Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Kaun Banega Prime Minister

India goes in election mode from April 16 to May 16, 2009, to elect the 15th Lok Sabha. The 15th Lok Sabha will have 543 seats and therefore for any party or formation to come into power would require at least 271 seats. That no single party will be able to garner 271 seats in this election is a foregone conclusion. Who becomes the prime minister will depend on which formation comes to power. At this moment there seems to be three political formations that has more or less taken shape viz., the United Progressive Alliance or the UPA, National Democratic Alliance or the NDA, and the Third Front.

Let me now profile the prime ministerial candidates and the chances of their becoming the next Prime Minister of India:
1. Dr. Manmohan Singh: He is the Congress’ choice for the Prime Minister from the UPA. For Dr. Manmohan Singh to be the next Prime Minister of India, Congress has either to gain a few seats than last time or at least maintain the number of seats it had and reach somewhere in the vicinity of 140-160. I do not see Congress reaching the number after it has lost the Hindi heartland alliance in UP, Bihar, Jharkhand. Congress is likely to do very poorly in the southern states of TN and Karnataka. So I would not give Dr. Manmohan Singh (or any other congress candidate) more than 35-40% chance of becoming the next Prime Minister.

2. Lal Krishna Advani: He is the BJP's and NDA's choice of prime minister. Again for Mr. L. K. Advani to become the prime minister, BJP has to win somewhere in the vicinity of 140-160 seats by itself and hope its allies will get the rest 111-131 seats. I do not see BJP getting anywhere near 140-160 seats on its own as it is very weak in UP, no presence in WB, TN, Kerala (accounts for 181 seats). So I would not give Mr. L. K. Advani (or any other BJP candidate) more than 40% chance of becoming the next Prime Minister.

The calculations for either Congress of BJP might change only if there is any unforeseen wave coming out in their favor in the next few weeks. For anyone else to become the next Prime Minister, he/she has to get the support of one of the big two i.e., Congress or BJP.

3. Ms. Mayawati: She is the BSP's prime ministerial aspirant. I do not give her even 1% chance of being the next prime minister because I do not see any political party giving her support as she is too ambitious and can eat into the support base of other regional or national parties.

4. Mr. Sharad Pawar: Sharad Pawar may find support from Shiv Sena apart from his own party to become the next prime minister, but there would be a very remote possibility that BJP will support him and Congress just won’t support him as that might wean away some influence from the Nehru-Gandhi family and historically Congress has never supported any strong leader with mass support outside of the Nehru-Gandhi Family (leaders inside or outside Congress). I would give him less than 5% probability of being the next Prime Minister of India.

5. Mr. Lalu Prasad Yadav/Mulayam Singh Yadav/Ram Vilas Paswan: They are the leaders of the newly found fourth front. Since they appeal to the same class of voters there is 0% probability of any of the two supporting the third as the prime minister as he (selected one) can then undermine the other two. So I would give 0.5% probability for any of them to be the next Prime Minister of India.

6. Ms. Jayalalitha/Chandra Babu Naidu: I do not see either of them getting the support of Congress as congress is the main opponent of Chandra Babu Naidu in AP and Sonia Gandhi will not support Jayalalitha due to the latter’s previous comments on the foreigner issue.

Who can then be the next Prime Minister of India? For sure, we won’t have back to back elections due to lack of decisive majority for any formation. Now if we go back in history and look at the other non-Congress, non BJP prime ministers of the recent past we find Mr. V. P. Singh, Mr. Chandra Shekhar, Mr. Deve Gowda, and Mr. I. K. Gujral. The one thing that was common to all of them was they either did not have mass following or their area of influence was limited to their own state only, so they got the support of the Congress party.

It is this logic that brings to my mind another complete outsider of national politics into the foreground, Naveen Patnaik of the Biju Janata Dal. Although, I understand this is the most audacious or even hilarious prediction ever and seems to be impossible, but then who had ever thought Mr. Chandra Shekhar, Mr. Deve Gowda or Mr. I. K. Gujral will be the Prime Minister of India before the elections.

Why Naveen Patnaik? Congress will support him because primarily he or his party does not have any following outside of Orissa, secondly with less than 15 seats of his own Congress can dethrone him at an opportune time, and finally he has just been weaned out from BJP. The Yadavs (Lalu and Mulayam) will support him for the simple reason that Mr. Patnaik is not going to eat into their share of votes ever and they can have their sweet revenge on Congress. The Left will be more than happy to support him or any other non-congress, non-BJP person. I see more than 50% chance of Mr. Naveen Patnaik as the next Prime Minister of India because of his acceptability amongst the third front as well as the Congress. How long he can remain the Prime Minister is a different question altogether.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Indian Primier League or Indian Political League

Indian Premier League (IPL) was inaugurated in 2008 and was conceived in a way that eight Indian city teams will play each other in a home and away format in the lines of English Premier League (football). The first edition of IPL was held from April 18, 2007 to June 1, 2008, and was a huge success. The second edition of the IPL was scheduled to take place from April 10, 2009. Although IPL is a purely commercial venture, it was the first Indian sporting brand where cricketers from around the globe came to play cricket in India with Indian internationals and local Indian players.

BCCI on March 22, 2009, decided to hold IPL outside of India. This was done because some of the states (UPA ruled states) said they would not be able to provide security to the IPL as India will be going through general elections at the same time and they did not want to take the risk of a Lahore like incident during the IPL.

There are a few things to ponder about the security issues that the UPA ruled states and the UPA government has brought forward by making a direct reference to the Lahore attack of the Sri Lankan national team:

Is the situation of India and Pakistan the same, election or no election? I do not think there is even an iota of semblance between the security conditions of the two countries. Pakistan is a failed country which is going through chaos; more than 50% of the country is not in the control of the federal government and is controlled by Taliban and/or feudal warlords. State agencies in Pakistan sponsor terrorism and in all likelihood the attack on Sri Lankan cricket team was backed by some rogue elements within a state agency. On the other hand, India is as safe as UK or USA (sporadic terror attacks happen in UK, India, or in any part of the world but not sponsored by the government).

If government cannot guarantee the security of a sporting event during the election, is the life of the ordinary Indians (Aam Admi) safe during the same period? I am starting to wonder about the safety of malls, multiplexes, rails, metro rails, airports and any other place where large number of people assemble during the April May time period as the Government of India will not have adequate security forces to protect any one but election booths.

Will the Indian government send advisory to all foreign governments to prevent their citizens from visiting India during the same period because India cannot provide adequate security in the Indian cities and towns and chances are there that some of them might be kidnapped and killed (like in Pakistan).

Can India host gala sport events (commonwealth games) in the future and what if nobody wants to come here because the government has already given the signal that India is not a safe country anymore.

By denying IPL 2, I think Government of India has created question marks about India's ability to provide security to Indians and a handful of foreign players. I think the decision of not granting security to IPL 2 has more to do with Lalit Modi's proximity to the opposition (NDA) rather than the inability to provide security during the election process. If states like West Bengal (Third front ruled) and NDA ruled states like Karnataka, Punjab can provide security why can't UPA ruled states like Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Andhra Pradesh do the same?

The decision of BCCI to shift IPL out of India due to security concerns will not harm the game of cricket and will not harm the commercial interests of BCCI and/or the franchises but definitely will tarnish the image of India. It will also give India's adversaries a chance to equate the unsafe situation in Pakistan with India citing Government of India's inability/reluctance to provide security to a major domestic sporting event.