Sunday, April 20, 2014

Indian Elections: A Big Mystery



I am used to following US presidential elections surveys where the polls are often within points of being accurate. They are quite often within their declared margin of error, if not individually then definitely collectively. Measured by that standard, I have no idea what's going on in India right now, and half the country has already voted.

If the Indian surveys get it right this time, it will be the firs time. As recently as the Delhi assembly elections the surveys were way off the mark. We did not see Kejriwal coming. Heck, I was not paying much attention to the guy at all until he became Delhi Chief Minister. And I had never heard of Kumar Vishwas until then. A friend mentioned the name in a phone conversation, only then I did a search on him on YouTube.

So I am looking forward to May 16. It might be another week or so before a clear picture emerges. It is going to be a frenetic few days.

I get a lot of my news through Google News. I have created a section there for Nitish Kumar. After Nitish came out saying he is better qualified than Modi or Rahul, for days there was no news about him. It was as if the Indian media had collectively engineered a Nitish blackout. For about a week there was no news item on Nitish in my Google News section on Nitish Kumar. I was used to reading a few new news items on him every day. How could that happen? It is not possible the BJP paid all of Indian media to stop writing about Nitish. I think what happened is the Indian media has never had to face a Mandal Commission to date. The Indian media's power structure mirrors the power structure of Indian politics before VP Singh came along. And there is a huge upper caste bias against someone like Nitish in the Indian media. That is harmful for democracy.

The same goes to campaign finance. Why does Rahul not know how much money the Indian corporate houses are giving to Modi? Why is he left guessing? That information needs to be public information.

Indian democracy will be better served if laws are passed such that (1) it becomes easier to create new media houses, (2) all media houses must publicly disclose money received from political parties or political groups affiliated with them, (3) those conducting polls are made to disclose their sources of funding, and (4) it goes without saying all political parties must do what AAP is doing voluntarily, they must disclose all their sources of funding on their websites.

And on that note I think Kejriwal has a real shot at winning in Varanasi. He has an advantage: he can actually spend time in Varanasi. He has been telling people, if Modi will not come meet you before the elections what are the chances he will come meet you after?

I could not tell you where the political parties stand today. I will patiently wait until the votes are counted. I know for sure the surveys are off the mark, but that does not mean I know where each political party stands. And it is best I not guess.
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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Did Modi Just Ask For My Vote?