Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Vote for 'change' and 'jadoo ki jhappi'

When it comes to voting most people think they are ushering in some change. However it's never evident what is the change that they seek other than a change in the person ruling them. Along with Indian vote which has become a long-drawn affair, the South Africans are also voting today. This time it is reported that there is a younger lot of voters who have not been part of the anti-apartheid struggle there. So this lot have ideas of their own and look at things differently. Most of these young voters when asked about the vote they said they want change. Ditto the young Indian voter who also wants change. It's probably the 'in thing'... the catch word.

In India another set of voting will take place tomorrow. The only comic relief was provided by Sanju baba who is still continuing with his Munnabhai role. He was in trouble with the EC for expressing his desire at a rally to give a "jadoo ki jhappi and pappi" (magic hug and kiss) to Mayawati. When served with a notice for the comment, he clarified that he considered the UP "behenji" (sister) as his behen and the comment was just brother-sister banter. Hope the EC agrees with this interpretation, else Sanju baba may have to give them the "jadoo ki jhappi" to convince them.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Caught between the devil and deep sea?

There is a sense of fatigue among people with these elections. Won't be surprised if the voting percentages reflect that. The last elections was a watershed in Indian history since it showed that people can vote with a purpose. However, the nation today is highly fragmented on issues, and people are generally fed-up with politicians. Not many really trust or expect their representatives to do much for them or for the country.

They are generally looked upon as greedy, manipulative,shameless and with no real committment to the nation or people they represent. This is evident in the ruckus seen outside party offices during ticket distributions which resemble scenes from "Gold Rush". Each candidate will have his own bandwagon of supporters, who are basically minor aspirants and expect to benefit if their leader "makes it."

Many aspirants are also "career politicians" - those who pursue politics like a career looking for promotions at the first opportunity and then seeking to climb the ladder by hook or by crook. Sixty years after Independence, the whole system stinks. For the poor, the election means another TV or food rations which will keep them alive till the next elections. The middle-class are status quoists who wouldn't want to rock the boat too much. The rich are too busy with parties of the other kind and the super rich are busy calculating how much they will stand to lose or gain by backing a particular candidate. The youth doesn't exist as a homogenous class like politicians would like us to believe, so they cannot really make or break an election.

This report sums up the elections very nicely:

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sloganeering for voters

Aamir sache ko chune, achche ko chune, bacche ko na chune campaign"It is not only important to vote but informed voting is equally important." "Sache ko chune, Achche ko chune"(Vote for truthful people, Vote for good people). Jaago Re (Wake up)!

These are some of the slogans one gets to her from various interest groups trying to persuade people to come out and vote in the elections. They seem to believe that increasing the voting percentage increases the chance of good governance! Nowadays these groups compete vigourously with political parties for mind share of voters. However, it is doubtful how effective these slogans really are. A good marketing campaign can only do so much. You also need a good product. And that's something these groups have no control on.

For the young yuppie crowd, there are no candidates, really speaking, who can communicate to them. Since there is an averaging out of everything in this country, keeping in mind the vast differences across various socio-economic segments, caste and communities of people, it is really difficult to find candidates who can straddle all the segments effectively. It is difficult to even reconcile the needs of various groups.

Parties nominate candidates
who can garner votes from those communities which have the larger numbers and therefore form the dominant group of voters in a constituency. All the others are just bonus voters; the group which these "come out and vote" slogans usually target. In fact their voting or not voting doesn't really make a difference unless they are part of the dominant group of voters. That is why it is said that "democracy is rule of the brute majority."

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Lalu on a!

Pappu Gandhi is in the news again. This time not because of his own antics but because of his father-like politician (politics me mai tera baap hoon), Lalu Yadav, expressing a desire to crush him! No this crushing is not what you think... it's nothing to do with pederastic tendencies. It's a Bihari trait rather, where you crush the opponent using sheer muscle power. Only in this case Lalu wants to use a road roller to do the job. He also was clear that it's the chest of the boy that he wants to roll the roller on. I am guessing that Lalu has started his own construction company and has acquired or is in the process of acquiring some rollers. Someone needs to educate him about the real use of the roller though.

Meanwhile, faced with the EC's wrath, he tried to wriggle out of this one by saying he meant the "roller of law". However, the law in this country is hardly a roller. It's a bamboo stick which has high tensile strength and can be bend in any direction if pressure is applied at the right places. So his argument doesn't hold. All said and done, he has achieved what he wanted to which is some cheap publicity at Pappu's expense. The boy is sitting in jail and eating half-boiled rice cooked in hard water. Hope they (jail managers) are giving him the updates on what his "baap log" are upto outside.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Liar, liar, pants on fire!

These elections have become so boring that there is very little to write about. Only occasionaly someone comes out with a gem of a goof-up or comedy show. This time every party thinks it is going to get a majority and there are dime-a-dozen claimants for the PMs post already.

One news which has created some interest is Varun Pappu Gandhi's "phoren degrees". It seems he has claimed he holds degrees from the London School of Economics (LSE) and London School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). These claims were found to be false and fabricated, and one wonders what he meant by claiming these degrees in the first place. However, he surely has all the traits of becoming a great politician since he's mastered some of the tricks of the trade so early on.

Talking about degrees of fibbing in politics, all aspirants to the high seat are supposed to make declarations of their income and assets. Keeping with this tradition various candidates have been coming out with figures of their wealth. This is an area where you can expect maximum 'kite flying' to happen. Laloo has claimed he has NO immovable assets while his bank balance is about Rs 12 lakhs. His wife Rabri and children are worth Rs 1.2 crore in assets while Rabri has Rs 24 lakhs in the bank. I think they have forgotten to add zeroes in front of the numbers which in case anyone finds out later, they will claim as a typo. Just the fodder scam during Lalu's rule was pegged at Rs 1,000 crore. How many more scams remain to be unearthed, who knows. Ultimately what's the point of these declarations if there is no way of verifying the claims??

Monday, March 30, 2009

Have money? Take a seat!

How much money does it take to fight a Lok Sabha election? Rs 25 lakhs is the limit set by the Election Commission for a candidate. There are 543 seats so that makes it Rs 13,575 lakhs or Rs 135.75 crores (Rs 1,357.5 million).

How much money does it 'actually' take to fight a Lok Sabha election? That's a tricky question which has many answers. First one is that it depends which party you are representing and from which state. It is reported that candidates in the bigger parties not only need to be 'winnable' but also 'financially viable' for the party. Which means that the candidate has to have the capacity to get a certain minimum amount of money into the party for him or her to be nominated for a seat.

For eg. grapevine has it that a Congress candidate has to have atleast Rs 100 crores before he can approach the party for a seat. Therefore even though the EC may have some figure for maximum election expenses that a candidate can incur, they are obviously talking about 'accounted' wealth. The unaccounted, in reality, has no limit.

The Congress and the BJP are stated to be spending anywhere upto Rs 2000 crores each in this election! So how does that measure up to what's required? This is an election. But the same is true for the economy too. The accounted is over shadowed by the unaccounted by a factor of anywhere between 4 to 10 times! That's the reality today. Reason why no party is serious about "corruption" as an issue.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Star power for politicians

  • What's the difference between filmstars and politicians? Well, filmstars act for a living and politicians live to act! What is common between them? Both thrive on dramatic situations.
Drama is an essential part of any election. That is the reason why both these characters come out in full form during elections. Politicians seek filmstars and filmstars seek politicians out. There is another reason why politicians seek out stars. With the stars come free publicity. A ratings and story-hungry media is always looking for creating new "masalas" for voters hooked to boob TV (which incidentally has gone flat now). And as is the rule today, there is nothing like good and bad publicity. All publicity is simbly great! It's lights, camera, action!

As for the stars they are morphing into politicians in many cases, as we are witnessing.

So who all are in the race so far?
With the Samajwadi Party are: Amitabh Bachchan, Abisheikh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Jaya Bachao, Sanjay Dutt, Jaya Pradam, Dev Anand and Amar Singh.
With the BJP are: Vinod Khanna, Shatrughan Sinha, Hema Malini.
With the Congress are: Sharukh Khan, Salman Khan, Aamir Khan, Priety Zonta, Nagma, Govinda, Vyjantimala, Dilip Kumar.

Of course this pertains to Bollywood. Tollywood is a different story altogother. The Tamil stars in keeping with the tradition of MGR, prefer to float their own parties and muddy the political arena for seasoned players. So this time there are three parties led by stars with the DMDK led by Vijaykanth, geared to create a significant dent in the results. In Andhra, superstar Chiranjeevi has floated Praja Rajyam which is giving stomach ache to the others.

Wonder when we will start seeing more politicians in movies? In the picture above Amar Singh is seen with Jaya Prada apparently on the sets of a new Telugu movie.