Indian Thought

UP Election Forecaste … …

Posted on May 15, 2019. Filed under: Indian Thought |

How Good are These Guys –
Anthro.Ai  ??

The NDA won 73 seats with 41% of the vote share in 2014. They won 325 assembly constituencies with a similar vote share in 2017. It’s simplistic to attribute these results to a Modi wave, or dismiss it as an anomaly or one-off and so on.

We know the BJP isn’t doing all that well this time around and we think we know what’s going on. But, let’s start by planting a flag. After five phases, we think it’s time to be clear about how the trends we have seen translate into numbers. We at will not mention individual seats till the 20th when we will publish a seat by seat breakdown with the local factors that impacted polling on each seat.

We expect the SP-BSP-RLD gathbandhan to win between 40 and 55 seats, likely closer to 55 than 40. We expect the BJP to win between 15 and 25 seats. There is a slim possibility that they will win 30, but we think that’s unlikely now and expect them to trend closer to the lower end of this range. The Congress is likely to win 5-9 seats.

Honestly, what interests us more is how the BJP’s average vote share will change – we are projecting a drop of between 3-5%. Here’s a chart on the impact different swing levels make, using 2014 vote shares as a base. For every seat, we have looked at the percentage of votes the BJP will lead or trail by for swing levels that range from +5% to -5%.

A vote share represents different types of people with different motivations – it is made up of some people who agree with an ideology, others who believe they are finding space (and access to power) for their particular identity, there are those who care about an issue or a set of issues and believe in a party’s position on those issues, and then others who find themselves believing in a person.

Clearly, the BJP has supporters who believe in their vision for the country rooted in a particular ideology. They also have a set of people who believe in Narendra Modi and think he’s the best leader for this country. In this election, the BJP has retained both these groups of voters and definitely added many first time voters to the second.

But, they’ve lost more than they’ve gained.

In the run-up to 2014, Amit Shah moved quickly to capitalise on years of work by the BJP wooing non-Yadav OBCs and non-Jatav Dalits in Uttar Pradesh. By picking office-bearers and candidates from these communities, the BJP offered itself as the first party of choice for people who felt left out by the SP, BSP and Congress. These people had expectations rooted in what they believe had happened for the Yadavs and the Jatavs – access to power that translates into a disproportionate share of benefits, and increased respect in their neighbourhoods because of proximity to power.

Adding them to the upper caste voters they already had, the BJP built a formidable coalition around a charismatic leader who promised a lot.

The Narendra Modi government has centralised power like no one since Indira Gandhi. That has resulted in the perception that MPs have very little influence in New Delhi. And after the Yogi government came to power in Lucknow, disillusionment set in as the perception that their MPs had little power spread even more. It began with the selection of Yogi Adityanath as CM – an unexpected choice that took the backward-caste voter by surprise. Throughout the period of our study we kept picking up up rising resentment against the perception that Thakurs have too much influence. True or not, it’s also ended up impacting sections of the Brahmin vote.

The last-ditch attempt to replace sitting MPs with other candidates hasn’t gone down well either.

We believe there is a section of Kurmis and Kushwahas who haven’t voted for the BJP this time – they may have just decided to sit this one out, but the turnout suggests they have voted for the SP-BSP gathbandhan. And there’s a minor revolt brewing in the Nishad community as well.

And it will not be easy for them to recover from this shift; communities in this part of the world have long memories.

Which brings me to Ayodhya. There is a simple question being discussed there for which the BJP has no answer – after having been in power for five years in the Centre and two years in the state, why is there no progress on the temple?

But there is one group of people that may turn out to be the most significant: women.

Cutting across caste and community lines, women voted for Narendra Modi in 2014. To them, he represented an economic promise. “Good times,” they believed would arrive soon – their lives would become easier.

Demonetisation was a shock. It broke their trust. While men revelled in an outpouring of schadenfreude, believing the rich were suffering, it was women who saw their small savings become worthless, who scrambled to buy food or pay for essentials.

The stray cows that are roaming rural UP added insult to injury.

And well marketed, but poorly executed schemes, have only added to a growing anger amongst women – who’ve stayed quiet.

It is likely they are using this election as an opportunity to teach Narendra Modi’s BJP these lines written by William Congreve in 1697:

Heav’n has no rage, like love to hatred turn’d,

Nor hell a fury, like a woman scorn’d.

The “undercurrent” is an earthquake. A series of tremors fuelled by mostly disappointment and sadness but also anger and a sense of betrayal. Tremors that grow stronger where Muslims are turning out in record numbers for the candidate they expect will defeat a BJP candidate. And because Yadav and Dalit voters are enjoying a battle where they can fight together, instead of against each other.

We expect these tremors to intensify in the final days.

We are also seeing a rising excitement around the realisation that this isn’t only a vote against Modi any longer. That each vote may count towards a Mayawati-led Central government.

This may well result in a rout in the Eastern UP.

A method to our madness is an experiment in alchemy — between experienced communications specialists, data scientists, anthropologists and mathematicians; and between the human mind heart and our instincts, and immersive data streams.

We have ingested and analysed nearly all publicly indexable data in, or about, UP. This includes news stories, job postings, classifieds about farm equipment, questions and answers about entrance exams, twitter posts etc. We have tried to match this data to a 1 square kilometre grid of Uttar Pradesh. We generate different patterns from this data – and immerse ourselves in these patterns.

Additionally, we join and quietly observe public fora.

We believe in the power of the human mind to connect the dots. No matter how complex the world gets, our brains continue to make sense of it for us. More often than not, how successfully we navigate complexity is a function of the dots we are able to see.

Our models start with answers to three basic questions: what do people hope for, what do they aspire to, and what are they scared of. Using the answers we come up with, we come up with motivations and triggers and then model how that translates into a vote. We then take historical electoral data, map swings there, and try and see how our model would impact electoral outcomes.

Lastly, we try and come up with markers/proxies for what the results may look like. These have ranged from predicting turnout numbers, to the use of a particular topic by a key politician in their messaging. If we see enough of our markers pop up, we start to believe in one of our models over others.

For every constituency in UP, we have a pre-poll prediction and the reasons why people turned out. We will publish this after the 19th, and before May 23.

This article was originally published on Anthro.Ai.

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State Violence in Punjab’s ‘Terrorist’ Period …

Posted on May 12, 2019. Filed under: Indian Thought |

Here is a Drop in a Bucket regarding State Violence in India’s Punjab against ‘Terrorists’ and their Sympathizers in the late 1980s and early 1990s …

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Gauri Lankesh – A Brutal Murder …

Posted on April 3, 2019. Filed under: Indian Thought, Personalities |

“One of the feelings I have thought about the most, is pain.  And not the kind of pain one feels when you are physically hurt, but the kind of pain you feel when you lose someone. I used to think about it a lot when I was little, afraid that there will come a day when I lose those who are dear to me, but it never felt real until it actually happened. ….. ”

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Leapords Galore …

Posted on March 23, 2019. Filed under: Indian Thought |

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India 2019 by a Pakistani …

Posted on March 2, 2019. Filed under: Indian Thought |

Javed Naqvi – Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi. ‘It is in the nature of fascism to find a scapegoat for the gross imperfections of capitalism’.

A BJP supporter in my neighbourhood buttonholed me on the eve of the 2014 elections and asked which candidate would Pakistan want to win.

I said Narendra Modi, and deliberately didn’t say that I.A. Rehman or Mubashir Hasan or the late Asma Jahangir or Sheema Kermani and millions others would prefer a left-of-centre coalition to emerge victorious, while the mullahs and the generals were likely to have an opposite view — a habit that goes back to the anti-left crackdown of Ayub Khan.

I calculated it would be too fine a point for an Indian adult with a closed mind to grasp.

The media is sanguine in its ignorance that, as with India, a complex skein of ideas — often mutually hostile ideas and interests — constitutes the polity of Pakistan too.

“Why would Pakistan support Mr Modi?” the neighbour asked.

I said neither Pakistan nor China could harm India with their military might as the BJP candidate could do single-handedly by destroying the idea of India.

And since the essential idea rested on India’s secular, socialist and democratic constitution —- that has beaten Jeremy Corbyn and Bernie Sanders by decades — the only way to wreck India was by destroying the soul of its hugely disparate, intensely beautiful and mostly abused people.

Are the corporate puppeteers, who back Hindu fascism, also prescribing the divisive route that the Congress is taking?

Actually, the cross-border kinship that I discussed with my neighbour has a telling past.

Indira Gandhi liked Mujibur Rehman and was fond of Badshah Khan. But she was allergic to Gen Zia. So Zia took his revenge by according Pakistan’s highest civilian award to her rival, Morarji Desai.

Claiming to fight for democracy in India, Desai was happy with the military dictatorship in the neighbourhood, and stubbornly turned down appeals to intervene against Bhutto’s hanging.

That was also the context of India’s first right-wing foreign minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s visit to Pakistan in 1978. Ironically, liberals on both sides celebrate it as a landmark event.

Vajpayee’s tour included a warm meeting with Zia, but not a word on the condemned Bhutto. Indira Gandhi went hoarse in her futile effort to save Bhutto.

The late Fahmida Riaz had guessed that Pakistan’s mullahs were Hindutva’s kindred spirits, not its adversaries.

The bear hug accorded in Delhi to their patron saint from Saudi Arabia was not misplaced. The dialectics of ideological kinship applies to the tragedy of Pulwama.

Whoever has committed the dastardly act has lent the right-wing ruling establishment in India a helping hand in an election season. Does the Indian opposition have the wherewithal or even the will to staunch the widely feared adverse fallout?

In my view, the opposition’s shortsighted disunity is a bigger setback for democracy than any war drums can create.

Unlike Pulwama, the Mumbai carnage, the plane hijack, and the parliament attack were acts of terror that callously targeted unsuspecting civilians.

Yet terrorism failed to ruffle India’s democratic soul.

Let me say this upfront. I don’t believe the tragedy in Pulwama or its militarist echoes can harm India or defeat the opposition.

What can damage democracy irreparably are the shortsighted and self-harming manoeuvres of the Congress party and the communist-led Left Front.

Just when they were expected to offer sacrifices to save India, they seem so absorbed in eyeing their own electoral chances that they have seriously weakened opposition unity.

Are the corporate puppeteers, who back Hindu fascism, also prescribing the divisive route that the Congress is taking? Let’s not forget that it was Dalit leader Mayawati’s game-changing move to throw her weight behind her former bitter rival in Uttar Pradesh, Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, that first punched gaping cracks in Mr Modi’s invincible veneer.

She promoted Akhilesh and didn’t put up her own candidates in critical by-elections in Uttar Pradesh.

The defeat of Modi’s handpicked parliamentary candidates in the BJP’s strongholds of Gorakhpur and Phoolpur was rightly accepted as the way forward for the opposition.

The unselfish experiment was repeated in Karnataka where the Congress support enabled a local ally to form the government against the BJP’s bid. That alliance is now living dangerously with reports of petty squabbles between Congress satraps and the regional ally over power-sharing.

Who are the strongest suits for the opposition in the populous states of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal?

In Uttar Pradesh, the Congress should be helping Mayawati and Akhilesh to trounce Modi, but it is curiously going separately. The Rahul-Priyanka duo may make a novel team, but by going it alone they would cut into the tested combine that could defeat the BJP.

In West Bengal, the Congress was reportedly talking to the communists to weaken Mamata Bannerji, a strong opposition asset. In fact the communists have declared Mamata an enemy at par with the BJP. That and not the fallout from Pulwama should worry democracy-loving Indians.

To make it even more curious for the opposition’s strategy, the Congress has so far refused to join hands with Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi.

Kejriwal is reportedly ready to surrender all seven seats in Delhi if that is what it takes to defeat the BJP. Kejriwal had taken a staunchly anti-corporate position. Is the Congress being guided by that?

While trying to come together in West Bengal to waylay a fellow opposition leader, the Congress and the Left are fighting each other in Kerala.

We hear that Modi will use Pulwama to win the elections. One can’t see how that should adversely impact on Mayawati or Akhilesh or Lalu whose men died in the Pulwama tragedy.

Modi may or may not use the tragedy, but the self-destructive opposition parties will certainly need it to explain their defeat, should they miss a great opportunity to defeat fascism. There may not be a second chance.

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2019 – Is there any Difference?…

Posted on January 24, 2019. Filed under: Indian Thought |

Siddharth Varadarajan in The Wire –

The only thing more shocking than Rahul Gandhi’s attempt to deny the involvement of the Congress party in the 1984 massacre of Sikhs is the cynicism with which so many of us speak of one of independent India’s most heinous crimes after being complicit in its covering up.

Consider this. Despite the truth of the involvement of Congress leaders in the mass murder of citizens, the party won the largest number of seats in the Lok Sabha elections that were held barely four weeks later.

Even if we assume “sympathy” over Indira Gandhi’s assassination trumped all basic considerations of humanity, the collective failure to recognise the need for justice has lasted much longer – and runs far deeper – than we would like to admit.

From 1985 to 1989, the media and the middle class provided uncritical adulation to Rajiv Gandhi.

Remember, this was a prime minister who made light of the massacre with his crack about the earth shaking when a big tree falls …

… and then employed every administrative and legal trick in the book to ensure there would be no effective criminal prosecution of the politicians, police officials and street thugs who had the blood of thousands on their hands.

When Rajiv Gandhi’s public stock eventually fell, it was not because of his culpability for the 1984 massacres and the denial of justice which followed but because of the Bofors corruption scandal.

His rule was followed by V.P. Singh, who had the support of both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left, and then by Chandrashekhar. It is a matter of record that nothing substantial was done during these two years to punish those responsible for the massacre.

The BJP, in any case, was more interested in fighting over something Babur had done in the 16th century to bother about a crime committed in more recent times.

In 1991, P.V. Narasimha Rao – who as Union home minister had presided over the November 1984 killings and subsequent cover-up – became prime minister, to be followed by H.D. Deve Gowda, Inder Gujral and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Manmohan Singh became prime minister in 2004 and Narendra Modi has led the country since 2014.

At various points, non-Congress prime ministers, especially Vajpayee and Modi, have paid lip-service to the idea of justice for 1984, only to end up appointing toothless and ineffective commissions and committees.

Enhanced relief packages – arbitarily designed to favour the victims of certain massacres as against others – are no substitute for the criminal prosecution of those involved.

It is worth asking why non-Congress governments have consistently failed to deliver justice despite the obvious political advantage this would yield.

The answer is simple. ……………

Because it would require attacking and dismantling the impunity granted to the police – and to supporters of the ruling dispensation – to commit crimes against the people without fear of legal sanction.

What India needs is a doctrine of command responsibility – a concept well understood in international criminal law – but neither the Congress nor the BJP will ever risk such a provision on the statute books.

In the years since 1984, India has seen large-scale communal killings in Malliana and Hashimpura near Meerut (1987), Bhagalpur (1989), Bombay (1992-93), Gujarat (2002), Kokrajhar (2012) and Muzaffarnagar (2013).

In all of these instances, the state’s failure to control the violence or arrest and prosecute the perpetrators after it was over is writ large.

Among these, the one incident which bears striking similarity to Delhi is Gujarat. The administrative and political technology that the Congress used after Indira Gandhi’s assassination on October 31, 1984 served as a direct inspiration for what the BJP did after 58 Hindu passengers were burned alive on February 27, 2002.

The manner in which the legal cases were wilfully sabotaged by the Narendra Modi government in Gujarat was also a carbon copy of what the Delhi police did under Rajiv Gandhi and Narasimha Rao.

The only difference between the two massacres was the role played by the Supreme Court. After 1984, the highest court of the land remained a mute spectator to the denial of justice.

But thanks to the role played by National Human Rights Commission in 2002, the Supreme Court not only got involved but actually took concrete steps to ensure the delivery of basic justice in at least the most high-profile of the massacre cases.

The court, which had no faith in Modi as chief minister, did so by either transferring some cases outside the state or directly monitoring the progress of others.

The victims of November 1984, sadly, received no such help. The BJP and other parties continued to speak of the massacres, but only in order to score points over the Congress and not out of any commitment to delivering justice.

Such is the BJP’s cynicism that its top leaders were happy to unveil a plaque at the Bangla sahib gurudwara in Delhi calling the mass killing of Sikhs a “Genocide” but as a government they now insist the G word does not apply.

If Rahul Gandhi were really serious about being in politics and about making a positive difference, he should stop repeating worn-out denials to a truth the whole of India knows.

He would instead have had the courage to say something along the following lines:

“Culpability cannot  be limited to the guilt of someone being established in a court of law. When you are a leader and people are killed in large numbers on your watch, you cannot escape responsibility for failing to save lives. At the very least, you cannot escape blame for failing to deliver justice to the victims. It is because of this failure that innocent people have continued to fall victim to communal violence.

“Yes, the massacre of innocents happened when the Congress was in power. Yes, it happened while my father was prime minister, Yes, the Congress and its leaders – many of whom were involved in the violence – cannot escape the blame for this”.

Manmohan Singh apologised to the nation as prime minister but this did not satisfy the victims or the nation, nor could it. The time for an apology can only come after justice is done, after the guilty have been punished, and after we have ensured that such heinous crimes can no longer happen in our country.

“If only the media of this country had questioned my father when he was prime minister on what happened in 1984, things might have been different.

“Democracy can only survive and be strengthened if journalists have the right to ask questions to politicians and officials and fearlessly exercise that right. When the media fails to do its job, politicians will fail to do theirs.”

I doubt Rahul Gandhi will ever be able to make a speech like this, even though it would be in his political interest to do so.

The moral compass he has inherited will warn him against moving in that direction.

After all, Modi who has the same compass – and obtained it not through inheritance but by his own exertions –has done pretty well for himself.

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New Year Cheer …

Posted on January 2, 2019. Filed under: Indian Thought |

Extracted from The Wire – The poetry of fearlessness –
Avijit Pathak

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
   Where knowledge is free;
   Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls;
   Where words come out from the depth of truth;
   Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
   Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;
   Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening
thought and action
   Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.”

I begin my journey towards the ‘newness’ in the New Year with this extraordinary poem of Rabindranath Tagore.

Yes, I am aware of the fact that I am reading Tagore at a time when the psychology of fear invades our existence. Fear paralyses us. Can we overcome this life-killing fear?

Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way.

At this moment I find the blend of Raj Kapoor and Mukesh once again. What a lovely song in Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s film Anari! I close my eyes, and begin to absorb the song (thanks to lyricist Shailendra, and music director Shankar Jaikishan):

Falling for someone’s smiles
Borrow, if you can, someone’s strife
Open your heart for someone’s love  
That’s the pleasure of life.  

When social Darwinism or the doctrine of the survival of the fittest becomes the language of the neoliberal market, it is not easy to borrow someone’s strife.

Furthermore, as the glitz of consumerism seduces us, and the ‘having mode of existence’, as Erich Fromm said beautifully, generates a sense of chronic restlessness for more and more, it is not easy to acquire the richness of simplicity, and sing:

What if I have no wealth
Yet I’m rich at heart
Falling for love
That’s life.

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2018 – Year of Frauds …

Posted on December 31, 2018. Filed under: Indian Thought |

Sharp Increase in Fraud Cost Indian Banks Rs 42,167 Crore in 2017-18, Says RBI
Nirav Mody

Despite “stringent monitoring and vigilance,” data released by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) reveals that fraudsters have looted India banking institutions of Rs 42,167 crore in 2017-18.

This is a sharp increase of 72% from Rs 23,933 crore from the previous year, according to the Indian Express.

And another –

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Swatch Bharat …

Posted on December 31, 2018. Filed under: Indian Thought |

According to a 2015 study on the costs of poor sanitation authored jointly by the LIXIL Group Corporation, Water Aid and Oxford Economics, poor sanitation cost the world $222 billion in 2015. India accounted for almost half of that cost at $106 billion, or 5.2% of the country’s GDP. 

Kabir Agarwal’s series on open defecation in Uttar Pradesh stood out for me. Kabir has a knack for making the reader feel like they are embedded in the story, which he does here as well through his extensive reporting. The three-part series brings out the issues with the crucial Swachh Bharat Mission, with evocative narratives of false government claims and the daily struggles of people on the ground.

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India vs China n Chess vs Go …

Posted on December 19, 2018. Filed under: Chinese Wisdom, From a Services Career, Indian Thought |


Satellite map of Chumbi Valley, Doklam region. Credit: Scribble Maps

Here are dictums for would be Napoleons —

Talking of Strategy vis a vis Tactics – the Guy said the former is what you do to handle the Mom n the latter is what you do to tackle the Daughter ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………And talking of Plans, this is what he thundered – “If the Enemy does this then your plans must ensure he gete ‘F…..d’ Right Royally but if he does the Alternate, then your plans must ensure that he gets ‘B……d’ – Good and Proper…

And By Jove – if he does what You have not thought of —- then be prepared for him to do Both to You!!!

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