Monday, June 25, 2012

President's election: Open Letter to Karan Thapar and IBN.

Dear IBN,

Going through the news cycle last week, it was just incomprehensible to me as to why many media personalities were deriding the fact that P.A.Sangma has decided to fight the Presidential elections against Pranab Mukherjee. Last night, I was aghast after reading this interview transcript of Karan Thapar with Sangma. 

After dedicating a substantial first part of the interview to just word-play, Mr. Karan Thapar lands up with this: 

"...but they are laughing at the fact that you believe that you can win

And then: 

"Are you a little worried that by standing in the face of such odds and they are incredible odds, you might make yourself a laughing stock?"

Laughing Stock? When Captain Lakshmi Sehgal contested against Dr. Kalam in 2002, did she become a laughing stock? Can you point us to an article/interview/show where you felt the same thing about her? 

When B.S.Shekhawat contested against Pratibha Patil in 2007, did he become a laughing stock? Can you point us to an article/interview/show where you felt the same thing about him? 

If anything of this didn't happen, may we know as to why you have bestowed this honour on Mr. Sangma? 

When one is interviewing a candidate for elections, we expect that the questions will be based on the issues - issues that the candidate is for and against. I think that is pretty much a common sense expectation. How does Karan Thapar fare in that aspect? Let's take a look.

"You are standing on behalf of tribals, you are a practising Christian and yet you are seeking support from the BJP, whose position on the Khandhamal killings, Dang killings, the massacre of Graham Staines, is anything but supportive of tribals and Christians, how do you explain that contradiction?"

Please read the above question again and again, because that is a very very loaded questions filled with so many contradictions. Now, let me paste it again emphasizing some points.

"You are standing on behalf of tribals, you are a practising Christian and yet you are seeking support from the BJP, whose position on the Khandhamal killings, Dang killings, the massacre of Graham Staines, is anything but supportive of tribals and Christians, how do you explain that contradiction?"

Karan Thapar tells P.A.Sangma he is "standing on behalf of tribals".  What has Sangma done for tribals? How do the tribals feel about Sangma's track record? What, in Sangma's views are the problems faced by tribals? How will his becoming President benefit the tribals? - Do you see any of these questions? (An earlier interview by Rajdeep was on similar lines - concentrating more on the "opportunism" of Mr. Sangma. Only two questions on tribals. The central point of the whole interview though was why Sangma is even contesting). No. Instead, what do you get? 

Karan Thapar decides to get communal and reminds Sangma that he is a "practising Christian" and therefore it is not fathomable that he can support or take support from the BJP! In one stroke, the genius that is Karan Thapar, judged all those "practising Christians" who have voted for the BJP. And then he goes on to say that the BJP is anything "but supportive of tribals and christians". We are therefore to believe that Karan Thapar has no agenda. 

The agenda for the rest of the interview is now set - Karan Thapar goes on to deride BJP and then brings in Jayalalitha's anti-conversion bill into the picture. He provokes Sangma (quite distressingly) saying that that bill was against "your church". We are therefore to believe that Karan Thapar has no agenda. 

After some more distressful questioning, these take the cake. 

Karan Thapar: Let’s come to the next question. You have been speaker of the Lok Sabha. You have been Chief Minister of Meghalaya. You have been a very honourable Cabinet minister. Why are you throwing all of that away behind a pipedream?

PA Sangma: I am not. I am just asserting my right as a citizen of India, as a tribal, as a person coming from the North East.

Karan Thapar: But you could assert it in some other area. Asserting your right in an area where you are certain to lose, to me seems irrational. 

I don't understand why losing a race is such an "irrational" thing. The interviewer, who apparently has no agenda, thinks Mr. Sangma is being irrational by fighting this election because he is anyway going to lose. But Mr. Karan Thapar, what good is a democracy without debate and contest? 

And this tendency of deriding Sangma for "irrationality" is not from Karan Thapar alone. Almost the entire IBN clan of journos seem to be echoing the same disgust. 

Two tweets in quick succession by the constitutional expert, Bhupendra Chaube. 

1. Parties with sangma: bjp+bjd+jayalalithaa+akali dal. That's just 27%. Left parties and mamtaa could well abstain. Why the contest then?
2. Suspect nda strategy way off the mark this time. There is a wave against the congress across india, but u need to be able to encash it

I am really keen to learn and encash on Bhupendra Chaube's political acumen. If he believes there is a "wave against the congress across india", what exactly are the opposition parties expected to do? Not support the Congress candidate right? Isn't that what they are doing? If there is a "wave against the congress across india", how come all you journos are so vehemently supporting the chief Congress strategist and their main trouble-shooter, Pranab Mukherjee? Are you folks not going against "the wave" ? You folks have tirelessly told us what a genius Pranab Mukherjee is - then why is he not held accountable for the "wave against congress across india" ? 

No debate is complete without Sagarika Ghose pitching in. 

1Will Sangma uphold hindutva? ‪#justasking‬

She will never ask : "Will Pranab uphold corruption"

The near total absence of scrutiny of Pranab's candidature is so undesirable. All we get are platitudes from these media folks. Apparently Pranab has an amazing memory:

Sagarika Ghose: Pranab Mukherjee has one of the most encyclopedic memories..from the minutiae of pre Independence politics to present day..amazing!
Pallavi GhoshPranab knows the constitution, rule book by heart..tough for the cong to get anyone like him to be ldr of lok sabha

Lesson learnt: Sharp political memory is one of the main criteria for candidates for President. 

And finally, the editor-in-chief of IBN, Rajdeep Sardesai:

Sangma ensured of his 30 days of fame. good luck!

Fine, but why do we need a contest at all?

So far, not one media house even told us the pros and cons of Pranab Mukherjee (ok, I stand corrected, many pros were told!). He was a minister during the emergency - he not only saw the emergency, he helped in implementing all the draconian laws and measures then. What are his views about it? Does he regret them? Does he think the Emergency was a blot on India? What are his three best achievements as Minister of Finance? As Minister of Defence? As Minister of External Affairs? As the leader of 2 successive Lok Sabhas? Have you heard of these? Especially when he is a Congress minister and there is a "wave against the congress across india"? 

The people need to know the ideas that the candidates represent. The people need to know the views of candidates on multiple issues that might confront them. The people need to know the track records of the candidates. Only a contest can ensure that the people get to know about the candidates. So what if one of them is going to lose? Atleast, the people of this country will have had much more information at their disposal. Perhaps such contests will pave way for a more meaningful debate in the future. In 2007, when Arun Shourie exposed Pratibha Patil's murky bank and land deals, he was scoffed at. Look at where we are right now?  

Sangma will lose 2012, but he would have set up a stronger platform for a 2014 defeat of the Congress. Sangma would have probably laid a platform for future different Presidential elections and debates. And that's precisely why we need a contest. Nothing "irrational" about it. 

PS: The letter is only to IBN. I haven't watched any other news channel on this. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Bye-Elections in AP: The final results, %age votes etc

The results for the 18 assembly and 1 Lok Sabha bypoll in AP were announced on the 15th of June. As expected, the YSRCP sweeped these polls. It won a whopping 15 seats, gave a very tough fight in one, and lost 2. It also won the Nellore Lok Sabha seat by a whopping margin. There are a few key takeaways from these polls.

The mind-blowing winning percentages.

Take a look at the table below. Please compare the winning percentages of the YSRCP candidates. Most of them are near to a whopping 50% (some have crossed that too). 

In all these 18 seats combined, the Congress and the TDP have lost significant vote percentage compared to 2009 (if you compare Cong+PRP in 2009 to now, the Congress is the biggest loser in this election)

The polling percentages are really mind-blowing. Jagan Mohan Reddy did not just win - he won big time. He decimated his opponents and gave them one of their biggest defeats. YSRCP on an average polled a whopping 46.85% of votes in a three-cornered contest. The winning margins have also drastically increased from 2009. 

In our democratic system in which "first past the post" wins, a winning percentage of ~35% will ensure a candidate will win. YSRCP's humungous winning vote percentage is not an aberration. Unless something dramatic happens before the next assembly election, we will see a similar trend repeat across the state. 

An earlier blogpost also detailed the increase in the polling percentages since 2009. 

The Ramachandrapuram result

Mr. Pilli Subash Chandra Bose was a minister in the Congress government in 2009 and he quit the party to join YSRCP. He was one of the most vocal Jagan supporters. And he lost in this election - by a margin of ~12000 votes! Observers are saying that he lost because he is viewed a very corrupt person!!! 

This argument is stumping! A candidate perceived as corrupt at the local level has been made to eat the humble pie. Jagan's party (whose corruption has been detailed here) however has been given a resounding victory!! Corruption does seem to be an issue at the micro level but doesn't seem to matter a wee bit also the macro level. With such anomalies, it is extremely difficult to properly analyse the impact of corruption in the upcoming elections. 

The Parkal result

This seat is in Telangana. The TRS was expected to win this seat very comfortably. However, the YSRCP put up a good fight here too. TRS won this seat by a thin margin of ~1500 votes. There are multiple ways of interpreting this result - chief among them being that the demand of Telangana statehood perhaps lost it's fizzle. Or perhaps the demand of a separate is not as widespread as it is believed to be. The YSRCP candidate has a good following in this constituency - perhaps it is her core vote bank that is sticking with her. Either way, the narrow victory margin of TRS definetely puts a question mark over the party's impact in the entire Telangana region. 

What this means to AP

An earlier blogpost detailed this aspect too. The politics of emotion and free entitlements will rule the roost. Corruption matters zilch. Governance will come to a standstill (not that it is running now) because of expected infighting within the ruling party. 

The biggest loser seems to be the state of Andhra Pradesh. 

Final seat position in the Assembly. 

This is how the Assembly will look now.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Bye-Elections in AP: What the results will mean...

A lot of folks have asked about how the numbers are stacked up in the AP Assembly. Many are curious if the Congress government will fall after yesterday's by-poll, and if so - what are the numbers required for that.

The below chart gives you a quick summary of the seat position after the 2009 general election versus today. 

We have had many bypolls since 2009, and hence the increase/decrease in seats of some parties. 

Anyways, as was widely expected, yesterday's bypoll in 18 assembly and 1 lok sabha constituency saw more than 80% polling. These areas are known for their high polling percentages. A couple of constituencies saw more than 85% polling too!! Snapshot from The eenadu report below:

Earlier bypolls where YSRCP contested also saw such high polling percentages. These high percentages only indicate that there will be a sweep in favour of YSRCP in almost all these elections. I believe YSRCP will win anywhere between 15-18 seats (wouldn't be surprised if it won all 18). Results will be out on the 15th of June. 

What will be the significance of this victory? 


Needless to say, this will be a huge shot in the arm for this party. Jagan can go to town proclaiming that he is not guilty in the people's court. And sadly, this will also be seen a green signal to resort to as much corruption as possible. The rise and rise of Jagan till the next Assembly election seems inevitable. 


Technically, these seats were not theirs to begin with. However, they had significant presence in some of them (as can be seen from the 2009 results here). If their vote share goes down, this will be a further blow to a party that is already plagued with desertations and disappointments from Telangana leaders. Some pollsters are predicting that TDP might win a couple of seats, but I think that even it it wins 1-3 seats, it still would not enthuse the cadre much. The big loss here will only reinforce the fact that TDP needs to find new ideas (and probably new leaders) to emerge as the credible alternative to Jagan. 

For Congress

In all probability, more MLAs will desert the Congress. Even before the elections are over, 2 MLAs have resigned! Post the elections, there will again be massive infighting in the Congress over who should take responsibility, who should quit etc. There is a huge probability that the government will collapse and we will see a mid-term poll or just President's rule. Either way, the Congress is doomed (in the near future). Though the "national" media will not say it, these results will be a slap on the face of the Gandhi family. 

For the state of Andhra Pradesh

It is (and will be) quite obvious that the majority of people in the state don't worry about the massive corruption scandals rocking it. The politics of emotion and free entitlements will rule the roost. This obviously means that the economy is in for some bad days ahead. 

If the government does not miraculously collapse, it will still be plagued by a policy paralysis given the wafer-thin majority it will have. 

If the government collapses and mid-term polls are announced - no party can win an absolute majority. In all probability, YSRCP and TRS will emerge with significant seats between them. If they desire, a coalition government will be formed - which will be a disaster. 

A President's rule will not achieve anything but delay Congress's eventual demolition. 

Finally, if the government does not miraculously collapse, elections to all local bodies are due in Andhra Pradesh. YSRCP will dent both the TDP and the Congress then too. Looks like it is just a matter of time before we have a new government in AP. 

The sad part is this - no alternative looks promising. 

Bottom Line - AP is heading towards more bad times. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Bye-Elections in AP: The politics over deaths

The above news item was published a day after Jagan Mohan Reddy was arrested by the CBI. This was published in Sakshi newspaper, that is owned by Jagan Mohan Reddy himself. The headline roughly translates:

"Hearts of 18 people stopped". 

The report details how 18 people died after hearing the news of Jagan's arrest. 

The next day, we had the below news item. 

This news item increased the number of dead to 48. 48 people died in the state of Andhra Pradesh (either suicide or due to depression/shock) because Jagan Mohan Reddy was arrested by the CBI. 

These two news items pretty much summarize the "politics of deaths" that Mr. Jagan Mohan Reddy and his ilk are playing in the state of Andhra Pradesh. 

We (people of AP) are not new to this kind of politics. After YSR died, Sakshi flooded us with news of how 100s of people died out of shock. The last we heard, the number was pegged at about 600 people. We don't know the real number - it kept varying from 10s to 100s. 

And those were the days when Jagan Mohan Reddy was still in the Congress. He promised to meet the families of all those people who died "out of the shock/depression". He wanted the Congress High Command to give him permission for the same. Quite obviously, the permission was "denied" and he was advised to meet all the families at one place only. Jagan Mohan Reddy said it was against our culture (yes, he is the torchbearer of our culture too) to do so, and defiantly announced that he will visit the families. 

So far so good. How did he visit the families? 

Suppose he had to go to a village X in a district. He will first visit the district headquarters. From there, he will traverse all along villages A to W, before reaching the actual family in village X. Yes - he will stop at every single village. He will address a public meeting, and will formally open to the public a statue of YSR. In that public meeting, he will deride the current rule of Congress (of which he was still a member then). 

An entrouge will follow him. We will hear in Sakshi paper and channel that people are forcing him to stop at every village (A-W) before reaching X. Over a period that will range from anywhere between 1-4 weeks, he will have traveled the entire district and would have "consoled" maybe 10 families. 

This strategy will repeat in every single district. Maybe he even visited the districts twice (we would never know, for it is impossible to keep track of these visits!!). YSR died in Sept. 2009. Believe it or not, Jagan Mohan Reddy's "Odarpu Yatra" (Consolation Tour) is not yet over. He is still touring the state under the name of consoling the dead, and he is doing the exact opposite of that. 

Now, the Congress started getting uneasy. It tried to create a rift in Jagan Mohan Reddy's family. It was successful in doing that, and therefore Jagan quit the party. And from then on, there was no stopping him. And since every person who is outside the Congress automatically becomes corrupt, the law was unleashed on him. 

Jagan started using these "Odarpu Yatras" to generate sympathy for himself! The irony was stark - he was supposed to console families of those who apparently died for his father. The show was going on and on and on and on... 

In between he even resorted to 1 day and 2 days fasts on issues concerning farmers etc. Those events became a stage for him to showcase the support he has amongst MLAs. Once that purpose was achieved, another "Odarpu Yatra" was launched in another district. 

Meanwhile, a Congress minister (Shankar Rao) files a case in the High Court. The High Court orders a CBI enquiry into Jagan's wealth (the growth of which has been documented here and here). And since then, we have seen the CBI arrest Jagan's relatives, auditors, business partners, IAS officers, and ministers also! (All details about those cases, arrests are here and here). 

Jagan was accused number 1 in the chargesheet CBI filed. They arrested accused number 13 too, but not number 1! After facing flak, the CBI finally arrested him on the night of May 27, 2012. And that's what lead to 48 more deaths, which would mean Odarpu 2.0 will start when Odapru 1.0 will end (if and when it ends). 

The timing is suspect - no doubt about it. He was arrested just about 2 weeks before a crucial by-poll in AP (details of which are here). That is not my concern though. His disgusting politics over the dead is one of the worst things to happen to the state of AP, but then that doesn't seem to concern too many. They are busy with sympathizing with Jagan (for being a "victim" of politics, while all he merely did was to loot the state). They are busy eulogizing YSR for making the lives of the poor better (though they were looted too). 

Finally, the below snapshot in Sakshi newspaper exemplifies the depth to which Jagan can plunge: 

"7 year old stops eating because of CBI investigation of Jagan". 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

When Modi met and did not meet Advani

So IBN Live had a banner headline last evening. 

A few moments later, the Gujarat Chief Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi tweets this

You see that? A whole article was written espousing some wierd conspiracy theory of Mr. Modi not meeting Mr. Advani. And what does IBN do after this tweet comes out? 

I urge you to read both the articles. There is only one line difference between both the reports: 

Earlier line: 

Changed line in the next report:

That's it. Apart from this line, the entire report in both the links is EXACTLY the same. No difference at all. 

More importantly, IBN has NOT appologised for mis-leading it's viewers. Why?