifetime achievement award for L.K. Advani?

How the Congress family defeated Sangh Parivar

8 June 2009

Say what you will, but at least Pramod Mahajan had the courage to come out and face the cameras and, with some humility and a smile on his face, try to provide some answers for the BJP’s shock defeat in 2004. It was as close to a televised confessional as a nation could come to have seen.

In contrast, the BJP’s 2009 debacle has been remarkable because it underlines the axiom that failure is a pathetic orphan.

L.K. Advani hasn’t even had the courtesy to thank those who voted for his party. The hair-splitting, finger-wagging talking heads who had a problem for every solution—Ravi Shankar Prasad, Prakash Javadekar, Chandan Mitra, Balbir Punj—have all disappeared. Narendra Modi is happy playing his little mind games, threatening to take the “stationary train from Ahmedabad to Delhi”.

In other words, the introspection that a party must make after being subjected to a rout of such a scale and size has been missing. Not because it makes a good sight, but because India needs the BJP. It’s all very well to crow about the Congress victory, but the prospect of a political landscape without a credible, viable, national opposition party is grim if not catastrophic as the 1984 landslide win of Rajiv Gandhi showed.

Thankfully, Sudheendra Kulkarni, the Belgaum-born, Kannada-speaking former left winger who became a key advisor to both Atal Behari Vajpayee and Advani provides a small corrective in this week’s issue of Tehelka. The BJP’s failure to convince the people, he writes, is rooted in a combination of structual, political ideological, organisational and campaign-related issues.

These are some of the salient points Kulkarni makes:

# “The BJP’s geographical presence in the country is much narrower than that of the Congress. It won only one seat out of 143 that were available in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The Congress won 60.”

# “A principal reason for the party’s success in forming a government in 1998 and 1999 was its ability to forge alliances. After 2004, many alliance parnters left, not becuase the NDA had been defeated but their perception that the communal violence in Gujarat in 2002 was an important cause of the defeat and hence their conclusion that continuation of the alliance would cost them Muslim votes.”

# There is widespread ideological confusionwithin the BJP over what the party’s advocacy of Hindutva actually means. There is a section which believes it lost in 2004 because it “abandoned Hindutva” (Ram Temple, Article 370, Uniform Civil Code) and many angry voices have again said the same.

“It’s a deeply flawed view. It errs in believing that the BJP’s Hindu base is synonymous with the totality of Hindu voters. The fact is, Hindus never vote as a block for any particular party. There is only a small section of Hindus who have voted as Hindus for what they perceived as a pro-Hindu party.”

# “It is high time the BJP seriously debated and decided what it means by Hindutva and also what formulations of Hindutva are not acceptable to it. True the BJP must remain an ideology-driven party. But without clarity on what the BJP’s ideology is, the party cannot win the support of more Hindus, let alone the support of Muslims and Christians.”

# “The mentality of a large section of the party is so dogmatic that any idea of promoting the welfare and development of Indian Musims or of addressing their legitimate concerns is quickly brushed aside as “appeasement”. In five long years after 2004, the BJP did not come up with a single worthwhile initiative which Muslims could welcome. The party gave tickets to only three Muslim candidates. “

# The party has a near-zero presence in 143 Lok Sabha seats. On top of that, it practically writes off 15% of the electorate who are Muslims. In recent years, even Christians hae turned agaisnt the BJP. Even within the Hindu society, the BJP’s support base is less than 25% nationally.”

# “It is obvious that the BJP failed to utilise its five years in the opposition to construct and present a positive agenda that could catch the imagination fo the people beyond its core support base. We harped too much on the UPA government’s failures, without convincing the people how we would perform better.”

#”Never in the history of the Jana Sangh or the BJP was the party enfeebled by so much disarray at the top. The disorder at the Centre and also in several states demoralised the disunited party works down the line, with disastrous results. Although Advani was projected as the party’s prime ministerial candidte, this took place after he had been disempowered after the Mohammad Ali Jinnah episode. The cropping of Narendra Modi‘s name in the middle did not help at all. To the people of India, the contrast was obvious: there is unified command in the Congress, but not in the BJP.”

# “Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul made an essentially weak Prime Minister like Dr Manmohan Singh look strong by backing him solidly. In contrast, the BJP and the Sangh Parivar made a strong leader like Advani, whose contribution to the growth of the party is enormous, look weak, helpless and not fully in command.”

Read the full article: Hindu divided family

Free, frank, fearless? No. Grubby, greedy, gutless

1 June 2009

A significant outcome of the 2009 general elections has been the “outing” of the corruption in the Indian news media. What was earlier, usually, seen as an individual transgression has grown and morphed into an institutional malaise with long-term implications for our democracy which the aam admi is still to recognise.

Most cases of corruption in the media have so far involved the state of Andhra Pradesh.

Enter, Karnataka.

M.V. Rajeev Gowda, son of former assembly speaker M.V. Venkatappa and a Wharton PhD who teaches at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore, writes of the “perversion of the media’s role in a democracy” while campaigning for a friend (presumably a Congressman) during the recent polls.

“Instead of being a neutral, dispassionate observer of what’s going on, media houses milked the election to make big bucks. Representatives of media houses approached candidates promising them coverage in exchange for money.

“Of course, I advised my friend not to succumb because I was confident that we could get substantial coverage just by coming out with different media-oriented events and activities. And we did manage to do that. For free!

“But overall, other candidates jumped on the opportunity to get coverage. And there lies the problem. If coverage just involved reporting on the candidate’s vision, track record and activities, it wouldn’t be that much of an issue. It becomes a challenge when readers cannot differentiate between unbiased reportage and paid advertorials.

“This time, the difference between the two was very difficult to discern. One had to carefully look for “Special Feature” or some other tell-tale sign, which is generally not prominent enough for readers to separate fact and opinion from mercenary fiction.

“I remember the time Ramnath Goenka used to boldly declare that the Indian Express was Free, Frank and Fearless. I don’t know about that newspaper, but many others during this election were just Grubby, Greedy, and Gutless.”

Read the entire article: Notes from the Campaign Trail-III

11 Muslim ministers in Manmohan Singh team?

26 May 2009

Muslims for Ministers

The number of Muslim MPs has come down from 36 in 2004 to 29 in 2009 (including three women) although the general belief is that Muslim voters played a key role in determining the outcome of the elections. But only one Muslim (Ghulam Nabi Azad) has been sworn into the Manmohan Singh cabinet.

On the eve of the expansion of the Union council of ministers, this advertisement appears in The Indian Express, New Delhi.

As Tom said, price of freedom is eternal vigilance

25 May 2009

The saga surrounding the inclusion of various members of the Karunanidhi family in the Manmohan Singh council of ministers continues. As per current indications, MK’s eldest son M.K. Azhagiri and grand-nephew Dayanidhi Maran are to be given cabinet berths.

And, as per current indications, his daughter Kanimozhi has opted to sit out.

Presumably, the poet-cum-sub-editor is miffed at the precedence to Maran but she is not saying it. But the curious thing is the lady’s Rajya Sabha webpage. It doesn’t throw too much light on her educational qualifications, profession, positions held, books published, countries visited, and sundry other activities.

But on one key question, it is dead sure: Yes, the 1968-born Kanimozhi is a “freedom fighter”.

Also read: How many poems can fetch a poet Rs 8.5 crore?

‘The date of India’s debut as a great power’

25 May 2009

Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek:

“One can date precisely China’s debut as a great power. It was the evening of 8 August 2008—the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics. We might look back a few years from now and date India’s coming-out party to 18 May 2009, the day its most recent election results were announced….

“Over the past two decades, India has been consumed by its internal divisions: of caste, ethnicity and religion. This has made it difficult for the government in New Delhi to mobilize national power to any purposeful end in global affairs. A decentralized and divided polity has punched well below its weight internationally. That’s bad for India and bad for the world. This could all change now. For the first time in three decades, a single party—the Indian National Congress— was given a clear and broad mandate.”

Read the full article: India’s giant coming-out party

Plus la Cong change, plus c’est la meme chose *

25 May 2009

Among the many cute arguments that have been advanced for the surprise Congress win in the 2009 elections is the “young face” it presented to a nation 56% of which is below 25 years of age.

The fresh, eager, bubbling, innocent, positive faces, it has been argued, were in contrast to the old, tired, negative, cynical fossils like you-know-who that were strutting around on TV.

And, as is the current mantra, all credit for that is being laid at the door of the uncrowned king, Rahul Gandhi.

His vision and sagacity, and his desire to plough a lonely furrow despite being born with a silver spoon held by the SPG, it is being said, have singularly transformed the fortunes of the party which was staring at the bottom of the electoral barrel by making it more palatable to the young.

Really?

Are the “new faces” new faces? Or are they just old wine in younger bottles?

Are we seeing an end to Congress sycophancy? Or just a generational shift in Congress sycophancy?

The right-wing newspaper The Pioneer, whose editor Chandan Mitra is a Rajya Sabha member nominated by the BJP, says “most of the three dozen-odd young Congress MPs have a family background in politics which has helped them catapult to the national stage without much effort.”

Only two of the young MPs who have been elected for the firsrt time do not have any political legacy to fall back on: Meenakshi Natarajan from Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh, and Ashok Tanwar, from Sirsa in Haryana.

As for the rest…

Mohammed Hamdulla Sayeed: son of P.M. Sayeed

Sandeep Dikshit: son of Shiela Dikshit

Jagan Mohan Reddy: son of Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy

Deepinder Hooda: son of B.S. Hooda

Nilesh Rane: son of Narayan Rane

Jyoti Mirdha: grand-daughter of Ram Nivas Mirdha

Mausam Noor: grand daughter of Ghani Khan Chaudhary

Pratik Patil: grandson of Vasantdada Patil

Shruti Chaudhary: grand-daughter of Bansi Lal, daughter of Kiran Chaudhary

Raveent Singh: grandson of Beant Singh

Vijay Inder Singla: son of Surinder Singla

Jyotiraditya Scindia: son of Madhav Rao Scindia

Sachin Pilot: son of Rajesh Pilot

Jitin Prasada: son of Jitendra Prasada

Milind Deora: son of Murli Deora

Priya Dutt: daughter of Sunil Dutt

To that list of the victors, you could also add one of the vanquished: Krishna Byre Gowda, son of C. Byre Gowda.

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* or plus ça change, plus c’est pareil, meaning the more things change, the more they stay the same

‘Fitting finale to five years of foolish opposition’

21 May 2009

R. Jagannathan in DNA argues that the BJP lost the plot not in March 2009, when the bugle was sounded for the latest election, but in 2004, when it stumbled to a shock defeat:

“The party’s public behaviour since then has been that of a bad loser, and nobody loves such a person. Soon after the defeat, we saw Sushma Swaraj threatening to shave off her head if Sonia Gandhi was made prime minister. The party looked foolish when Sonia abdicated in favour of Manmohan Singh.

“Then there was the unseemly behaviour over the UPA’s decision to induct “tainted” ministers. Sure, there was a political point to be made, but the BJP shot itself in the foot by becoming obstructionist in Parliament. Nobody was amused.

“In every subsequent encounter with the UPA—the Ram Sethu affair, the Afzal Guru episode—the party acted churlishly, opposing for the sake of opposing, and creating a ruckus in Parliament. The party’s thumbs-down to the Indo-US nuclear deal took the cake: it tried to scuttle something it had itself been working towards when in power. Everybody could now see the BJP’s desperation to score points.

“The last act in this tragedy was scripted by L.K. Advani himself, with his ill-thought-out taunts about Manmohan Singh being a “weak prime minister”. It took the Sonia-Rahul-Manmohan combine just two weeks to demolish him, providing a fitting finale to five years of foolish opposition. In short, the BJP was in self-destruct mode from May 2004.”

Read the full article: How BJP lost the plot

What if Yediyurappa had lost the polls in State…

20 May 2009

MATHIHALLI MADAN MOHAN writes from Hubli: Is the phenomenal electoral success of the BJP in Karnataka the cause for L.K. Advani‘s dream of becoming the country’s Prime Minister to be shattered?

There’s nothing rational about it, but political tongues are wagging the superstitious way: that any party which fares well in Karnataka has no chance of occupying the gaddi in New Delhi.

In 1999 while Congress was voted to power in Karnataka, the party could not hold on to the reins in New Delhi, with a BJP government led by Atal Behari Vajpayee being installed.

It happened in 2004 when the Congress-led UPA was voted to power at the Centre, but met its Waterloo in the State. This led to the era of coalitions, which came to end within 40 months forcing the midterm poll to the assembly.

It has happened for the third time now.

The BJP government had been in power in Karnataka for over a year. Just to prove that its victory in the 2008 assembly elections was no flash in the pan, the party pulled out all stops to ensure that it won 19 out of the 28 Lok Sabha seats.

The expectation of the B.S. Yediyurappa government was that a solid support extended by Karnataka for the formation of a BJP-led government in Delhi, would give an additional leverage to the party as well as the chief minister. But the party’s dismal failure to come anywhere near the throne, has overshadowed the euphoria of success in Karnataka.

Maybe, if the BJP had put in a flop show in Karnataka, the chances of Advani becoming Prime Minister would have brightened! But that would have certainly made the position of Yediyurappa more vulnerable.

The good show put up by the BJP has sent the party to cloud nine. But, sadly, it cannot enjoy it because of the poor show across the country.

Is Iron Man still pumping iron for the cameras?

19 May 2009

Advani

GAUTAMA POLANKI captures the elasticity of the Loh Purush— “Sardar Patel II”—two days after Verdict 2009 underlined once and for all the strength of the Sardar he called nikamma.

Also read: ‘The man who sowed the dragon seeds of hatred’

‘Advani offers nothing creative, only resentment’

The Great Debator ducks out of a TV interview

CHURUMURI POLL: Will Advani ever be Prime Minister?

There’re known unknowns & unknown unknowns

13 May 2009

KPN photo

A press conference is no longer just a press conference. Not when the person behind the mikes is a humble farmer from Holenarsipur. There are footnotes, fine prints, subtexts, things said with the raise of an eyebrow, things unsaid with a smirk,things lost in translation that once the official meet ends, reporters crowd around for an interpretation.

A day after his son H.D. Kumaraswamy sheepishly covered his face while entering Sonia Gandhi‘s 10, Janpath residence, JDS supremo H.D. Deve Gowda takes it upon himself to tell the world the third front is safe in his hands.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: Unknown unknowns

An exit poll that defies the Election Commission

13 May 2009

The exit polls of the elections for the 15th Lok Sabha will start rolling out this evening. But before NDTV, CNN-IBN and Star News can tell us how we voted, the “widely respected art house” Mindry is out with its own exit poll.

Tongue firmly in cheek, interviewer “Sagarika” calls up a BJP leader in Peru for his reactions.

Sagarika: You and your party have nothing to cheer about our poll? What is wrong?

Venkaiah Naidu: Nothing’s wrong. BJP is strong. This programme is getting too long.

Sagarika: Do you still think BJP will win this fight?

Venkaiah Naidu: BJP’s future is bright. We will win this fight. Congress will be out of sight. I’m sorry to see your plight. I’m going to take the next flight. I wish you good night.

View the entire video here: Opinion poll

Visit the blog: Mindry

And Abdullah and Gowda and Patnaik and Pawar

12 May 2009

Ramachandra Guha in The Telegraph, Calcutta:

Jawaharlal Nehru did not hope or desire that his daughter should succeed him as prime minister — a fact that is not as widely known as it should be. On the other hand, Indira Gandhi worked to make first Sanjay and then Rajiv her political successor. Sonia Gandhi has followed her mother-in-law scrupulously in this respect, for she has likewise ensured that her own son would head the party, and, perhaps in time, the government.

“The example set by India’s greatest political party has been followed by many lesser ones. Had Indira Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi not acted in this fashion, perhaps Bal Thackeray, Parkash Singh Badal, M. Karunanidhi and Mulayam Singh Yadav would not so brazenly have treated their own political parties as family firms.”

Read the full article: Its own greatest enemy

As Ravi Shastri might say, it’s a two-paced wicket

8 May 2009

At the time of the assembly elections in Karnataka last year, churumuri.com conducted what used to be the norm in Indian journalism but has become a rarity: an old-fashioned, gumshoe, grassroots election survey.

Unlike opinion pollsters who give a general figure, correspondents S.S. Karnadsha and R. Kannan presented a unique seat-by-seat prediction for each of the 224 constituencies in the State, based on personal visits, Election Commission data, and the 2004 results.

They took the delimitation of constituencies into account, assessed the winnability of candidates by absorbing local factors, and spoke to strategists and other players on the ground. They presented their findings a day before each of the three rounds of  polling here, here, and here.

churumuri‘s assessment was Congress 92, BJP 84, JDS 41.

The actual score was Congress 80, BJP 110 and JDS 28.

In other words, we underestimated the BJP by almost a third (26 seats), and overestimated the Congress and JDS by 12 and 13 seats respectively, but at least we put a face to the figures.

Now that polling in Karnataka for the 28 Lok Sabha seats is over, S.S. Karnadsha has put his post-poll cap on. These are his predictions. Obviously, his assessment that the ruling BJP will secure a maximum of 17 seats contradicts Mathihalli Madan Mohan‘s who predicted 18 (or more) for the BJP, but that’s the beauty of the democratic exercise: either possibility is in the realm.

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S.S. KARNADSHA writes: Picking up lessons from the narrow loss of the May 2008 assembly polls, the Congress and the JDS have played an intelligent electoral game this time around to checkmate the BJP in the State.

The two parties have not entered into an open electoral alliance, but have tacitly supported each other in a number of constituencies after assessing their mutual strengths.

For instance, in Bangalore South it is reliably learnt that the JDS worked to transfer votes in favour of the Congress in the last two days. Similarly, in Davangere, Bellary, Dharwad, Shimoga, Bidar, Chikkodi, Chikaballapur and Bangalore North, the JD(S) has helped the Congress.

This is in return for support for JDS candidates in constituencies like Bangalore Rural, Koppal, Tumkur, Chitradurga and the Bidar assembly seat. This tacit understanding between the two parties has made the reading of the poll pitch extremely difficult in the State.

The only seat where the Congress and JDS faced off against each other directly is Mandya where JDS’s N. Cheluvarayaswamy took on the Congress’s Ambarish. How much of this covert strategy will check the bull run of the BJP will be known in a week’s time.

One thing is certain: the margin of victory in every single seat in the State will be small compared to last time.

Congress’s vote share may still be the highest like last time (36.82 per cent), but will it be able convert that into seats is the big question. As our variable numbers and the range of seats indicate, the battle is really close and not one-sided as the BJP is making it out to be.

In several constituencies there is an undercurrent again the BJP.

You shouldn’t therfore be surprised if the Congress and the BJP level their tally at 12 each or of if the Congress even pips the saffron party by a seat or two. There may be a slightly different spread of numbers for the two national parties if the JDS picks up nearly six seats.

A source in the Gowda family is not willing to concede anything less than 7 seats for the party. Let us warn you they are not day-dreaming.

So now, with our numbers and analysis below, where only broad contours have been suggested. We invite you to play your own poll game based on your intuition and information. To help you play your game a little more accurately we have listed out constituencies that are a sure shot for each party and the ones that may swing in their favour.

There is also a clear picture below of the straight fights. Good luck then, conjure up your own number and get back to us before May 16.

No prizes for guessing!

***

Total number of seats: 28

Seats where decision is certain: 16

Seats that may swing either way: 12

***

BJP (2004 tally: 18)

Least number BJP can win: 6

Most number BJP can win: 17

Congress (2004 tally: 8)

Least number Congress can win: 7

Most number Congress can win: 15

JDS (2004 tally: 2)

Least number JDS can win: 3

Most number JDS can win: 8

***

Seats BJP is sure to win: Belgaum, Haveri, Bellary, Bangalore North, Chikmagalur and Kolar.

Seats that could swing in the favour of BJP: Bangalore South, Mangalore, Uttara Kannada, Bagalkot, Dharwad, Bangalore Central, Shimoga, Chamarajanagar, Chitradurga, Mysore, and Koppal.

Seats Congress is sure to win: Bidar, Gulbarga, Raichur, Chikkodi, Bijapur, Davangere and Chikballapur.

Seats that could swing in the favour of Congress: Uttara Kannada, Bagalkot, Bangalore South, Mangalore, Dharwad, Shimoga, Chamarajanagar and Mandya.

Seats JDS is sure to win: Hassan, Bangalore Rural and Tumkur.

Seats that may swing in the favour of JDS:  Mysore, Bangalore Central, Mandya, Chitradurga and Koppal.

***

Seats where the fight is between BJP and Congress: Bangalore South, Mangalore, Dharwad, Chamarajanagar, Shimoga, Bagalkot and Uttara Kannada.

Seats where the fight is between BJP and JDS: Bangalore Central, Koppal, Chitradurga and Mysore.

Seats where the fight is between JDS and Congress: Mandya.

***

Also read: Why BJP will win 18 (or more) seats in Karnataka

Results of Karnataka in 2004 general elections

CHURUMURI POLL: Single largest party in 2009?

8 May 2009

It now appears certain that neither the BJP nor the Congress, nor certainly the Third Front or the Fourth Front, is likely to bag 273 seats on its own to form the next government at the Centre. In other words, a single-party government is looks well nigh impossible, regardless of the claims of the various parties.

In such a scenario, the role of the President becomes important. Thanks to the precedent set by K.R. Narayanan in 1998 and 1999, followed by A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in 2004, Pratibha Patil is now duty-bound to invite the leader of the largest single party, and then seek letters of support from the other parties supporting it.

Which party do you think will have the largest number of seats in the next 16th Lok Sabha? Will Pratibha Patil follow the tradition set by her predecessors, or will she opt for an alliance on the ground that such a group would be able to pass a floor test?

Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Who will win 2009 elections?

Subhash C. Kashyap on options before Pratibha Patil

Pratibha does homework for post-poll test

‘Indian media holding Indian democracy ransom’

7 May 2009

The Wall Street Journal‘s bureau chief in India, Paul Beckett, has a major piece on the rampant corruption in the media in the election coverage, with advertising masquerading as news for a fee, and  neither readers nor voters being told about the transaction.

Brokers, he writes, are offering package deals for coverage in newspapers, for front-page pictures, for interviews, for printing press releases verbatim, etc.

Thankfully, Beckett reassures us that “the best-known English-language dailies typically don’t do it so blatantly”.

Beckett quotes the former chief election commissioner N. Gopalaswami as saying that he had heard of newspapers having a rate card for positive coverage and another for not negative coverage, and that this is not something that can be ignored.

“The nation’s newspapers usually play either vigilante cop exposing wrongdoing in the public interest (on a good day, at a few publications) or spineless patsy killing stories on the orders of powerful advertisers. Many papers also engage in practices that cross the ethical line between advertising and editorial in a way that is opaque, if not downright obscure, to readers.

“But it is of another order of magnitude to see reporters, editors and newspaper owners holding the democratic process to ransom. A free (in every sense) press is an integral part of a vibrant democracy. A corrupt press is both symptom and perpetrator of a rotten democracy.”

Read the full article: Want press coverage? Give me some money

Also read: Forget the news, you can’t trust the ads either

Sucheta Dalal on selling news and buying silence

The scoreline: different strokes for different folks

Salil Tripathi: The first casualty of a cosy deal is credibility

In prosperous Gujarat, everybody can buy media

Not quite what the spokespersons say on TV

6 May 2009

getimage

Either everybody is getting it wrong or everybody is getting it right. Or everybody is playing it safe.

This is the third table-top prediction by editors of The Times of India, presumably on the basis of on-the-ground reports from their bureaux.

The following is how the fortunes of the three major alliance have fluctuated in the three ToI surveys:

Congress + other UPA: 201 to 198 to 195.

BJP + other NDA: 195 to 176 to 187

Third Front: 82 to 109 to 111.

Others and independents: 65 to 60 to 50.

Graphic: courtesy The Times of India

Also read: There’s only so much Google ads can achieve

That’s why they asked you to shut up and vote

5 May 2009

An analysis by the Association of Democratic Reforms of the affidavits filed by 258 sitting MPs seeking reelection in the 2009 general elections shows that more than half of them saw their assets grow between 100% and 9,100%.

KPN photoWith a 6,500%—that’s right, six-thousand five-hundred per cent—growth in his assets since 2004, the honourable BJP member of Parliament from Mysore, C.H. Vijayashankar (in picture), who counts 550 sheep valued at Rs 10,88,550 to underline his farming background, comes in a creditable second.

Presumably, that farming background also insulates Vijayashankar, BA, LLB, from possessing a PAN card.

Read the full article: Fastest way to become rich

Also read: One question I’m dying to ask Rahul Gandhi

Mayawati: For doyen of dalits, assets is all maya

Kanimozhi: How many poems can fetch a poet Rs 8.5 crore?

H.D. Deve Gowda: A snapshot of a poor, debt-ridden farming family

R.V. Deshpande: A 1,611% jump in assets in five years? Hello!

H. Anjaneya: How to grow your assets by 81,465%? Ask him.

R. Ashok: Everyone is stark naked in the public bathroom

Everybody loves a good “poor voter turnout”

4 May 2009

The poor turnout in “literate” constituencies like Bangalore South and Bombay South has left everyone confused. OTOH, many point to the futility of the media-entertainment-industry campaign to get the “educated middle class” out, post “26/11″. OTOH, there are some like M.J. Akbar who believe it is not the rich who did not vote, but the poor.

P. Sainath in The Hindu is, however, very sure:

“On the whole, slumdogs vote in larger numbers than the white-ribbon, candlelight crowds do…. Generally, the poor vote in greater numbers. (The rich capture governments by other means.) The poor usually want to use the vote. It is the one instrument of democracy they get to exercise….

“[In contrast] there is, face it, the apathy of the comfortable. Those who might well explode in drawing-room or television studio outrage about high taxes and 26/11. But who see no real need to fiddle with the status quo. The comfort zone classes exist and are more urban than rural.

“There is also, for the non-comfort zone classes, the small matter of issues. When last did the problems of food price rise, BPL cards, or ration quotas, dominate campaigns in either the Lok Sabha or the State Assembly polls? Or those of, sanitation, water, housing, demolitions and jobs? For millions in India’s megapolis, as elsewhere, these are very real issues.”

Photograph: via Flickr

Read the full article: Celeb crusades and the death of politics

Also read: An epitaph to the literate, educated middle-class

61% vs 51%: so much noise for so little impact?

‘TA-DA Sky. Isko laga dala to wife jhinga lala.’

3 May 2009

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: Ajji had just watched election coverage on TV.  It was clear she was restless. She had just watched a no-holds-barred, gloves-off, bloody slugfest.

“Yen Ajji, yochne madtha idhiya? Aren’t you taking your afternoon nap?”

Yenu niddeno! Tell me, why poltisons are trying to make their children MPs? What is their kwalifishun?”

Poltisons alla Ajji! It is politicians. Qualification not kwalifishun!”

“OK, politician-o and qualification-o. But tell me why.”

“Just like doctor’s son becomes a daaktru and an engineer’s son engineeru, politicians feel their sons should also become polticiansu.”

“Is the country avarappana jaagiri to pass on to sons and daughters? Polticiangu qualification illa, his son also is not qualified in anything. In that sense both have no qualification and that makes them eligible to rule the country!”

Ajji!”

Adirli, tell me when do these people retire like engineers and doctors. Is it 58 or 60?”

“There is no retirement age for politicians, Ajji. They can rule till they die or reach 100 years whichever comes first!”

Alvo Ramu! With weak knees, failing eyesight, fading hearing and nothing much in between, how do they attend office or Parliament?”

“Simple-u Ajji. Majority of them don’t attend regularly office, er, Parliament.”

“What about their TA-DA?”

“They get huge amount plus bonuses.”

“Like Tata Sky?”

“Correct-u Ajji! But, sky is not the limit for them for their TA-DA!”

“I don’t know what is happening! No qualification, no retirement, TA-DA Sky and you were saying the other day many have cases pending against them in courts?”

“You’ve summed it perfectly Ajji. Now you tell me who will win this time Ajji?”

“It doesn’t matter at all who wins. It will be the same. Devre kapaadbeku namma Deshana.”

A VIP finger so right that it is almost to the left

30 April 2009

download1

The BJP’s candidate from the Shimoga Lok Sabha constituency B.Y. Raghavendra provides visual evidence that he cast his ballot the right way on Thursday, while his father, the chief minister, B.S. Yediyurappa, holds up his right finger to show that he probably did not.

Is the CM’s left index finger, which is where the mark is supposed to be applied, injured? Or was there already a mark on it necessitating the right finger? Did the CM insist on the mark being applied on his right hand? Did the voting official not know? Or is it the new status symbol in town, getting the voter mark on a finger of your choice?

Does the CM’s vote count? Or does it not matter if it is a VIP?

Photographs: Karnataka Photo News

Thankfully, he didn’t need to strap a helmet on

28 April 2009

KPN photo

Former deputy chief minister Siddaramaiah hops on to a photo-op while campaigning in Mysore on Tuesday. But looking at the number of people lending him a hand, and looking at his posture, here’s a trivial question: does the Janata Dal turned Ahinda turned Congress leader know how to cycle or not?

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

Also read: No helmets, please, they are for the aam janata

Like in an ODI or T20 match, every single counts

27 April 2009

dna_20090427

The latest desktop calculations of the editors of DNA with the two main alliances and the “others” running neck-and-neck.

An opinion poll reportedly conducted for a weekly newsmagazine by a polling agency, but not published due to the Election Commission’s diktat, gives the BJP 144, Congress 143, Left 32, BSP 30, Samajawadi Party 27, AIADMK 24, Telugu Desam 18, NCP 12, Trinamool Congress 13, DMK 13, Rashtriya Janata Dal-Lok Janshakti Party 15, Praja Rajyam Party 2, Biju Janata Dal 9, and Janata Dal Secular 2.

***

Swapan Dasgupta, the journalist cum BJP strategist, writes on his blog that the second phase of polling “has been very good for the BJP and its allies, good for BSP, not so good for the Congress, and somewhat diastrous for the so-called Fourth Front.

“In Karnataka the BJP appears to have done as well as in 2004. “But there are non-quantitative reports of the BJP not doing so well in Bangalore.”

M.J. Akbar writes in Deccan Herald:

“If the BJP becomes the single largest party, you would be surprised by the number of small parties which suddenly discover the virtues of stability at a moment of economic crisis.”

Read the full article: Array and disarray

Graphic: courtesy DNA

An epitaph to the literate, educated middle-class

27 April 2009

KPN photo

One of the big cliches about Indian elections is that “the educated middle-class” voters do not come out to vote because they do not find the kind of candidate they can relate with.

And that the moment they do, our world will be transformed.

That cliche was kinda essentially reduced to bull shit on toast last week when just 44.73% of voters came to the booths in “highly literate” Bangalore South where besides the outgoing BJP MP, three people of pedigree—a young US-returned Congress candidate with a software spouse; a respected college professor standing on the JDS ticket; and an Air Force man who set up India’s first low-cost airline standing as an independent—were on offer.

But this middle-class apathy is neither new nor surprising.

BHAMY V. SHENOY with IIT on his resume, a long career in the oil industry in the United States, an established record as a consumer activist in Mysore, has twice stood for the Karnataka assembly elections: once in 1989 and then in 1994. The first time he won a grand total of 550 votes; the second time he was four times as lucky, getting 2,260 votes.

In 1994, when the average turnout in the State was 65%, Shenoy’s “literate” constituency recorded 52%.

Here’s his story which gives us more than an inkling of what is in store for Captain G.R. Gopinath, Mallika Sarabhai, Meerah Sanyal and other do-gooders of their ilk at the hands of “the educated middle-class” in the 15th general elections.

***

By BHAMY V. SHENOY

My own experience of contesting the election from the Chamaraja constituency of Mysore City as an independent candidate and losing the election by a big margin proves my hypothesis that Indian voters are not interested in elections, do not care who wins and often do not even know whom they are voting for.

One retired Karnataka Administrative Service (KAS) official who wanted to vote for me changed his mind at the last minute to vote for a candidate because, on his way to the polling booth, that candidates people gave him his voting registration number!

In my constituency, there were eight major slum areas and the votes there were controlled by petty feudal lords, usually small time politicians.

They are not influenced by what the policy of liberalisation is doing to the economy, whether poor are getting kerosene regularly, whether the condition of roads is good or in what way the reservation policy will affect our educational institutions in the long run.

They are swayed by how much money they will get or what position they can secure after the election.

I was hopeful that their votes would be more than neutralized by the active participation of literate and educated voters in my constituency. But my hopes were belied.

I had contested in the assembly election in 1989 also from the same constituency and secured just 550 votes. This time I could get 2,260 votes. The surprising thing was that even many of my supporters were shocked by my defeat.

When I contested the election in 1989, I was not known in the city. I had returned from the US in 1987 where I had stayed for more than 22 years.

But in 1994, the situation was entirely different. With the help of many leading intellectuals, scientists, professionals, retired army officials and bureaucrats, I had taken interest in solving every significant problem faced by the citizens in Mysore.

During the campaign I did not want to match my political opponents in terms of spending money. While they spent any where from Rs 7 lakh to Rs 20 lakh (despite the much publicized observance of the model code of conduct of T.N. Seshan), I spent less than Rs. 14,000.

But with the help of friends, we were able to visit more than 30,000 houses and talk to more than 70,000 people. We did not just ask them for votes. We spent some time in each house and discussed the problems faced by them.

Thousands of voters had promised to vote in my favour after understanding why I was contesting. If just 50% had kept their promise, I would have easily won.

As a part of the campaign, I had published a booklet Decline and Fall of Mysore: Who is Responsible? I was able to sell more than 3,500 copies of that booklet. Some who read that booklet voluntarily came forward to help me in the campaign. The message in that booklet was clear. Unless literate and educated people take interest in politics, we can not improve living conditions in city.

Eighty percent of the voters in my constituency were literate and between 40 per cent and 50 per cent were readers of newspapers and reasonably well informed. My strategy was to concentrate on this literate body and to take my message to them.

I also spent a lot of my time with members of Rotary, Lions and Round Table clubs, industrialists, employees of leading industries, shopkeepers, educationists, medical and engineering students among others. This is after all the segment of the society which is capable of understanding how professional politicians are duping them and this is also the segment of the society whom,  purportedly, I could easily communicate with and convince of the need to bring about a revolution in our political system.

I was obviously wrong in my assumption.

A shopkeeper was frank enough to admit that if we really root our corruption he would not be able to earn his living!

For the sake of argument and to show others how moral we are, many of us may talk against the present corrupt system. But many of our traders and industrialists have learnt the art of managing the system and continuing to make money. They may even agitate for unification of taxes and show anger against the political system which is bringing all kinds of irrational rules and regulations. But in the final say, they prefer a system where they can bribe and manage rather than one where the rule of law prevails.

When the average percentage of voting in the whole of Karnataka was around 65%, my constituency which has among the highest percentage of literate people managed to post the lowest percentage of voting: 52 per cent!

In other words, our literate class which should be able to vote taking into consideration the merits of the candidates did not even bother to perform their duty and betrayed their city. There was greater participation of voters from slum areas rather than from better neighborhoods.

I was hoping that since the literate class is fully familiar with the lack of a well-defined election  agenda on the part of political parties and lack of determination to implement what little they have, not only they would canvass for me but would publicly come forward and endorse my candidacy.

But for a handful of well known Mysoreans others were hesitant to come forward to support me publicly. Most of the leading intellectuals had privately assured me that I could depend upon their support and votes. Ironically most of those who had publicly supported me could not finally vote for me because their names were missing from the voters list. Is this just accidental or is there a sinister design?

I also observed another interesting phenomenon during my campaign. While all the people living in slum areas were registered, many people especially (the principal of a medical college and a retired judge to name just two) who had transferable jobs often are not registered.

The attitude expressed by some sympathisers of the Bharatiya Janata Party clearly shows how immature we are as far as democracy is considered.

Some of them did not even know who the BJP candidate was but that did not bother them. A few even told me that they would vote for the BJP even if the candidate was worthless. Some of them assured me the vote after hearing my name. They had assumed that I was the BJP candidate.

Even many educated voters did not know what was expected of their legislators. One doctor assured me of her vote if I could get two dustbins by the side of her house. Another housewife wanted my assistance that once elected I should come and clear the garbage in front of her house. Many were going to vote for certain candidates because they had received certain favours like getting admission for their children, or sites.

Very few were aware that a legislator should try to bring about a systemic change by enacting the right kind of legislation so that all are benefited, so that the rights of minorities are protected, so that society as a whole prospers.

With one exception, all newspapers completely ignored my candidacy. Even when I was prepared to pay, one newspaper was hesitant to accept my advertisement and I had to make many calls before I could buy space. No newspaper bothered to find out and publish what the stands of different candidates on various important issues were.

When a candidate-public meet was held for the first time and many professional politicians could not answer questions from the public properly, only one newspaper bothered to cover this important experiment.

The most significant revelation newspapers could make was that voters would vote along caste lines!. If that was indeed the case, being the only prominent Brahmin candidate from my constituency, where there are more than 20000, Brahmins, I should have got many more votes.

A longer version of this article was published in The Sunday Observer, Bombay, dated January 15-21, 1995.

Photograph: Karnataka Photo News; author pic courtesy itbhuglobal.org

Also read: 61% vs 51%: So much noise and so little impact?

Eight more questions for The Great Debator

27 April 2009

The third instalment of Mallika Sarabhai‘s questions for the sitting MP from prime minister-in-waiting Lalchand Kishinchand Advani, contesting from the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency:

# What do you have to say about terror laws being misused?

# What are you doing about the thousands of families displaced — at least 15,000 living on the pavements of Ahmedabad — because of urban beautification?

# Why are Gujarat’s Human Development Index and all social indicators slipping?

# Why is Gujarat’s National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme performance the worst in India, not providing work for even 45 days against the stipulated 100?

# Why are you silent on the allegations against Maya Kodnani, the minister accused of personally leading a murderous Hindu mob?

# How can the BJP guarantee security when reports show that the Sabarmati prison leads the country in violent incidents?

# Why has Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi not appointed a lok ayukta?

# Why does Modi’s one-man human rights commission (Justice D.S. Sinha from Allahabad) not have any local, leave alone minority community, member?

Meanwhile, Advani is still to respond to Sarabhai’s invitation to a TV debate.

Also read: At last, Advani’s quest for a debate is realised

The Great Debator ducks out of a TV interview!

Sunanda K. Datta-Ray on the Mallika Sarabhai trail


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