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.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Jai ho! and a bottle of rum

One of my friends today forwarded an interesting advert from Kerala (see image). It is probably someone's sense of humour but nevertheless speaks volumes about the culture prevalent in the state today which has the highest consumption of liquor in India.

The ad has a rate card which says:
1. For sticking posters and writing on walls - Rs. 500 + a pint (of booze)
2. For tearing posters and blacking writing out with oil - Rs. 1000 + a full (bottle of booze)
3. To walk around saying that the candidate will win and to praise the candidate (in a group of 3) - Rs. 2500 + 1 litre (of booze)
4. To walk around saying that the rival candidate will lose and to do his/her character assassination (in a group of 5) - Rs. 500 + 2 litres of booze)

Kottayam Lok Sabha Elections Canvassing Workers (thats the name of the organisation/group)

It's a well known fact that all political parties in the state entice youngsters with free booze to do their dirty jobs. Moreover, the liquor mafia has a strangle hold over the government whichever party rules the state. The disease is so rampant now that it's not uncommon to find students in schools having a tipple and then going around shouting slogans. It only shows that awareness does not always help a population to make the right choices in life. Bacchalog, piyo nahi tho Gabbar Singh aa jayega!

Talking of bacchalog, mummy Maneka today came to the rescue of her pappu from Philibit. She of course attacked the Congress and called them murderers (of Sikhs). That may be true but doesn't help pappu does it? Mummy hai ki mamu?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

This Gandhi advocates violence

Much of the josh in election campaigning has been taken out by the Election Commission's Code of Conduct for political parties. Everyday, the commission's observers watch over candidates like hawks and pounce on those who dare to push their luck. Moreover parties too compete with each other to act as policemen of the commission, complaining like good students to the principal about how their opponents have allegedly crossed the line.

In this context, Varun Gandhi, son of animal activist and PETA (People Eating Tasty Animals) campaigner Maneka Gandhi, has been in the news lately for mouthing expletives at Muslims. The EC has apparently served notice on Varun and he has got himself anticipatory bail expecting an arrest.

People who remember his father Sanjay Gandhi would know that controversy should run in this family since that was what Sanjay Gandhi was famous for. Top of the list of his controversies was the population control one where he forcibly got people in Delhi to undergo vasectomy. He believed the only practical way to get to the issue was to yield the knife at the source of the problem, rather than trying to convince people about the importance of controlling the sizes of their families and expecting them to practice family planning.

Young Mr Varun must have taken a chapter out of his father's book and probably thinks, like his father, that the best way to resolve a problem is to just cut it off. That's why he apparently was advocating cutting off the limbs of Muslims who threatened Hindus. Wonder what his mother has to say to her son's fancy for the knife since she goes around advocating vegetarianism and non violence against domestic animals.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Power to the parties

India has a unique multi-party political system. Given the diversity of culture, religion and languages, it reflects in politics where there are dime-a-dozen parties in each state. The Election Commission surely has an enviable job keeping track of all these jokers.

Of the entire lot, the most confusing and confounding are the ones in Tamil Nadu. Like the names of people, the names of parties are also tongue twisters. The two main parties are called AIADMK and just DMK. It means All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazagham and Dravida Munnetra Kazagham. You might think that the DMK probably came out of the AIADMK. But no, it's the AIADMK which was born of DMK. Usually they break out with bigger names to indicate where they came from and what they stand for.

The AIADMK started a trend. Soon you had the PMK, DMDK, VCK, MNMK, PDK, UTEMK, KIP and so on it goes. Obviously, I cannot expand all these abbreviations here since it will take two days. Wooing all these letters are the big sharks; Congress and the BJP. Of course you have the ususal suspects like CPM, Janata Party and BSP also vying for attention. Now you can see how wonderful this scenario is and what a party this Indian democrazy has become.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ab aayega nasha!

Can elections be fought without issues? In every election various issues get highlighted. National parties usually sing national anthems and regional parties dabble in local flavours - that's more or less the trend. Currently, the national anthem for everyone is "stena gunna mana". It's all about how each party will take on the terror ist and ism.

As for local flavours, they are dime-a-dozen. Corruption, lack of infrastructure, regionalism, water woes, crop prices, jobs all find expression in different places. Of course there are non-issues too! Ones that will 'tipple' you!

For eg. there is a report from Hubli of Karnataka State that some citizens there have formed a "Drunkards’ Welfare Association" (Kudukara Hitharakshana Sangha) to dissuade people from tripping over free booze supplied by politicians during the polls. The association also wants an assurance from parties that they will roll back prices of the precious fuel since it has become fashionable to keep hiking prices of booze every now and then.

They have also demanded discounts for senior citizens similar to what they get for railway fares! The association has threatened to picket candidates to pressurize them and get assurances.

The tipplers association is hoping that women will support them in large numbers since according to them it is women who bear the brunt of high liquor prices because they end up getting less money from the men for household expenses.

And above all, they are apparently contemplating fielding some candidates for the polls if none of the existing parties take up their cause. Ah! won't that really make the polls interesting in those seats where they field candidates. I can think of 101 innovative ways of campaigning for such a candidate!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

All is well in Pollywood

Everyday is a new day in politics. Most parties don't know when they wake up in the morning who they will be sleeping with that day or if they are going to end up doing tun tun gopal (to use a Bumbaiya slang!). This "Pollywood" script is written and rewritten everyday... India's own opensource software!

The Congress which was holding hands with Lalu and cootchie cooing all along, got a hard slap yesterday from the Bihari babu who has now offered it only his little finger to hold on. The hand now goes to Ram Vilas Paswan's LJP in Bihar who till yesterday was trying to take Lalu's dhothi off.

Greatly insulted by this unilateral downgrading of their relationship, the Congress refused to take the little finger. Instead it would like to offer a good kick to Lalua and is preparing to do so. In the end, voters will have to decide whom to kick and whom to kiss. Not to forget Mr Nitish Kumar who is still playing "catch me if you can" with BJP.

Talking of BJP, it was Mr Shotgun who hogged the limelight in their camp after being given the ticket to contest from Patna. All his hard lobbying with RSS bandhus has finally worked for him. On the other hand, the party is facing serious internal disturbances due to the Jaitley-Rajnath Singh spat. Probably they should apply POTA on these two and send them to Kashmir!

In Maharashtra the bhai of Indian politics took on the don of Gujarat in a one-to-one verbal duel. Modibhai ridiculed Sharad mama for aspiring to become PM and mama almost called him the butcher of Gujarat in return. How nice to see such pleasantries being exchanged! It is so reassuring that everything is going on well with this elections so far.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Jaya, Maya aur Mamata

Indian women represent almost half of the total electorate in the country but do we have as many women in politics? Maybe not. But that doesn't mean they are really under represented. That's because some of the women who are out there more than make up for their missing sisters.

Three faces keep flashing in the media always, come sunshine or winter! They are the Jaya, Maya and Mamata of Indian politics; the queens of Indian politics. They straddle the South, North and East of India and give the men there a run for their seats (literally) besides sleepless nights.

All three have distinct styles; Jaya is suave and sweet (well almost!) in her dealings, Maya is crass and chanakya-like, while Mamata is blundering and bombastic. All these are of course great qualities to have in the guttermasti of rajniti.

And trust me, they have a good grip on the politics in their respective states. The qualities attributed to them are probably only a reflection of their "upbringing" in politics. Strangely enough there are funny coincidences. All three of them had men as mentors. All three of them have their own parties. All three of them are single (and looking)... hello koi hai? All three of them are known to be eccentric in their own ways. All three cannot stand each other. That makes it teen tigada, kaam bigada!

Except for Mamata, the other two have been chief ministers and Maya may even become Prime Minister. Probably it requires a woman to be like a man to qualify for the top post! But time will tell if that happens or not. Till then let's enjoi their antics... chal hawa aane de!

PS: Later we will talk about the Empress who lives in Dilli.

Teesra number platform

When the battle lines are drawn and both sides look like winning, Indian politics throws up a "Third Front" to confuse the papaya out of you. This is like the googly in cricket. This time, many of those who cannot see eye-to-eye yet with the two main parties - Congress and BJP - have climbed on to a platform and called it the Teesra number platform. Or for convenience let's call it a "Teesra" similar to the "doosra" in cricket.

So this teesra is a very interesting combination of parties, some with ideologies while some only with ideas and some without both. But they represent the length and breath of India, I should say. The list so far includes Left Front, JD(S), Telugu Desam, Jaya DMK, Maya BSP, Biju Janata Dal, and a few other smaller parties.

Now, how in the hell are these people going to form any working government, we have no clue. If anything they should be like a train which has engines on both sides with the eject pilot buttons in the passengers' hands.

The Congress has called it an "opportunistic alliance" as if they are something different. On their part, they seem to be having a sidey relationship with the SP in UP what with Amar Singh making grunting noises everyday about how close to each other they are but how still apart. The BJP has dubbed the teesra a "Parking Lot" which means the parked vehicles can pull out anytime. Unfortunately for them, it's their partners who have been pulling out though.

The stage is being set slowly for a grand finale and let's wait and watch who will offer the best laughs!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Promises to keep

Poll promises are not a new thing in Indian elections. In fact all of us are well-versed with election manifestos and how utterly useless documents they are. Now, what is a politician without a promise huh!

And so it has come to pass again that our friends have been making tall promises; as tall as... hmm... let me see... coconut tree? No... too short... ah as tall as Eiffel Tower!

For eg. aspiring Prime Minister Aduvani ji recently released his Party's "IT Vision". He said that if his party (Bajapa) is voted to power, he will make laptops available to all students at Rs 10,000. Hmm... that's nice. Wondering if his son-in-law has taken an agency for Dell or something. As for students they will soon have "mu me Ram, haath me jhaange (laptop)."

Now that's not all. If voted to power, he will also give free mobile phones to people below poverty line! Wah wah Advani...ji... taliyan! So now the poor will have a new slogan: Mobile, Kapda aur makaan. Because his mouth will be so bissi talking on the mobile that he may not need to eat "rotee". He he he...Very clever.

Sanju baba bola chalo Dilli

Every elections the Indian poll scenario gets more interesting, more murkier and more entertaining to those who can see the funny side of things. This blog is about that funnier side. So no offence meant at anyone or anyone's party. Rather all offence meant at those who cannot take a joke. Hey just joking... now don't get serious yaar. Aaaj ka taaja khabar suno aur khush ho jao...

Today taaja khabar is about Sunju baba. Baba bola chalo Dilli and that too from Lucknow the land of Nawabs. He also had a nawabi topi on when he said it and that too red in colour. Now Prakash bhai Karat is certainly not going to be amused at this new guise of our Munnabhai Politician.

Our Bajapa chaps are fuming at all this nautanki in this famous and erstwhile Atal seat. But kya hai na bhai, yeh elecson hai... yahan pe bole tho note phekneka aur tamasha dekhneka... kya!