‘The Mahabharata Murders’ – The Review

The Mahabharata is probably the greatest book that has ever been written. Vast in its scope, breathtaking in its complexity, sweeping in its array of characters, flawless in its attention to details, and ambiguous in its moral lessons, it is truly an epic. In fact, it is quite possible to take away small portion of its storylines and characters and weave complex plotlines around them. Arnab Ray (or Greatbong as he is better known) does the same in ‘The Mahabharata Murders’, creating enigmatic persona, terse interactions and a fascinating murder mystery, all revolving around the storylines and characters of Mahabharata.

‘The Mahabharat Murders’ is a serial killer mystery, but in effect is much more than that. Set in Kolkata as a cat and mouse game unravels between two investigating officers and a mysterious sociopath, it transcends its genre to act as an effective commentary on the characters and the society they live in.

It is told from the point of view of a thirty five year old Muslim woman. While the author himself is neither Muslim nor a woman, he brings characteristic finesse to the character, incorporating the many obstacles and insinuations that a working, single woman has to face in modern society which is still in many ways as parochial in its treatment of women as it used to be in the times the Mahabharata was written. In fact, in many ways, Ruksana Ahmed, the protagonist, is reminiscent of Draupadi. Strong –willed, intelligent, and ambitious, yet constrained by the social norms and patriarchy, like Draupadi, she has multiple men in her life, many of whom have treated her little better than a pitiful object of desire, but she manages to have her revenge, and survive longer than most of her tormentors.

Unlike a typical book of this genre, ‘The Mahabharata Murders’ is heavy in dialogues, written mostly in the form of a screenplay. The characters are mostly Bengalis, and like the typical Bengali, they like to talk, often with a dry wit and dripping sarcasm. To the author’s credit, it never gets verbose, and the story progresses smoothly without ever being held up. In fact, he adroitly allows the characters play off each other, manufacturing tension from their interactions. These conversation between the characters, often ominous and with a sense of foreboding, form some of the best moments of the book.

In case the book is made into a movie, there will be inevitable comparisons with ‘Baishey Shrabon’, the Prosenjit starrer. However, a more apt comparison perhaps shall be ‘Shojarur Kanta’, another serial killer Byomkesh novel written by Sharadindu Bandopadhyay. Like ‘Shojarur Kanta’, this novel is also more about the story behind the crime, rather than finding out the perpetrator of the crime. In fact, it may be argued ‘Shojarur Kanta’ is probably among the very few Byomkesh novels, where a well written story from a different genre (a romantic drama in this case) is disguised in the form of a whodunit.

If there is one grouse against ‘The Mahabharata Murders’, it is the climax. The denouement of a mystery novel is typically the toughest part, as the author not only has to bring together the loose ends of the story and present a coherent, satisfactory closure, he also has to explain the plausibility of the same to the reader, while retaining an element of surprise. That explanation in itself can become an awkward tool in the storytelling process, something which has been acknowledged by none other than Satyajit Ray himself and even by the author in this novel. Greatbong does make a honest attempt to provide a satisfactory climax to the story; the ending does come as a bit of a shock and perhaps it is the best one can come up with, but it still leaves a few gaping holes in the plot line.

If there is any moral lesson in Mahabharata, it is that end justifies the means. If you, however, find the journey more satisfying than the end it gets you to, you will find ‘The Mahabharata Murders’ one of the best mystery novels this year, and not just by an Indian author.

P.S. – I finished the book in one sitting, of around six hours. It is that engrossing.

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A Comprehensive Guide to the Financials of the Indian Premier League Franchisees

Indian Premier League, popularly known as IPL, the much followed and the much maligned T20 cricket tournament is in its tenth edition now. Having managed to survive a string of high profile corruption cases, censure from the Supreme Court, change of administrators, churning of franchises and temporary banishments from India, the prospect of the league currently looks as bright as it ever was.

In its current edition, eight different teams are contesting in the IPL. Six of these – Mumbai Indians, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Kolkata Knight Riders, Sunrisers Hyderabad, Kings XI Punjab and Delhi Daredevils are regular franchises. Two new comers – Rising Pune Super Giant and Gujarat Lions have been inducted temporarily to take the places of Chennai Super Kings and Rajasthan Royals, which have been suspended for two years in the wake of some of the officials of these teams being involved in a spot fixing scandal. Both Chennai and Rajasthan are expected to return in next year’s IPL.

With the businesses of the franchisees having stabilized now, it is time to take a long, hard look at their financials and find out if the investments were actually worth it.

Source of Revenue:

Before looking at the financial numbers of these businesses, it is important to know the source of revenue for them. For an IPL team, the revenue comes typically from the following sources:

  • The BCCI auctions off the broadcasting and digital rights of IPL to the television networks, 60% of the proceeds of which are then distributed to the participating IPL teams. The proportion of each IPL team in the pool depends on its standing in the IPL.
  • The BCCI also auctions off the sponsorship of IPL. For example, Vivo is currently the lead sponsor of IPL. The sponsorship amount is also contributed to the central pool 60% of which is again divided among the various teams with teams better placed in the league getting a higher share of the revenue pie.
  • The individual franchises also look for sponsors. Usually, each team has multiple sponsors and the amount paid by each sponsor depends on the relative size of their respective logos as well as the placement of these logos in the jerseys of the teams. For example, Kolkata Knight Riders currently has a number of sponsors like Gionee, Reliance Jio, Lux Cozi, Exide, SRMB TMT, Colors Bangla, Greenply Industries Limited and Khadim’s. Gionee though is the lead sponsor as is apparent from the fact that its name is emblazoned prominently at the centre of the KKR jersey. Thus, among these sponsors, Gionee also has to pay the highest amount to KKR.
  • The teams also obtain gate receipts from their respective stadium for the tickets purchased by the spectators who attend the home matches.
  • Apart from this, there is substantial prize money to be owned by the franchises in case they manage to make it to the play-offs.
  • The franchises, especially the better known ones, also earn some revenue through sale of merchandise.

Expenses Incurred:

As against these, the main expenses incurred by these franchisees include the following:

  • Back in 2008, when the IPL rights of the various cities were auctioned off to the franchisees, they agreed to pay a quoted amount to BCCI for these rights. This amount to be paid is spread over a period of ten years. For example, at the time of auction, the management of Delhi Daredevils had quoted a price of Rs. 336 Crores which means it has to make a payment of Rs. 33.60 Crores to BCCI every year till 2017. Post 2017, the franchisees will have to share 20% of their respective income with BCCI.
  • Apart from the fees to BCCI, the major operating expense of these franchises includes the payment of salaries to players, coaches and support staff. Salaries to players constitute the largest chunk of these. In IPL, of course, the players do not come cheap and almost all the players are bought through open auctions. A certain percentage of prize money also has to be distributed in the form of incentives to the players.
  • The franchises have to make payment to the respective cricket associations for using the stadium during the period of IPL.
  • The IPL franchises also incur significant promotional activities. During March-May, you may find large banners popping up in the cities hosting IPL matches, asking you to support the respective IPL team based out of that city. This is mainly to ensure that high attendance in the IPL matches (which translates into gate receipts), create higher brand awareness (thus resulting in more interest from sponsors) and more sale of merchandises.
  • Other than that, the teams also have to incur travel and lodging expenses during the length of the tournament, various legal and administration expenses, and interest expenses, in case they have availed loans from banks or other entities for funding part of their working capital requirement.

The Structure of the Franchises:

Not all IPL franchises are structured alike. Some of them like the erstwhile Deccan Chargers, Chennai Super Kings (before 2015) and the Sunrisers Hyderabad are part of bigger companies (Deccan Chronicle Holding Limited, India Cements Limited and Sun TV Network Limited respectively). These companies have miscellaneous other assets apart from the franchise rights of these IPL teams. On the other hands, most of the remaining other IPL teams are owned by special purpose vehicles i.e. companies which have been formed only in order to hold these assets. For example, Mumbai Indians is owned by a company named Indiawin Sports Private Limited which is a 100% subsidiary of Reliance Industries Investments & Holdings Limited which is again a 100% subsidiary of Reliance Industries Limited. Similarly, Royal Challengers Bangalore is owned by Royal Challengers Sports Private Limited which is a 100% subsidiary of United Spirits Limited. The newly formed Rising Pune Supergiant is owned by a company named New Rising Promoters Private Limited which is a subsidiary of Crescent Power Limited which is in turn a subsidiary of CESC Limited, the flagship company of the RP-Sanjiv Goenka group.

In some cases, the shareholding is slightly complicated. Kings XI Punjab is owned by KPH Dream Crocket Private Limited which has equity stakes from four individual investors – Mohit Burman (46%), Ness Wadia (24%), Preity Zinta (24%) and Karan Paul (6%). Kolkata Knight Riders is owned by Knight Riders Sports Private Limited which used to be a subsidiary of Red Chillies Entertainment Private Limited till February, 2010. In 2010, the ownership was changed and currently 55% stake in the entity is held jointly by Shahrukh Khan and Gauri Khan, while 45% stake is owned by Sea Island Investments Limited, a Mauritius based overseas entity owned by Jay Mehta, the business man husband of Juhi Chawla. In fact, this sale of ownership attracted the attention of the Enforcement Directorate which has issued show cause notices to the concerned parties, alleging that the sale of shares was done at a price below the market rate, resulting in loss of foreign exchange to the exchequer and contravening the provisions of the Foreign Exchange Management Act. GMR Sports Private Limited, the owner of Delhi Daredevils, has a rather curious, hybrid structure, with 51% of its ownership being held by GMR Enterprises Private Limited and the remaining 49% owned by four individuals, all promoters or executives of the GMR group.

Financials:

Based on the revenue and profit generated, the franchises may be categorised into the following four broad categories:

Team MatrixFor the purpose of comparison, the average revenue and profit after tax of the various franchises over the last three years available have been plotted in the following chart:

Revenue and PAT

PAT

The amount of investment made by the owners into the respective franchises (in the form of either debt or equity) as on 31st Mar, 2016 has also been compared below:

Investments Made

Kolkata Knight Riders:

Kolkata Knight Riders might be the only franchise which is not part of any well known business group or does not have majority stake owned by investors from strictly business backgrounds. Kolkata Knight Riders, however, is also among the best managed IPL franchise and a look at the financials of Knight Riders Sports Limited, the company owning the franchise tells you why.

Ever since the franchise went through a makeover in the 2011 IPL season, disbanding almost the entire previous team and recruiting new players like Gautam Gambhir, Yousuf Pathan, Shakib Al Hassan, Sunil Narine, etc., KKR has become a force to reckon with in the IPL. After finishing sixth, eight and sixth respectively in the first three seasons, the franchise has made it to the play-offs in the four of the next six seasons and has even managed to win the league in 2012 and 2014.

The improved performance of the KKR on the field has been reflected in the financial numbers of the franchisee as well. It has posted profits in all years since 2011-12, registering aggregate profit of Rs. 46 Crores in these five years. At the same time, its balance sheet has also improved. It has now repaid all debt obligations from banks and is the rare franchisee to have a positive book value of around Rs. 40 Crores as on 31st Mar, 2017. In other words, its owners have already been able to recuperate the investment of Rs. 20 Crores made in the franchise and have a tidy profit of around Rs. 20 Crores on top of it.

The good financial results of KKR are partly a result of the fact that its owners had bid for it cheaply at the time of the auctions, thus resulting in lower burden in the form of annual franchise fee. While the support base of KKR is possibly higher than that of franchises based out Hyderabad, Bangalore, Delhi and Punjab, the rights of it were acquired at a lower price (USD 75 Million) compared to the franchises based out of the aforementioned cities. The star power of Shah Rukh Khan also helps in attracting more advertisers.  Thus Knight Riders Sports Private Limited has annual revenue at par with or higher than these franchisees, while it pays a lower franchise fee to BCCI. This along with its efficient bidding techniques and improved performance in the league has made this franchisee financially the most sound in the entire IPL fraternity.

Kings XI Punjab:

On the face of it, Kings XI Punjab has a lot going against it. It is not owned by a deep pocketed corporate house, which means it does not have access to the funds of a cash rich parent entity which can fund any loss that it might be making. Being a standalone corporate entity, it also does not benefit from any cost synergies with a larger, parent company. The lack of backing of a corporate also reduces its attractiveness in the debt market. It is owned by four separate individuals, two of whom are not in the best of terms with each other. Being located out of Chandigarh, it does not have access to a large supporter base, unlike Mumbai or Chennai. And finally, its performance on the field has been middling at best. It has been one of the least successful franchises in the IPL, making it to the knockouts only twice in nine attempts, and failing to win the league even once.

A look at the financials of KPH Dream Cricket Private Limited, the owner of KXP, however, shows that it is much better placed than most of its more heralded peers.  While its revenue in a relatively bad year is only around Rs. 105 Crores (its revenue increased in 2014-15 to Rs. 130 Crores largely because of it finishing among the top two in that year), the company has been able to eke out tiny profits in three of the last four years, including in the last two. While KPH Dream Cricket still bears accumulated losses, on account of losses made in the earlier years, its book value has increased from a negative Rs. 48 Crores to a negative Rs. 35 Crores in the last four years.

Part of the losses posted by the company in the initial years has been funded by unsecured loans from the owners.  But with profit accruing in the last few years, KPH Dream Cricket has been able to pay off part of these unsecured loans, and the outstanding unsecured loans as on 31st Mar, 2016 stands at Rs. 58 Crores. The company is also availing working capital borrowings from RBL Bank Limited. While the sanctioned limit is Rs. 35.00 Crores, the outstanding amount near year ends has been at around Rs. 15 Crores.

In terms of operational expenses, KXP has been one of the most frugal sides. Apart from the franchise fee of Rs. 30 Crores that it has to pay to BCCI annually, it has incurred average operational expenses of around Rs. 72 Crores in the last four years, most of which is in the form of player expenses. Part of the reason why KXP has been unwilling to chop and change its player combination in spite of not getting great results in the tournament is that its existing player base does not come with a very high price tag. In fact, it does not have a single expensive domestic player in its roster and most of its overseas players have also been picked up quite cheap. It currently pays around 30% of its revenue in the form of franchise fee to BCCI and completion of the ten year period in 2018 shall see the percentage share get reduced to 20% and thus enable the company to register more profits.

In business terms, Kings’ XI Punjab is the equivalent of a low cost, no frills, economy only airline. The downside, of course, is that the team’s on-field performance has been erratic and the supporters do not have much to cheer for. It remains to be seen how long the team can retain support of fans and advertisers, given the poor record on field. Also another challenge in front of the management shall be maintaining this cost competitiveness at the next years’ auction when most players will again be up for auction again.

Delhi Daredevils:

The fortunes of the Delhi Daredevils, owned by the GMR group, have gone into a tailspin over the last few seasons. Initially a formidable side, it made to the play-offs of IPL in three out of the first five seasons, but has struggled badly since then. It finished last in both the 2013 and 2014 seasons and came close to finishing last in 2015 and 2016 as well. The franchise has been let down by muddled strategic thinking and propensity of the management to bid for players at sky high prices and then release them without persisting with them. A list of the players released by Delhi Daredevils would make a formidable XI on its own – David Warner, Gautam Gambhir, AB De Villiers, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Kevin Pietersen, Shikhar Dhawan, Aaron Finch, Glenn Maxwell, Yuvraj Singh, Imran Tahir, Andre Russell, Amit Mishra, Umesh Yadav, Ashish Nehra, etc. As recently as 2016, the franchise bought Pawan Negi for a whopping Rs. 8.5 Crores and then let him go after just one season.

This random chopping and changing of players and inexplicable buys at the auctions have not only affected the performance of the franchise on the field, but has also impacted its financial numbers. GMR Sports Private Limited, the company that owns Delhi Daredevils, has registered losses in six of the last seven years, the only exception being 2013-14.

The main issue with the company has been the poor showing on the field (which has prevented the company from reaping the benefits of a relatively sizeable fan base) and high operating expenses, ranging between Rs. 100 Crores and Rs. 125 Crores, excluding the franchise fee. Its operating expenses have usually been higher than the franchises based out of Kolkata, Chandigarh and Bangalore.  The franchise did show some signs of improvement in 2015-16, with the losses narrowing down to Rs. 6.2 Crores.

However, the liquidity issues being faced by the company have also affected the conduct of the company with banks. It has availed a loan facility of Rs. 45 Crores with Yes Bank. Disclosures in the financial statements show that it has made multiple instances of delays in the servicing of the debt in 2015-16, with the number of days of irregularities extending to 69 days in one instance (if the number of days of irregularities goes beyond 90 days, an account becomes a non-performing asset or an NPA in the parlance of Reserve Bank of India).

It is not that the management has not been cognizant of the issues. For example, its annual reports over the last few financial years have contained the following clarification:

Your management has taken the continuous weak performance of the team seriously. Major changes are being made to ensure better performance on the field and rationalization of costs keeping in mind the revenue potential of the franchise. As a first step, the player salaries will be rationalized in the upcoming auction without compromising the core of the team. We are also actively looking at pruning the support staff costs to ensure a better financial performance.

In spite of making such statements though, the management has gone on to splurge Rs. 16 Crores on Yuvraj Singh and Rs. 8.5 Crores on Pawan Negi and then release them the next season.

In order to register profits, GMR Sports Private Limited needs to get a number of acts right. It needs to trim its player and staff expenses, as identified rightly in the financial statements. And at the same time, it needs to deliver results on the field, which will not only increase its revenue from the BCCI central pool, but also attract advertisers, and increase attendance at its home matches. Currently, it does have a promising, young team; however, its strategy at the 2018 IPL auctions is going to be crucial. The franchise must also be hoping for a much higher premium at the time of allotment of revised broadcasting and digital rights which increase the kitty of the central pool. Finally, the end of the fixed royalty payment to BCCI and switching over to a variable payment regime may also save some cost for the franchise at the margin.

Mumbai Indians:

By most measures, Mumbai Indians is to the Indian Premier League what Chelsea is to the English Premier League or Real Madrid is to La Liga. It is owned by Indiawin Sports Private Limited which is a step down subsidiary of Reliance Industries Limited, currently the most valued company in India with a market capitalization of close to Rs. 4.6 lakh crores. It is based out of Mumbai, the commercial capital of the country. It has been the franchise hosting iconic players like Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Sanath Jayasurya, Lasith Malinga, Harbhajan Singh, etc. And its performance over the last few seasons has been impressive, with the franchise notching up two IPL wins (2013 and 2015) and two more Champions League wins (2011 and 2013).

As a step down subsidiary of Reliance Industries Limited, money is not much of a concern for this franchise. In fact, it is the costliest franchise in IPL, the rights of which were acquired at a price tag of USD 112 Million i.e. Rs. 447.6 Crores (at the then exchange rates) to be paid over a period of ten years. But this is still small change for Reliance Industries Limited which registered consolidated revenue of Rs. 3.3 lakh Crores and profit after tax of Rs. 30 thousand Crores in 2015-16. Till 31st Mar, 2016, the holding companies have infused Rs. 226.74 Crores in the form of debt and equity into the company. Just for the purpose of comparison, RIL spent a grand total of Rs. 1.12 lakh Crores in capital expenditures in 2015-16 alone.

Having said that, the franchisee has become gradually improved its financial management over the last few years. While in the first five three of its operations, the entity incurred cumulative loss of Rs. 90 Crores, it has since incurred only accumulated loss of Rs. 15 Crores in the next five years. While its stellar performance on the field has helped, leading to more central pool revenue, prize money as well as sponsorship income, it has also become more judicious in its expenses and selection of players. From a franchise that used to chase every shining object available in the market, it has now evolved to become a launching pad for some of the most exciting domestic T20 talents, including Jasprit Bumrah, Hardik Pandya, Krunal Pandya and Nitish Rana. This is reflected in the decrease of player and support staff fees from Rs. 99 Crores in 2013-14 to Rs. 80 Crores in 2014-15 and Rs. 71 Crores in 2015-16.

Funded mostly through a zero coupon optionally fully convertible debenture subscribed to by its holding company, Indiawins Sports Private Limited does not have any external borrowing on its balance sheet. Being based out of probably the most lucrative market of IPL, and having a successful track record, it also registers among the highest revenues among the franchises. The one dubious item in its balance sheet is the outstanding receivables of around Rs. 66 Crores as on 31st Mar, 2016, around Rs. 24 Crores of which has been outstanding for more than six months. This naturally raises questions on the recoverability of these receivables. The financial statement does not contain any other detail pertaining to the receivables.

Royal Challengers Bangalore:

The most surprising fact about that the financials of Royal Challengers Bangalore is its subdued revenue figure. Between 2010 and 2015, the total income registered by Royal Challengers Sports Private Limited (RCSPL), the company that owns this franchise, did not reach Rs. 100 Crores even once, falling mostly in the range between Rs. 80-100 Crores. In terms of revenue, this squarely puts it in the league of smaller franchises like Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals; however, unlike them, RCB has not shown any willingness or ability to cut corners in expenses and make the franchise a profitable venture.

The accounting practices followed by Royal Challengers Sports Private Limited also do not inspire too much confidence. They have amortized the value of their franchise over a period of fifty years, unlike other franchisees which have done so over a period of ten years. In effect, they have understated the losses they have incurred relative to other franchisees; even then, the cumulative losses posted by the company between 2010 and 2016 has amounted to an eye popping Rs. 205 Crores.

Another jarring number in the financials is a write-off of receivables amounting to Rs. 84.80 Crores in 2013-14. Detailed breakup of the receivables is not given; however, around Rs. 30 Crores of receivables are probably in the form of dues outstanding from United Breweries Holdings Limited, then a group company of United Spirits Limited, the owner of Royal Challengers Sports Private Limited.

The franchisee has been kept floating mainly through unsecured loan of Rs. 375.96 Crores (outstanding as on 31st Mar, 2016) taken from United Spirits Limited, the holding company. No other franchise owner has invested so much in any IPL franchise; furthermore, going by the financials of RCSPL, it is not likely in a position to repay the unsecured loan any time soon.

With the ownership of United Spirits Limited having changed hands, from Vijay Mallya to Diageo, the current owners may not have much interest in running this loss making IPL franchisee. Instead, they may be looking to off load the stake to some other business house. The new owners would have their task out in instilling a sense of financial discipline in a franchisee so far marked by too little income and too many expenses.

Sun Risers Hyderabad:

The history of Sun Risers Hyderabad is a little different from other franchises. The franchise of Hyderabad was earlier owned by Deccan Chronicle Holdings Limited. On account of breach of contract terms, the franchise right of Deccan Chronicles was terminated by BCCI in October, 2012. A fresh auction was held and the rights of the Hyderabad franchise were bought by Sun TV Network Limited. Thus, Sunrisers Hyderabad came into being and it has been representing Hyderabad in IPL since 2013.

Since the franchise rights of Sun Risers Hyderabad are part of a larger balance sheet of Sun TV Network Limited, the detailed financials of the same are not available separately. Instead, only the topline numbers are available. The IPL team registered revenues of Rs. 106 Crores, Rs. 100 Crores and Rs. 96 Crores in the first three years of its operations, since 2013-14.

Being a latecomer into the IPL family, when the league was already up and running and the risk associated with it had subsided to a large extent, SRH has to shell out a larger fee in the form of franchise fee to the BCCI compared to the other franchises. Its annual franchise fee is Rs. 85.05 Crores, which is nearly double the sum of Rs. 44.8 Crores that Mumbai Indians, the next most expensive franchise, has to pay every year. Of course, from 2018 onwards, its payout to BCCI will become 20% of the total income, like that of other franchises.

Given annual revenue of around Rs. 100 Crores, and a franchise fee of Rs. 85 Crores, the franchise is clearly not profitable currently. Even if we conservatively consider other operating expenses of Rs. 75 Crores, it is currently making annual losses to the extent of around Rs. 60 Crores.

The financials of SRH can only improve from here on. For starters, it just won the last season of the Indian Premier League which shall give a significant boost to its revenue. The franchise has done well so far in this year’s Indian Premier League as well. With consistent performance and bankable stars, the franchise shall gradually be able to cultivate a devoted fan base, which shall increase its gate receipts, sale of merchandise as well as attract more sponsors to it. More importantly, from 2018, the payment to BCCI shall reduce to only 20% of its income, far less than the 85%-90% figure it is paying currently. Also with the broadcasting rights under negotiation, the total kitty of the central pool may increase further, contributing to increased revenue for SRH.

Thus SRH has the potential to increase its revenue to around Rs. 140 Crores, in which case the payout to BCCI shall be around Rs. 28 Crores and even with other operating expenses of around Rs. 90 Crores, it shall be in a position to rake in profit before tax to the extent of around Rs. 22 Crores. Of course, this improvement in financials is contingent on a lot of factors and is easier said than done.

Rajasthan Royals:

Facing suspension till 2017 on account of some of the owners engaging in betting and corruption, Rajasthan Royals has not been the most transparent franchise when it comes to practices of corporate governance. It has found itself repeatedly in various controversies. In 2010, it was temporarily suspended from the league when it came to the notice of BCCI that its ownership had been changed without any intimation to BCCI. However, the matter was referred to arbitration and BCCI settled for a fine of Rs. 1 Crore. In May, 2013, three players of Rajasthan Royals (Sreesanth, Ankeet Chavan and Ajit Chandila) were arrested by the Mumbai Police on allegations of spot fixing and were subsequently banned by the BCCI. In 2015, the franchise itself was banned for a period of two years, as Raj Kundra, one of the owners of the franchise, was found to have indulged in betting and passing on information to illegal bookmakers. The franchise has also been fined by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs because of violations in following standard practices while entering into business deals with related party entities. There have also been multiple investigations against the franchise for violation of income tax and foreign exchange management rules.

The ownership pattern of Rajasthan Royals is convoluted. The franchise is currently owned by Jaipur IPL Cricket Private Limited which is a subsidiary of EM Sporting Holdings Limited (EMHSL), an entity based out of Mauritius. The ownership of EMHSL is not publicly available; however, as per the last disclosure made by the franchise, stakes in the entity are held by Manoj Badale, a UK based Indian businessman,  the Chellarams family based out of Nigeria, the UK based Kundra family (including Raj Kundra and Shilpa Shetty) and Lachlan Murdoch, son of Rupert Murdoch. The Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA) website shows that Jaipur IPL Cricket Private Limited has only two directors currently – Ranjit Barthakur and Dalip Pande, both directors with Globally Managed Services Private Limited, a consultancy firm based out of Mumbai.

Jaipur IPL Cricket Private Limited follows an accounting year ending on 31st December. In the MCA website, only the financial results of 2012, 2013 and 2014 have been uploaded. The financial numbers show that the reputation of Rajasthan Royals as a frugal business is not unfounded. In fact, its financials are very much comparable to those of KPH Dream Cricket, the owner of Kings XI Punjab. Despite being based out of a less lucrative market, not being among the best performing teams in the league, dogged by ownership issues and at times, lacking even a proper home venue, both the franchisees have been able to register profits in the recent years.

Like Kings XI Punjab, Rajasthan Royals has been able to manage its operating costs very efficiently; if anything it has done this better than KXP. Its formula has been hiring cheap domestic talents and converting them into valuable, performing contributors by making them play around veteran superstars (Shane Warne initially and Rahul Dravid later). Although the title winning performance of 2008 could not be replicated by the franchise, it has made it to the play-offs twice since then. The fact that this is the cheapest franchise in the Indian Premier League, with a price tag of only USD 67 Million, also reduces the annual payout to BCCI and hence protects the margin. By 31st December, 2014, Jaipur IPL Cricket Private Limited already had a book value of around Rs. 39 Crores, against equity investment made of only around Rs. 1 lakh. Otherwise the balance sheet of the company also looks good and it does not have any external bank borrowings on its balance sheet; on the contrary, it had cash and cash equivalents of around Rs. 19 Crores outstanding as on 31st December, 2014.

Chennai Super Kings:

The other team to have been disqualified temporarily, Chennai Super Kings was owned by India Cements till recently. Since the franchise was part of the larger balance sheet of India Cements till 2015, its financials till that period are not available separately; only the revenue numbers were available. The revenue numbers confirm that after Mumbai Indians, it is the IPL team with one of the highest incomes, at par with Kolkata Knight Riders, and much higher than the rest of the franchises.

In February, 2015, the IPL franchise of Chennai Super Kings was transferred to Chennai Super Kings Cricket Limited (CSKCL), a wholly owned subsidiary of India Cements. Subsequent to that, the shares of CSKCL, owned by India Cements, were transferred to India Cements Shareholders Trust. The transfer was done mainly in order to comply with a Supreme Court order stating that any functionary of BCCI should not have a stake in an IPL franchise. CSKCL has not filed the audited financials of 2015-16 in the MCA website and as a result, profit and loss account of the company is not available. The balance sheet as on 31st Mar, 2015 showed short term loan of Rs. 25 Crores availed in the form of inter-corporate deposit but no bank loans outstanding.

Rising Pune Super Giant & Gujarat Lions:

Rising Pune Super Giant has played its first IPL in 2016 and as a result, it will recognize its first year of operating revenue only in 2016-17. Hence the available financial statement of the New Rising Promoter Private Limited, the holding company of RPSG, for the year 2014-15, is not really helpful in getting much of an insight into the financials of the franchise.

The franchise of Gujarat Lions, on the other hand, is owned by Intex Technologies Limited which itself is not a listed company.

The rights of the Pune and Gujarat franchises were auctioned by BCCI for a period of two years. The two franchises would not receive the revenue from the central pool of BCCI. On top of that, RPSG will have to make a payment of Rs. 16 Crores and Gujarat Lions will pay Rs. 10 Crores to BCCI every year.

Thus, the financial statements of the two franchises will look much different from those of other franchises. Revenue from the central pool constitutes a significant source, perhaps the largest source of revenue for IPL franchises. The breakup of revenue of Mumbai Indians (the only franchise for which revenue break-up is available) shows that the income from the central pool of BCCI was Rs. 67 Crores in FY16, Rs. 58 Crores in FY15 and Rs. 66 Crores in FY14.

Hence, the only sources of revenue to these franchisees shall be sponsorship income, ticket revenue and prize money received. Now, as per the existing plan, these franchises shall have the rights to represent their respective IPL teams only in the 2016 and 2017 season. Further, being new teams with no established following, they may have limited support base. They are also based out of relatively smaller cities, compared to many of the top tier IPL teams. Considering this, the sponsorship income and ticket revenue may be lower than many of the larger, older franchisees.

Given this, it is unlikely that the annual revenue of the two franchisees in 2015 and 2016 shall exceed Rs. 60 Crores. For reference, the annual revenue of Sun Risers Hyderabad, a new franchise, has been at around Rs. 100 Crores, a significant portion of which comes from the central pool which Pune and Gujarat would not have access to. On the cost side, if one is to optimistically assume operating expense of Rs. 90 Crores , apart from the franchise fee they have to pay to BCCI, one may be looking at pre-tax loss of around Rs. 40-45 Crores annually.

At the margins though, the Gujarat franchise may perform slightly better financially. For starters, their franchise fee is less by around Rs. 6 Crores annually. Secondly, they made it to the play-offs in the 2016 edition, thus making them eligible for higher income from prize money and raising the brand value of the franchise. Thirdly, their player expense is more rationalized compared to that of the Pune franchise. But even then, it is unlikely that either of these franchises will make any profit in these two years. Perhaps, a better way to look at the investments would be to consider them marketing expenses incurred by two major corporate houses to raise their respective visibility among Indian customers.

A few other observations:

  • Performance on the field matters financially. Better performance leads to higher prize money, bigger share in the central pool revenue, better sponsorship deals and more attendance at the stadium. A plot showing the relationship between revenue of the franchises and their standings in those years in IPL has been mentioned in the following plot:

Revenue vs Rank in IPL

The relationship is not obviously completely linear, for a Mumbai Indian in its worst year may earn more than a Kings XI Punjab in its best year. However, the above table still proves that a higher standing in the IPL generally translates into better revenue.

The accretion to the bottom line may be limited though as the franchises need to pay a certain percentage of their prize money in the form of incentives to players.

  • In fact, around 65% of the variation of revenue of various franchises across years can be explained by two variables only – the rank of that franchise in IPL in that year and the cities they are based out. We can use the following simple equation to estimate the revenue of an IPL franchise in a particular year:

Revenue (in Rs. Crores) = 133.19-5.93*(Rank in IPL)+39.33*(City Variable),

where city variable is a dummy variable which is 1 for metros (i.e. Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai) and 0 for others (i.e. Chandigarh, Jaipur, Bangalore and Hyderabad).

The plot showing the predicted revenue of the franchise obtained from this formula as against the actual revenue of the franchises has been mentioned below:

Actual Revenue vs Predicted Revenue

  • In a business where a number of variables are already decided (franchise fee to BCCI) or beyond your control (central pool of BCCI, gate revenues, etc.), getting the right players and coaching staff at the right price is one variable that are in the hands of the franchisees. As a result, the strategy of the IPL teams at the auctions becomes extremely critical. It entails dealing with interesting trade-offs – the lower you pay, the lesser quality of players you get, and the higher the probability of your team finishing poorly on the field. But having said that, there are a number of undervalued players who fly under the radar at the auctions and can be picked up at bargain prices. Some IPL franchises, like Kolkata Knight Riders, has been able to hone the art of bidding well, while others like Delhi Daredevils, are gradually learning the tricks of the trade. The same, at the end of the day, have direct bearing on the financials of the respective franchises.
  • Franchises which are owned by corporate houses generally receive financial help from their owners to tide over temporary hiccups. However, this also makes these franchisees financially undisciplined, with profit making in many cases becoming a secondary objective. The teams which are owned by individual or disparate investors, on the other hand, are far more disciplined as they may not have recourse to funding in case things go south. Neither of Kolkata Knight Riders, Rajasthan Royals or Kings XI Punjab – the three franchises that have generated profit in the last few years are controlled by one, large corporate group.
  • Yes Bank has funded a number of the IPL franchisees at some point of time. They have extended secured loans to the companies owning Kolkata Knight Riders, Kings XI Punjab, Royal Challengers Bangalore, Rajasthan Royals, Delhi Daredevils and Rising Pune Super Giant. Of these, the loans extended to Kings XI Punjab, Royal Challengers Bangalore and Rajasthan Royals have already been repaid. Kings XI Punjab has in fact managed to repay the loan extended by Yes Bank and replaced them by fresh funding availed from RBL Bank Limited. The account of Delhi Daredevils, on the other hand, has been marked by delays in payment of dues.
  • The financials of the franchisees may improve substantially from 2018 onwards. For one, the annual payout to BCCI shall become 20% of their respective revenues. Secondly, the central pool may get expanded if BCCI is able to obtain higher prices for the broadcasting and digital rights. Further, the risks associated with the league have subsided to a large extent. This is reflected in the significantly higher premium at which the rights for the subsequent franchises have been sold.

 

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An Alternative Team India Line-up Based on IPL 2017

One of the weirder trends in this year’s Indian Premier League (IPL) has been the way most of the current stars of the Indian limited overs’ line-up have had underwhelming performances till now, even as players never heard of before, players long on the fringes of the national squad, and players on the verge of retirement have set the tournament on fire with one scintillating performance after another. For an Indian cricket fan, this is at once both promising and scary – the existing players of the Indian team are out of form; while you have exciting replacements available for each position, you cannot simply get rid of well established players, with years of accomplishment behind them, on the basis of performances in one season of IPL.

This has led us to this fun exercise – what if we hypothetically replace the current team that represents India at the various limited overs’ tournament with players who have performed better than them in this year’s IPL? We can prepare an alternative eleven that may even beat our regular Indian XI, at least in a T20 match, on the basis of recent form.

First the usual caveats though. Please note that this is an entirely theoretical exercise and it is not advisable for selectors to try this in their meetings. Playing for an IPL franchise is completely different from representing India at an international tournament. Moreover, most Indian stars are playing in this year’s IPL after a long, exhausting home season. Many of them are making comebacks from injuries. They may not be as fit and fresh as their less known domestic counterparts. And most importantly, as Joginder Sharma showed us once (or twice), “Form is temporary, class is permanent.”

Please note that all figures and statistics are as on 05th May, 2017, post completion of the match between Kings XI Punjab and Royal Challengers Bangalore.  

The Openers:

In the recent limited overs’ matches, India has opened with a combination of any two of Rohit Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane, KL Rahul, and Shikhar Dhawan (with Kohli putting up guest appearances here and there). Given their respective limited overs’ form, and the track record of selection in the recent past, it is safe to assume that in case all four are fit and available for selection, Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul will make the cut.

In the IPL so far, the performance of the regular Indian openers has been tepid. It is fair to say that Rahane is in the middle of one of his worse seasons of IPL, scoring just 226 runs in 11 matches at an average of 21 and strike rate of 121. Shikhar Dhawan has been better, scoring 369 runs in 11 matches at an average of 37 and strike rate of 126. While Dhawan sits sixth among the highest run getters in IPL so far, his strike rate is the worst of all batsmen in the top 15. In Dhawan’s defence, his job so far has been mostly to take singles and bring the marauding David Warner on strike.

As far as Rohit Sharma is concerned, he has had an even worse IPL than the first two, scoring just 173 runs in 10 matches at an average of 25 and strike rate of 118. Making a comeback from injury, he has batted in the middle order instead of opening, and has only started showing glimpses of his formidable IPL record. KL Rahul, on the other hand, is sitting out of the entire tournament because of injury.

There are at least three Indian openers who can challenge these four players on the basis of their current form. They are Gautam Gambhir (411 runs at an average of 51 and strike rate of 135), Sanju Samson (374 runs at an average of 37 and strike rate of 144), and Rahul Tripathi (352 runs at an average of 39 and strike rate of 155). These three feature among the top seven highest run scorers of the tournament so far. And all three play at comfortable strike rates, are adept at scoring boundaries, and are not prone to getting bogged down in the crease. To add bonus points, Gambhir can double up as a feisty, aggressive skipper; Samson can also keep, while Tripathi can serve as a part time bowler. There is not much more you can expect from your openers.

The Middle Order:  

India’s middle order in recent tournaments has mostly starred a combination of Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Kedar Jadhav, Manish Pandey and Yuvraj Singh. Apart from Suresh Raina (395 runs at average of 49 and strike rate of 145) and Manish Pandey (341 runs at average of 57 and strike rate of 137), the others have not really done justice to their reputation.

Part of this can be attributed to the woeful season Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) is having with the bat. At the start of the tournament, it seemed inconceivable that a batting line up comprising of Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle, AB De Villiers, Kedar Jadhav, and Shane Watson could fail. But not only has this batting line up been a massive failure, it has combusted so thoroughly, repeatedly, and embarrassingly that a lot of RCB fans are left longing for the 2008 line up of true blue T20 hitters like Wasim Jaffer, Rahul Dravid, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, and Jacques Kallis, with Sunil Joshi thrown in as a pinch hitter.

Virat Kohli is having a very average tournament, not just by his own exalted standard, but by even an average batsman’s expectations. He has scored 245 runs so far, averaging 31 at a strike rate of 124. The more surprising statistic here is the strike rate, worst in the list of top 20 run getters, and definitely not becoming of the best batsman in the planet right now. Kedar Jadhav has also struggled generally, with a string of failures in between a few reminders of his delicious stroke making – scoring 247 runs at a lower average of 25, but far better strike rate of 147.

Yuvraj Singh has so far played two substantial innings – both sublime knocks that evoked collective nostalgia, but has not done much otherwise. In his defence, he has not had to do much in a batting lineup where bulk of the scoring has so far been done by David Warner, Shikhar Dhawan, Moises Henriques, and Kane Williamson. His record – 187 runs at average of 31 and strike rate of 164, is still better than some of his other international teammates.

Based on their current form, the batsmen who can lay claim to the international squad include Robin Uthappa (384 runs at average of 43 and strike rate of 171), Nitish Rana (312 runs at average of 35 and strike rate of 129), Dinesh Karthik (286 runs at average of 36 and strike rate of 138), Shreyas Iyer (204 runs at average of 34 and strike rate of 140), and Manoj Tiwary (190 runs at average of 32 and strike rate of 146).

This bunch offers an eclectic mix of a hitherto unknown player plucked to IPL fame from obscurity (Nitish Rana), a rising star of Indian cricket (Shreyas Iyer), and three other players who have drifted in and out of the Indian squad without really putting together a successful international career.

Interestingly, there are two more wicketkeepers in this group (Uthappa and Karthik) to go with a makeshift keeper present in the list of openers (Samson). And we are yet to officially come to the section of wicketkeeper in the squad.

The Wicketkeeper:

MS Dhoni is not only the current wicketkeeper of the Indian limited overs side, he is also one of the all time great wicketkeepers in One Day Internationals, and one of the first ones to master the Twenty20 format. Such has been his form and fitness over the last twelve years, and such has been his success as a player and a skipper in the shorter formats of the game, that it is difficult to remember the last time anyone else had donned the gloves for the Men in Blue.

You would not be able to guess any of these by looking at Dhoni’s numbers in the IPL 2017 so far. He has had a pretty poor season, scoring 204 runs at an average of 26 and strike rate of 110, with only one innings of note so far, albeit a crucial, match winning one. His failure to rotate the strikes in the middle overs has become evident from his low strike rate which is the worst among batsmen who have scored more than 100 runs in the IPL 2017 till date.

On the other hand of the spectrum is Rishabh Pant, a fresh faced 19 year old, who has overcome personal tragedy to post brilliant returns in this year’s IPL, scoring 281 runs at average of 28 and strike rate of 176. In sharp contrast to Dhoni’s numbers, his strike rate is the highest of all batsmen who have scored more than 125 runs in the IPL.

At the end of India’s campaign in the 2016 T20 World Cup, an Aussie journalist asked Dhoni if he wanted to play on. As part of a belaboured reply, Dhoni mentioned, “I wish it was an Indian media person. Then I would have asked if he has a son who is a wicketkeeper and ready to play. He would have said no, then I would have said maybe a brother who is a wicketkeeper and who is ready to play.”

Obviously, Dhoni was referring to what then looked like a bare cupboard of India’s limited overs wicket keeping talent. But a lot has changed since then. Rishabh Pant, Sanju Samson, Robin Uthappa, Dinesh Karthik, and even Parthiv Patel have done well in this year’s IPL. Among the established Indian players, both KL Rahul and Kedar Jadhav can keep wickets, at least at T20 level. Dhoni’s place in the squad is looking more insecure than ever before.

The Allrounders:

The Indian national team has preferred to go with Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja as the designated allrounders in recent limited overs matches. But for reasons which are completely different, the performance of these two has not been up to the mark in this year’s IPL.

Hardik Pandya has so far scored 151 runs so far at an average of 50 and strike rate of 172. While these numbers are impressive, Hardik has been used sparingly by the Mumbai Indians so far, pushed down the order and asked to bat with only a limited number of deliveries left. As a result, his highest score in the tournament remains a measly 35 not out. With the ball as well, he has been underutilized, getting to bowl just 16 overs in 10 matches, taking 4 wickets at an average of 32 and economy of 8.00. His position as the 38th highest run getter and 41st highest wicket taker in the IPL so far does not behoove his status as India’s front ranking allrounder.

If Hardik has not got a lot of opportunities, Ravindra Jadeja has simply been out of form. Marking a return from injury after a long and tiring season, he has been terribly off colour with the bat and the ball. He has scored 118 runs so far at an average of 30 and strike rate of 137, while with the ball, he has taken just 5 wickets at an average of 56 and economy of 9.65. Interestingly, given the stellar season that he has had with the red ball, Jadeja may end up joining a long list of players like Ravi Ashwin, Murali Vijay, and Wriddhiman Saha who came to national limelight through the IPL, but have become more successful in the longest format of the game.

Axar Patel, long considered a Jadeja-lite, has had a great season so far. In a low key Punjab outfit, with not a single high profile domestic name in its playing XI, Patel has shouldered much of the workload, contributing 13 wickets at an average of 20 and economy of 7.33, and 176 runs at an average of 25 and strike rate of 149. He has been the strike bowler for his franchise and has contributed crucial runs in the lower order at a healthy strike rate.

Another all-rounder that has done well has been Krunal Pandya. Like Axar, he has been more impressive with the ball, taking 10 wickets at an average of 18 and economy of 6.70, while making useful runs in the lower order, scoring 136 runs at an average of 27 and strike rate of 137.

The Spinners:

In recent times, Ravichandran Ashwin has been India’s frontline spinner across all formats. Sadly, he is out of this year’s IPL on account of an injury. Amit Mishra, the usual replacement of Ashwin in the national team, has had a middling IPL season, taking only 8 wickets so far, at a strike rate of 28 and economy of 8.37.

In contrast to Mishra, Yuzvendra Chahal, a player that recently made debut for India, has further cemented his reputation as one of the leading spinners of India in the shortest format of the game, contributing 13 wickets so far at an average of 20 and economy of 7.33. Kuldeep Yadav has also shown glimpses of his ability, taking 9 wickets at average of 31 and economy of 8.02. Pawan Negi is another spinner that has impressed, taking 11 wickets at average of 15 and economy of 6.14, in addition to scoring 126 runs at average of 18 and strike rate of 122.

The Fast Men:

Ashish Nehra, Jasprit Bumrah and Umesh Yadav have been India’s preferred seamers in the T20 format. Of them, Bumrah has been in good form (taking 12 wickets so far at average of 27 and economy of 7.92), the other two not so much (Nehra has taken 8 wickets at average of 24 and economy of 9.60 while Umesh Yadav has taken 10 tickets at average of 26 and economy of 8.51). While being regular at taking wickets, all three bowlers have given away runs aplenty. Mohammed Shami, another regular member of the Indian squad, fitness permitting, has also fared poorly, taking just 2 wickets in 4 matches, at average of 62 and economy of 10.25.

In fact, there have been a number of seamers who have done better than these four. For one, Bhuvneshwar Kumar who has struggled to cement his place in the Indian line-up is comfortably leading the wicket charts right now, with 21 tickets, 4 wickets more than Imran Tahir who is in the second position. Not only that, his average is an impressive 13 and his economy is a lowly 6.53. Among bowlers who have taken more than 5 wickets in this year’s IPL, only Andrew Tye has had a lower average and only Pawan Negi has been more economical.

Apart from Kumar, other Indian pacers who have dominated the IPL include Sandeep Sharma (14 wickets at average of 20 and economy of 8.35), Jaydev Unadkat (12 wickets at average of 17 and economy of 7.75), and Mohit Sharma (9 wickets at average of 32 and economy of 8.55).

So here is our alternative team India line-up based on the performance in IPL 2017:

  1. Gautam Gambhir (Captain)
  2. Sanju Samson
  3. Robin Uthappa
  4. Nitish Rana
  5. Dinesh Karthik
  6. Rishabh Pant
  7. Axar Patel
  8. Pawan Negi
  9. Bhuvneshwar Kumar
  10. Sandeep Sharma
  11. Jaydev Unadkat

As against this, the team fielded by India against West Indies in the semi-final of the World T20 tournament held on 31st Mar, 2016 included the following players:

  1. Rohit Sharma
  2. Ajinkya Rahane
  3. Virat Kohli
  4. MS Dhoni
  5. Suresh Raina
  6. Manish Pandey
  7. Hardik Pandya
  8. Ravindra Jadeja
  9. Ravi Ashwin
  10. Jasprit Bumrah
  11. Ashish Nehra

 

A good way to compare the current form of this team with the first eleven of the Indian cricket team would be to take the composite scores assigned to these players in the various fantasy leagues (which takes into account parameters like runs scored, strike rate, wickets taken, economy rate, catches taken, etc.) and make a position wise comparison. For example, on the basis of the scores assigned by Fandromeda, one of the popular fantasy league sides, here is how these players stack up:

Name of Player Average Score Per Match Name of Player Average Score Per Match
Gautam Gambhir 71 Rohit Sharma 37
Sanju Samson 74 Ajinkya Rahane 34
Robin Uthappa 92 Virat Kohli 52
Nitish Rana 62 Suresh Raina 74
Dinesh Karthik 51 Manish Pandey 62
Rishabh Pant 66 MS Dhoni 37
Axar Patel 86 Hardik Pandya 50
Pawan Negi 70 Ravindra Jadeja 43
Bhuvneshwar Kumar 84 Ravi Ashwin NA
Sandeep Sharma 67 Jasprit Bumrah 54
Jaydev Unadkat 65 Ashish Nehra 41

So who will win a clash between these two teams? The regular Indian team still remains the favourite, simply because most of them have experience of playing for years on the big stage and know how to perform under pressure. Our team may be light on reputation, but given their red hot current form, I would wager on this team of rookies and also-runs to put up a tough fight against their more heralded peers.

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How to be a Superstar in Indian Political Twitter – In a Few Easy Steps

“It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing” – William Shakespeare on Indian political twitter

“Indian political twitter is the best. By far the best. Just amazing. Unbelievably good. I love the Hindus. Big league.”  – Donald Trump

“Delete your account” – Hillary Clinton

So you want to become a Twitter superstar in India. You want to command the following of thousands of eggheads. You always wanted to achieve something in life. You knew you always had that special something in you. You just needed some hand holding and guidance. You have come to the right place. Here we will break it down, step by step, the simplest way to have that Twitter handle at the heart of every political conversation in India.

If Facebook is the high end, black tie, cocktail party where people are unfailingly nice to each other but do not forget to show how much they are better off through snide remarks and subtle gloating, Instagram is the movie theater where you go to gawk at beautiful people living in places you can never afford to visit, Whatsapp is the canteen of your college campus where you can have intimate conversations and the occasional fights with people you mostly know, Twitter is the shadiest bar in the neighbourhood where wasted, boorish men get into drunken fights and indulge in brutish free for all. Twitter is a place where the ugliness bubbles right beneath the thin veneer of respectability; all it takes is a simple act of provocation for it to come to the surface. But even by the not too exalted standards of Twitter, Indian political twitter is an especially demented place to be in.

But worry not, we have got it all planned it for you.

For the convenience of the dimwits that inhabit it, Indian political Twitter is neatly demarcated into two separate halves – the Right and the Left. The two halves are at constant loggerheads with each other, outraging over the slightest provocations, trying to outwit each other in a constant race to the bottom. The two labels are mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive, leaving no room for subtleties and niceties. It is in this bloody, binary world that you will have to prove yourself.

The first step is to decide if you want to join the Right or the Left. No, you don’t have to read up on Karl Marx , Vinayak Savarkar, John Keynes or Milton Freidman and form well researched and informed beliefs. No, don’t even think about it. There is a very simple Rorschach test to find out. Just visualize our Prime Minister giving one of his speeches. Does it make you slightly aroused or does it leave you with a sick feeling in the stomach? In case of the former, you are a bonafide right winger, whereas in case of the latter, you are a born leftist.

But what if it makes you do neither? What if you are the a guy who is prone to take a rational and well thought out decision, whose beliefs have been moulded by years of studies, deliberations and experiences? What if you are driven more by the issue than by the face behind it? Well, then just fuck off. Twitter is not for you. Go to the local library, read some books and die alone. Or worse still, become a Wikipedia administrator. Or may be do a Ph.D. Whatever. Just don’t waste our time here.

Now that the most important question is out of the way, let’s get you started. If you are a right winger, just follow the following steps. If you are a left winger, skip to the portion below. And if these steps do not yield the desired results for you, do remember that this advice is coming from a person with a grand total of 72 followers on Twitter.

Twitter Rules for People from the Right:

  • Put up a picture of you shaking hands with the Prime Minister as your display pic. If you don’t have any such pic, make one in Adobe Photoshop. If you don’t know Photoshop, just skip this step. Worry not. If you follow the remaining steps, you will soon have a real picture with the Prime Minister.
  • Keep a picture of Bharat Mata or national flag or a deity as your cover pic. Spell your name in Hindi, instead of English. Make your Twitter bio sound something like “Nation comes first” or “A true believer in India” or “Bharat Mata ki Jai”. Does not matter if you have not been living in India for the past decade. Also end your bio with “Fiercely unbiased.” I don’t know why, but all famous people, especially the most biased ones, seem to do so.
  • Get familiar with words like “presstitudes”, “ sickular”, “pseudo liberal”, “AAPtard”, “Congi”, “Jihadi”, etc. Be liberal with the usage of such words, especially while indulging in Twitter fights, even if you may not be liberal with anything else in life.
  • Take outrage. Take lots of outrage. Outrage should be your middle name. You should get offended by the sight of a person in wheelchair not standing up when the national anthem is played. The thought of India losing to Pakistan in an inconsequential tri-series cricket match should make your blood boil. If any one dares to say anything against our Government or our country, your hands should tremble with passionate fury as you type the most vicious of abuses against the guy in Twitter.
  • Remember the phrase “Freedom of Expression” only when you need to defend yourself or some more of ilk when you guys type some indefensible nonsense on Twitter that quickly goes viral. It is human to get carried away. Especially for a guy who cares so deeply for his country. We understand this. “Freedom of Expression” was invented precisely to deal with such situations. (Not really. But never mind)
  • Rajdeep Sardesai, Barkha Dutt and Sagarika Ghosh are your biggest enemies. Remember these names. Find them on Twitter and hound them. They are the worst thing to have happened to this country since Chunkey Pandey and Emergency. They are the reason why our country has not been able to become superpower yet. (But wait for ten years; under our current Prime Minister, it will, despite their best efforts). So attack them viciously; put every tweet of them under the microscope and don’t spare any effort to find the minutest of faults in them. If we are attacked by Pakistani terrorists, don’t blame the Government for the failure, instead make a joke on how it would be the happiest day of the lives of these journalists. If a major scam is unearthed, don’t say anything against the Government; instead, point out how these journalists are in bed with corrupt politicians of the Opposition Party.
  • Abuse your targets until they are forced to block you. Take a screenshot of the message that says you have been blocked and post it around, claiming how it violates your “freedom of expression” (even though it doesn’t , but never mind).
  • Use whataboutery. A lot of it. When they ask you about 2002, tell them about 1984. When they ask you about Dadri, tell them about Kannur. When they ask you about Vyapam scam, tell them about 2G scam.
  • If someone does not agree with you, accuse him or her of being an anti-national. Ask such people to go to Pakistan.
  • People not belonging to your faith or religion are not to be trusted. All Muslims are terrorists. Except Tarek Fatah, he is the only true Indian Muslim, even though he is not actually an Indian. All Christians are missionaries trying to convert you. But Jews are okay. They also hate Muslims. At least that’s what you think.
  • When you find yourself losing an argument, use statements like, “This country gives you rights or freedom. Don’t use these rights or freedom to abuse this country” or “You are having this arm chair argument only because soldiers stay awake at night at the border to keep us safe. Don’t dishonour their sacrifices”. Neither makes much sense, but then you are not on Twitter to make much sense.
  • Watch Zee News. Read Swarajyamag and Opindia. They are like the last minute suggestions before exams. They will give you a list of daily issues to take umbrage on and helpful pointers on what to say.
  • Shower the Government with superlative praises if the newspaper carries any positive news. Shrug off and ignore all bad news, and if they cannot be ignored any more, blame it on the Opposition, Pakistan, minorities, media, bad weather or Digvijay Singh.
  • Finally do remember this – The Right is called Right because it is always Right. You can never be wrong.

Twitter Rules for People from the Left:

  • Put up a profile picture that makes you look cultured and sophisticated. May be a picture in front of the Eiffel Tower or the Merlion of Singapore. If you have never ventured outside Ulhasnagar your whole life, fear not. Just use the picture of Statue of Libery as your profile pic. Or that of a random, obscure leftist politician. But no Che Guevera, please. It is too clichéd.
  • Google to find an inspiring, uplifting and esoteric quote that you yourself cannot understand, spoken by someone you have never heard of, and put it up as part of your bio.
  • Become familiar with words like “Bhakt”, “sexist”, “misogynist”, “racist”, “communal”, etc. Use them to label anyone who does not agree with you.
  • Outrage every time the rights of someone who do not belong to the majority are compromised. But don’t even acknowledge the human rights of the majority. There is no such thing as human rights of the majority. They are just oxymoron.
  • Be a hypocrite. Show heartfelt concern for the poor, call for higher taxes on the super rich, but cheat on your tax filings.
  • Ask anyone who does not agree with you to go to North Korea.
  • Practice selective retention. Pretend as if there was no recorded history between the year Nehru died and the year Modi came into power. Especially, forget everything of the period between 2009 and 2014.
  • Feel proud to call yourself a liberal. Embrace the label. Explain how this means that you tolerate dissidence and welcome disagreements. But when someone disagrees with you or offers a more logical counter to your argument, start outraging and label him a sexist or a racist or a misogynist. Or better still, call him a troll and block him.
  • But when someone you like actually says something that is sexist, racist or misogynist, use “freedom of expression” to defend him.
  • Remember this – there are no principles. Something is acceptable only as long as the person doing it is acceptable to you. So when AIB makes offensive jokes, it is acceptable. When Viru makes a harmless joke, roast him over it. When SFI engages in campus violence, ignore it. When ABVP does the same, condemn them breathlessly.
  • Use statistics to glorify the previous government. But question the validity of these statistics when they portray any success of the current Government.
  • Portray a sense of victimization, as if the utopian world that you were part of has turned upside down after the present Government came to power.
  • Use identity labels wisely. So when a member of the minority community commits a crime, ignore his religion. But when a crime is committed on him, go to the town talking about how his religion is under attack.
  • Terrorists have no religion. Unless they are Hindus.
  • The world is becoming intolerant. And all this is because of the present Government. Return an award as a measure of protest. If your cupboard is bare, give yourself an award and return it.
  • Be paranoid. Train your mind to imagine the apocalypse and doomsday every time the Prime Minister opens his mouth.
  • Watch NDTV.  Read Scroll and The Wire. They are like the last minute suggestions before exams.They will give you a list of daily issues to take umbrage on and helpful pointers on what to say.
  • Finally, do remember this – the liberal world order is under attack from a bunch of illiterate, intolerant, uncivilized buffoons. You are performing a selfless, noble duty in the protection of the realm. Stay calm and carry on.
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Why the Aam Aadmi Party Should be Taken Less Seriously

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has not had a great few months.

If you were to believe the mainstream media and the multitude of pre-election opinion polls, they were heavy favourites to win the Punjab Assembly election held in February, 2017. In fact, some of the opinion polls went so far as to predict around 100 seats for the AAP in Punjab. Instead, they ended up winning only around 20 out of the 117 Assembly constituencies.

If you were to believe the national media again, they were expected to put up a spirited show in Goa, presenting a strong alternative to both the Indian National Congress (INC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Instead, they ended up not winning a single seat, getting only around 6% of the vote share and forfeiting their deposits in 39 out of 40 constituencies.

Now in the recently held by-polls to the Rajouri Garden Assembly segment in Delhi, a seat that AAP had won comfortably in the 2015 Assembly election, the AAP candidate came third, finishing behind both the BJP and the INC candidate, winning just 13% of the vote share and forfeiting his deposit. It is a humiliating loss for a party in its home turf, a reminder of the vagaries of electoral politics served by the voters of the same territory that had given it victory in 67 out of 70 seats in 2015.

This begets another important question – should we stop taking AAP so seriously?

If you are remotely interested in the politics of India, you will find AAP everywhere. In every so-called prime time debate held in every news channel, you will observe an AAP spokesperson seated, vociferously countering the views of the representative of the ruling party of India. At times, you may end up listening to two representatives of AAP, one each from either faction (yes, the party also had a faction which did not agree with Arvind Kejriwal and was promptly expelled).

If you happen to read the daily news, you will find some or the other antic of Arvind Kejriwal, the supreme leader of AAP, dominating the headlines. On some day, the party leaders turn up en masse at the Delhi University office, asking for proofs of Narendra Modi’s graduation. On some other day, they are engaged in some or the other verbal skirmishes with the Delhi Lieutenant General. Kejriwal often makes appearances in the media, making apocalyptic prophesies about the dangers of the Modi government, and registering shrill complaints about fantastic conspiracies to derail the Delhi Government and even murder him.

When they lose elections, instead of sulking silently in the corner, AAP leaders raise a hue and cry questioning the validity of electronic voting machines.

Along with an ability to generate endless bouts of controversies, the Aam Aadmi Party also have a penchant for carrying out incessant promotional activities. Even if you happen to read a Malayali daily, sitting thousands of kilometres away from Delhi, chances are you may stumble upon a front page advertisement extolling the virtues of the Delhi Government, paid of course by the tax payers’ money. No matter where you live in India (or in Canada), news as basic as Kejriwal inaugurating a school in Delhi is sure to reach you, either through the never ending marketing campaigns of AAP, through the obsession of the mainstream media with AAP or through its hyper active social media activists eager to spread around the party’s message, far and wide.

This ability of AAP to hog headlines and drive news cycle is also reflected in the relative searches of AAP, BJP and INC in Google Trends. The number of Google searches related to AAP ends up beating not only Congress, but also BJP, the party which through alliances that controls the Central Government of India as well as the state Governments of as much as two-third of India’s population.

Google Trends

So what explains this media obsession with Aam Aadmi Party? The number one reason is AAP itself. The party is, without a doubt, very good at promoting itself, even though it is not so good at translating this support into votes outside its core area of Delhi and parts of Punjab. This is reflected in the way AAP dominates online searches among Indians.  Also, in both Twitter and Facebook, the number of followers of AAP easily dwarfs the number of followers of other comparable regional parties. For example, on Twitter, the official page of AAP has around 3.15 Million followers, close to the 4.8 Million followers of the official BJP account. INC, on the other hand, has around 1.8 million followers on Twitter, while all the regional parties have less than 0.1 Million followers. Similarly, on Facebook, the number of followers of AAP (around 3 Million), while less than those of BJP (around 12 Million) and INC (roughly 4 Million), are still much higher than those of any regional party.

AAP is also adept at grabbing eyeballs and manipulating the news cycle. To an extent like Donald Trump (and this is meant entirely as a compliment), the party somehow manages to be in the news, day in and day out. The proximity to the studios in Delhi, of course, helps. It is far easier for an average media person to report on the activities of the Delhi Government, or seek the opinions of the top party officials of AAP than do the same with the states and parties located thousands of kilometres away from the national capital region.

There is also the fact that the only other non-BJP parties whose ideologies are non-regional in nature – the Indian National Congress, the Left Front and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) are in various stages of decline. INC still continues to be the main opposition party to the BJP, in vast swathes of the country, but it has been battered and bruised by a string of successive electoral debacles and appears completely bereft of vision or leadership to stem the rot in its system. The Left has completely ceded its erstwhile bastion of West Bengal to the Trinamool Congress and is now restricted to the smaller states of Kerala and Tripura. The BSP’s fall from grace, if anything, has even been worse; a decade ago, it was ruling the largest state in India and was increasing looking to increase its support level, especially among the scheduled caste voters, across India. Currently, it has no representation in Lok Sabha and is struggling to keep the party afloat in Uttar Pradesh.

AAP, on the other hand, offers vigorous anti-BJP opposition. Its party workers are well trained to spread its message through the social media. Its leaders are telegenic and can speak well on camera. It runs the Government in Delhi which allows it ready access to journalists, especially the TV journalists who are mostly based out of the National Capital Region (NCR). It knows how to stay in the news, by generating one controversy or the other. It knows how to fully exploit the myopic Delhi centric view of our television studios, which almost refuses to acknowledge the problems and concerns of the world outside NCR. And finally, in the anti-BJP political segment, it is up against competition that is moribund, listless or completely uninterested in appearing in the Delhi studios, for they know their voters rarely watch national news.

This makes AAP the undisputed opposition party in the eyes of our national media, and explains its ubiquitous presence whenever you switch on the news channels.

In fact, if you were somehow completely unaware of the reality of electoral politics in India, based solely on the media coverage of AAP, you may even be mistaken to believe that AAP is the main opposition party in India, snapping at the heels of the Bharatiya Janata Party, ready to throw it off its perch any time soon.

The reality, however, could not be any more different.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha election, AAP contested in as many as 432 Lok Sabha constituencies, four more than even the BJP. Whatever the theoretical logic was behind the move, it did not translate that well into practice with the party ending up winning just 4 seats, all in the state of Punjab. In terms of vote share, it obtained just 2.05% of the total votes, putting it at the tenth position, placed between YSR Congress Party and Shiv Sena, two regional parties with limited appeal outside their respective states.

Vote Share

When it comes to the number of seats won, AAP did no better. Its performance placed it in the 14th position, tied with Rashtriya Janata Dal and Shiromani Akali Dal, again two regional parties that barely find any mention in the national media, except when elections are being held in Bihar and Punjab respectively.

Number of Seats

Perhaps a better measure to assess the relative strength of the respective parties is to look at the number of seats these parties came in at the first or the second position. This helps in identifying segments where these parties are currently strong as well as are in a position to pose a strong challenge in the near future. Here also, Aam Aadmi Party falls short, finishing fifteenth, tied with Telengana Rashtra Samithi.

Seats of Influence

In other words, AAP is just like another regional party, except that a lot of regional parties have much bigger areas of influence. Quite clearly, the attention bestowed upon AAP is disproportionate to the size of the party.

As time and again proved in a number of elections, AAP has hardly any presence outside Delhi and Punjab. It is true that the scale of its victory in the Delhi elections was stunning, but the margin of its victory was amplified by the peculiarities of the first past the post system. Further, Delhi is actually a very small territory. Had it been a state, it would have been eighteenth largest state, behind the likes of Assam, Jharkhand, Haryana and Chhattisgarh. Do you hear a hullabaloo being raised every time the leaders of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha or the Indian National Lok Dal had a run in with the authorities?

It is true that in theory, AAP does not have an ideology or agenda that is focused on any particular state. Its governing philosophy, with slight tweaking, can be applied in almost any part of India. But that does not make it unique. There are other non-regional parties, most prominently the Left parties, which share the same space ideologically as AAP, and have much larger presence in India. Nor is Mr. Arvind Kejriwal a trailblazer among chief ministers. The likes of Nitish Kumar, Naveen Patnaik, Shivraj Singh Chauhan and Raman Singh have been elected multiple times on the back of their performance as Chief Ministers. Among smaller states, Pawan Chamling has been the Chief Minister of Sikkim since 1994 while Manik Sarkar has governed Tripura since 1998. I bet you are barely cognizant of their names.

The novelty factor of AAP is also not an excuse for the heightened coverage given to them. In the chaotic and noisy democracy of India, political parties are formed and disbanded at the drop of a hat. It is true that not many of them become as successful as AAP. But in the 2014 general election, YSR Congress, a newly floated party ended up getting higher vote share as well as more number of seats compared to AAP. But in the skewed coverage of the national media, YSR Congress is accorded not even a fraction of the attention showered on AAP.

The recent Assembly election results have shown that the base of AAP, even in the region of Delhi and Punjab has become shaky. The various irregularities as highlighted in the Shunglu Commission report have put a serious question mark on its claims of being a different political party. And its many attempts at widening its support level outside Delhi and Punjab have met with bruising failures, repeatedly.

With the Delhi MCD elections coming up, there may be renewed attempts on the part of the national media to either frame the results as a phoenix like regeneration of AAP or to write obituaries of the party. Either way, chances are that it would not matter. Remember the shock and awe with which the results of the Delhi Assembly election were treated by the media, how far reaching that election was supposed in the electoral history of the country. Now two years later, the effect that election has had on the political fortunes of India has been minimal.

It may be the right time for us to take AAP a little less seriously and give it the respect that it deserves – that of a midrange regional party. May be, in due course of time, AAP will gradually become large enough to govern India on its own. After all, the BJP was also restricted to just two seats in 1984. But clearly, now is not that time. Giving such disproportionate attention to AAP is an insult to the voters who live outside Delhi and Punjab. It is time we tone it down.

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Oscar Predictions – 2017

Oscars.jpg

It has been two years since this blog made its debut in the congested alleys of internet opinion, professing to offer its unsolicited point of view on the hot button as well as obscure issues of the day. A lot of water has flown under the bridge since then. Back then, Donald Trump was just another second grade celebrity businessman, Ed Milliband was looking forward to becoming the next Prime Minister of United Kingdom and no one had heard of the alt-right or Milo Yiannopoulos. Some things have not changed though – this blog, for example, continues to attract visitors at the staggering rate of around 3 per day (which means if you are reading this blog, you are quite the rare one).

The first post on this blog was related to the Oscar predictions of 2015. Since it is this time of the year, we will attempt to once again partake in the annual ritual and solve the quandary that threatens the existence of human civilization, namely – which movie is going to win each of the multiple categories at the Academy Awards on the night of February 26th?

The methodology of the prediction is straight forward and simple. The Oscar season is preceded by a flurry of awards spread over three months. This includes the critics’ awards which are decided by the critics and journalists and the insider awards where the industry insiders (actors, directors, producers, editors, writers, etc.) get to choose their candidates for the most satisfying movie experiences of the year. These awards typically have a strong correlation with the eventual Oscar winner, some (insider awards) more so than the others (critics’ awards). Thus, by looking at the winners and nominees of these awards and weighing them on the basis of their relative success in forecasting the Oscar winner, one can make a reasonable estimate of the winner of each category of the Academy Awards.

Our first attempt at Oscar prediction in 2015 did not go too well and we ended up getting only 13 out of 20 predictions right. The most obvious mistakes that we did was not putting enough weights on the insider awards and being overconfident in categories where we did not have enough data. We were better in our second attempt though, getting 15 out of 17 categories correct.

Regardless of how the individual predictions turn out in each category, I am confident about making the following two:

  • ‘La La Land’ is going to dominate the Oscars night. Armed with 14 nominations, it has an outside chance of equalling the record for most number of Oscar wins by a single movie (which is 11). More realistically, it may end up with around 8-10 wins, which is still a formidable feat, especially considering that it is a musical.
  • Even if the lily white ‘La La Land’ ends up hogging all the limelight on the night of Oscars, there will be a mix of coloured actors who would end up on the podium. In fact, Emma Stone (or Isabelle Huppert or Natalie Portman) may turn out to be the only white actor to win the Oscars, sending out a powerful message of diversity in the year of Donald Trump.
  • No matter who wins, the speeches are going to heavily political. There will be a focus on inclusiveness and on how immigration has made America great. There will also be direct and indirect swipes at the President and his policies. The headlines the day after may end up highlighting the speeches more than the cinematic achievements.

So, without further ado, here are the predictions for the 2017 Academy Awards:

Best Picture:

The ‘Best Picture’ category has been a difficult nut to crack in the last two years. In 2015, this category saw an extremely close contest between ‘The Birdman’ and ‘Boyhood’. 2016 was even more peculiar, with four different movies (‘The Revenant’, ‘Spotlight’, ‘The Big Short’ and ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’) remaining in contention till the last minute. The victory of ‘Spotlight’ was kind of strange but not entirely unexpected; after all, the insider awards were sharply split among the available choices and ‘Spotlight’ possibly emerged as a broad, consensus pick. The revised voting pattern followed in electing the ‘Best Picture’ nominee which rewards movies which are reasonably popular with large number of voters (like ‘Spotlight’) over movies which are the first choice of a few, but polarising overall (like ‘The Revenant’) possibly helped ‘Spotlight’ as well.

This year though, ‘La La Land’ (a musical, unusually) is very much the clear frontrunner. It has won the Directors Guild Award (DGA), the Producers Guild Award (PGA), Golden Globe – Musical or Comedy, America Cinema Editors – Comedy or Musical, the British Academy of Film & Television Arts (BAFTA) and the Critics’ Choice Awards. It is difficult to see a movie like ‘La La Land’, with such broad and universal acclaim across various categories of industry insiders as well as critics, losing out to any other movie.

But what about the contenders? ‘Moonlight’ at one point of time looked like the strongest threat to ‘La La Land’. It started the awards season well, winning the ‘Golden Globe – Drama’ award, but has since struggled. Its only major victory over ‘La La Land’ has been in the Writers Guild of America (WGA) – Best Original Screenplay, but this award has not had a high historical correlation with the winner in the ‘Best Picture’ category. Perhaps, the biggest blow to the chances of ‘Monlight’ came in the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award for ‘Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture’. In the SAG awards (which had awarded ‘Spotlight’ last year), ‘Moonlight’ lost out to ‘Hidden Figures’ even though ‘La La Land’ was not nominated and not in contention, indicating that ‘Moonlight’ may not even be the second choice of a number of industry insiders.

Best Director:

The movie that won the ‘Best Picture’ category has gone on win the ‘Best Director’ category 70% of the time in the last twenty years and this year is expected to be no different. Damien Chazelle (‘La La Land’) has won the all important ‘Directors Guild of America’ (DGA) award, along with the ‘Golden Globe’, ‘BAFTA’ and ‘Critics Choice’. The DGA winner has gone on to win the ‘Best Director’ award in Oscar 86% of the time in the last fifty years.

Barry Jenkins, the director of ‘Moonlight’, has won a number of critics’ awards (including the ‘National Board of Review’ Award and those awarded by critics’ associations of Chicago, New York and Los Angeles) but none of these awards has a very strong correlation with the eventual Oscar winner in this category.

Best Actor:

This is possibly the most intriguing category among the top six in this year’s Oscars. Casey Affleck, by virtue of his performance in ‘Manchester by the Sea’ and thanks to some generous publicity by its distributor (‘Amazon Studios’) emerged as an early frontrunner in the race, sweeping most of the critics’ choice awards as well as the Golden Globe – Best Actor (Drama). But Denzel Washington (‘Fences’) came out of nowhere to win the ‘Screen Actors Guild’ (SAG) Awards, the only award in this category where industry insiders get to vote. Affleck subsequently redeemed himself to an extent by winning the BAFTA where Washington was not nominated.

Because of his dominating performance almost through the awards season, Casey Affleck is a favourite to win this category as per our model. However, I am not so confident. SAG winners have gone on to win the ‘Best Actor’ category at Oscars around 82% of the time in the last fifty years. In fact, the last time an SAG winner failed to win at the Oscars was way back in 2003. Given this, I think Casey Affleck is still the modest favourite, but Denzel Washington retains a very, very good chance of winning in this category.

Best Actress:

This is another interesting category where our model shows a deceptively close race – quite the mirror image of the ‘Best Actor’ category. This is a three way race – among Emma Stone (‘La La Land’), Natalie Portman (‘Jackie’) and Isabelle Huppert (‘Elle’). Stone is likely to win this category – she has won at the SAG, BAFTA and Golden Globe – Best Actress (Musical or Comedy). Huppert’s strength in the model stems from the fact that she won a few critics’ choice awards and also won at the Golden Globe – Best Actress (Drama). Now, Golden Globe – Best Actress (Drama) has historically done a decent job of predicting the Oscar winner in this category; but of course, this year Emma Stone, the frontrunner, was not even competing in this category.

Best Supporting Actor:

This is another category which is relatively open at this year’s Oscars. Mahershala Ali, for his portrayal of a conflicted drug dealer in ‘Moonlight’, has won the SAG, Critics’ Choice and Chicago Films Critics Association Award. But at least three other nominees have won some or the other award and hence, cannot be counted out. Dev Patel especially, with his surprise win at the BAFTA, has emerged as the dark horse in this category.

Best Supporting Actress:

Viola Davis (‘Fences’) has dominated this category, winning in the awards that matter (Golden Globe, BAFTA, SAG and Critics’ Choice) and is heavily favoured to win this category. Although our model shows Michelle Williams (‘Manchester by the Sea’) as a distant second, I think Naomi Harris (‘Moonlight’) poses the strongest challenge to Davis.

Best Screenplay – Original:

This is a straight fight between ‘Manchester by the Sea’ and ‘La La Land.’, almost too close to call. The former won the BAFTA while the latter won the Golden Globe. The highly predictive Critics’ Choice Awards in this category found it impossible to distinguish between the two and awarded both. ‘Manchester by the Sea’ is leading in our model on account of the higher weightage of BAFTA compared to Golden Globe, but frankly, both the movies have an almost equal chance of winning.

Best Screenplay – Adapted:

This category has been completely messed up by the fact that ‘Moonlight’ has been classified as an original screenplay by the Writers’ Guild of America and an adapted screenplay by the Academy Awards. Now, ‘Moonlight’ has won the ‘Best Original Screenplay’ at the WGA awards, and ‘Arrival’ has won the ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’ at the same awards. But both the films have been nominated under the ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’ category at the Academy Awards. To add to the uncertainty, in BAFTA, this category was won by ‘Lion’. Given this lack of data, the model is unable to decide between the two. Hence, I am not making any prediction in this category.

Best Editing:

Usually, the winner of the America Cinema Editors Award (Eddie) – Dramatic goes on to win in this category. But, the emergence of ‘La La Land’, a musical, as a strong favourite has upended this calculation. ‘La La Land’ has won Eddie award in the ‘Comedy or Musical’ category. It has also won in the highly predictive ‘Critics Choice’ and ‘Chicago Films Critics’ Association’ awards. Hence, it will remain the favourite over ‘Arrival’ (the winner of the Eddie in the ‘Dramatic’ category) and ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ (the winner at BAFTA and ‘Satellite Awards’).

Best Cinematography:

This is another category where ‘La La Land’ is the clear frontrunner and ‘Moonlight’ is the closest threat, but a pretty distant one. ‘La La Land’ has won at BAFTA and more importantly (for this category), at the Critics’ Choice Awards.

Best Animation Movie:

Zootopia’ has dominated this category in this awards season, but the BAFTA had a surprise at the last moment, when it chose to award ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’. Given that ‘Zootopia’ has won most of the insider awards in this category, it is still favoured to win; but BAFTA has a very good track record when it becomes to predicting the eventual Oscar winner in this category. Hence, ‘Kubo and the Two Strings’ cannot be counted out as yet.

Best Documentary:

This is another category where the narrative of the race has been disturbed at the dying stages by a surprise result at the BAFTA. ‘O.J.: Made in America’ has swept this category at most of the awards this season and remains a clear favourite; but the victory of ‘13th’ at the BAFTA means the race is not a foregone conclusion. ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ remains a dark horse in this category.

Best Foreign Language Film:

‘Elle’ would have been a strong contender in this category, given its performance in the other awards (winner at ‘Golden Globe’ and ‘Critics’ Choice Movie Awards’) but it was not nominated at the Oscars. Given this, the race shall be a close one between ‘The Salesman’, the Iranian-French movie (winner at ‘Satellite Award’ and ‘National Board of Review’) and ‘Toni Erdmann’, the German movie (winner at ‘New York Film Critics Circle Awards’). The one big factor that has not been captured by the model is that Asghar Farhadi, the Iranian director of ‘The Salesman’, was recently disallowed from travelling to US by the executive action of President Trump that barred travellers from seven Muslim countries (the action has since been overturned by the court). In protest, Mr. Farhadi decided to skip the awards. Since Hollywood is dominated by liberals and given the anti-Trump mood at the various awards this year, this executive action might have ironically just tipped the scale in favour of ‘The Salesman’.

Best Costume Design:

Jackie’ has won at all the three major awards which has this category and should win at the Academy Awards as well.

Best Visual Display:

There are again only three major awards that have this category, but ‘The Jungle Book’ has scooped up all three of them. It is likely to win the Academy Awards as well.

Best Production Design:

Another category, another expected victory for ‘La La Land’. The strongest competition in this section shall come from ‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’ which won at the BAFTA. But again, BAFTA is a British Academy and it tends to favour movies produced in the United Kingdom. In fact, ‘The Handmaiden’, a Korean movie had shown some promise in this category in the critics’ awards, but has not been nominated at the Academy Awards.

Best Original Score:

I am getting a little tired of repeating this, but ‘La La Land’ is again a clear favourite here. Considering that La La Land is that rare musical that has managed to be a strong contender at so many categories this season, it will be a surprise if it does not manage to win this one, supposedly the category which should be its strong suit. In fact, ‘Jackie’ is the only other movie to have won any award in this category (Chicago Films Critics Association Award) this year.

Best Original Song:

Of course, as expected, ‘La La Land’ is a favourite in this category. Not only that, it also has two separate nominations (‘City of Stars’ and ‘Audition’). ‘City of Stars’ has won all the awards available in this category and should win at the Oscars as well.

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A Comprehensive Primer on the Goa Assembly Election

Goa, the topical coastal paradise located in the Konkan Coast of India, overlooking the Arabian Sea, is scheduled to vote on the 04th February, 2016. Voters of 40 assembly constituencies are going to exercise their right to franchise and elect the representatives of their respective constituencies as well as the Government that shall administer the state for the next five years.

Although Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Indian National Congress (INC) are the two main parties at the hustings, there is a preponderance of regional parties with restricted bases in a few seats. The most prominent of them is the Maharashtravadi Gomantak Party (MGP). Originally floated as a party that represented the interests of the lower caste Hindu voters, the party ruled the state for much of its initial years of statehood till 1979. Subsequently, it started losing party cadres and vote share, primarily to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) which had a similar ideology and appeal to the Hindu voters. Currently, MGP’s appeal is restricted to a few disparate constituencies in Goa.

In the 2012 Assembly elections, BJP and MGP had formed an alliance that came to power, winning 24 of the 40 seats in the House, out of which BJP won 21 seats and MGP won 3. The alliance fell apart last year though, after two of the MGP ministers were dropped from the cabinet subsequent to emergence of allegations of faking their degrees. The BJP itself has split recently on the issue of continued Government support to English medium schools, as the more conservative faction of BJP and RSS, led by Subhash Velingkar, the original founder of RSS in the state, has left the party to form Goa Suraksha Manch (GSM). MGP, GSM and Shiv Sena have now joined together to form an alliance, placing themselves as a conservative alternative to the BJP.

This could have served as good news to the Indian National Congress, the principle opposition party. But chronically riddled with factionalism and hobbled by allegations of corruptions, it is not in an ideal position to take advantage of the troubles of BJP. This was evident in the way it messed up seat sharing negotiations with potential allies, ultimately being forced to go alone in the polls, with informal understanding with other candidates in three seats. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), its alliance partner in the last two Assembly elections, was left in the cold. Its negotiations with Goa Forward Party (GFP) also came undone at the last moment. So, now NCP and GFP which have pockets of influence in 2-3 seats each shall contest independently in those seats, as well as a number of other seats where they have the potential to glean a few hundred crucial votes from the Congress.

As many as four former Chief Ministers have been fielded by the Congress in the Assembly elections. Many of them do not see eye to eye with each other. For example, there are reports that Digambar Kamat, the Chief Minister of Goa in the period between 2002 and 2007, is trying to undercut the campaign of Luizinho Faleiro, another former Chief Minister who is trying to make a comeback in a neighbouring constituency.

Then there is Aam Aadmi Party who is making a desperate push for the state, keen to show itself a growing national party, with influence outside the North Indian belt of Delhi and Punjab. It has fielded candidates in 39 Assembly constituencies, but it is difficult to see it being competitive beyond half a dozen seats, mainly in South Goa. There are other smaller outfits like United Goans Party (a defunct party that has now been resuscitated to contest in a couple of seats), Goa Vikas Party (a party which has allegedly put up candidates to undercut Congress support in select constituencies) and Goa Su-Raj Party, not to mention a smattering of independent candidates in almost every seat.

Needless to say, such a bewildering array of parties contesting in small constituencies with limited number of voters makes for a very unpredictable election. In some segments, with voter size of between 25000-30000 electors, 10-12 candidates are in fray. To add to the confusion, party loyalty is extremely transient in Goa. Politicians switch parties everywhere, but in Goa the frequency is rather alarming. In Bicholim, for example, the Congress and BJP candidates have swapped their candidate while the independent MLA has become part of MGP. In Cuncolim, as many as four candidates who were part of the Congress around six months back are now contesting in the election separately. Many candidates routinely file their nominations from multiple parties, so that if the bigger party is unwilling to give them tickets, they contest on the tickets of smaller parties. Atanasio Monseratte, an erstwhile Congress MLA, was expelled from the party after he was found to be tacitly canvassing for the BJP candidate in the Panjim by-poll in 2014. He is now contesting in Panjim against the same BJP candidate and Congress has agreed to support the candidate by not fielding a candidate of their own. Jennifer Monseratte, his wife, meanwhile continues to contest on a Congress ticket from the neighbouring constituency of Taleigaon.

Even in the midst of this unpredictability and confusion, there are a few things that are apparent. One is the rise of BJP to become the numero uno party in the state. A party which even two decades back was a junior coalition partner of MGP is now governing the state on its own. Not only that, its vote share has increased steadily over the last few years. And its success in Goa has not come at the cost of alienation of religious minorities, as has been the case in a number of states in the Hindi heartland. In 2012, the party fielded six Catholic candidates, all of whom managed to win in their respective seats. Francis D’Souza, the Deputy CM of Goa, is a Catholic.

BJP has also managed to poach two sitting MLAs of Congress in the state, strengthening them in two assembly segments where they were on much weaker footing before.

The rising vote share of BJP in Goa was reflected in the results of the 2014 Lok Sabha election. If all the assembly segments in 2017 vote the same way they did in 2014, BJP would end up sweeping 33 out of the 40 seats, while Congress will only be left with 7 seats. Of course, this is not to state all the assembly segments will vote like they did in 2014. There was the Modi wave in 2014, which may have ebbed now. Further, in this election, local issues, local candidates and local parties shall matter far more.

Administrative_map_of_Goa.png

In the Taluka wise map of Goa shown in the figure above, Bardez and Salcette are the most important ones, contributing the maximum number of assembly segments. In North Goa, BJP is extremely strong in Bardez while Congress has become vastly weakened there. Even in seats like Mapusa, Aldona and Calangute which are dominated by Catholic voters, Congress has ceded political space to BJP. BJP is also strong in Pernem (where it is expected to be tested by the MGP-GSM-Shiv Sena alliance) and Bicholim talukas. Congress is strong in Sattari taluka (thanks to the presence of Pratap Singh Rane) and Tiswadi (thanks to Atanasio Monseratte). The Ponda taluka serves as the core base of MGP with all three of its sitting MLAs coming from that region.

In South Goa, BJP has barely a presence in Salcette which has the maximum number of assembly constituencies and is heavily populated by Catholics. Digambar Kamat and Luizino Faleiro, two Congress heavyweights are contesting in this region. But while BJP is weak in this region, it does not mean Congress will sweep the area. It faces stiff competition from AAP, Goa Forward Party, Goa Vikas Party and in some cases, independents backed by BJP. In the Mormugao taluka, both BJP and Congress are equally matched while in the remaining less populated talukas, BJP is much stronger.

As mentioned above, because of multi-party contests, small size of the constituencies and frequent change in party labels, prediction of seat wise winners based on numbers in previous elections may prove to be foolhardy. Instead, based on the news reports appearing in the local media, here is a brief run down of the main contenders in each assembly segments and the candidates favoured to win there.

  • Mandrem (Previously – BJP, Currently – Lean BJP)

This seat is the constituency of Laxmikant Parsekar, the current Chief Minister of the state. The contest appears to be a straight fight between him and the MGP candidate. The shadow of Dayand Bandodkar, the first Chief Minister of Goa from MGP, looms large over this seat. BJP’s vote share increased to around 67% in the seat in 2014 Lok Sabha election and it appears to be a safe seat for the party. MGP and GSM have, however, campaigned strong in this constituency and both the parties have a vested interest in seeing the back of Parsekar. Congress has consistently managed to get around 30-35% share in the seat.

  • Pernem (Previously – BJP, Currently – Tossup)

Similar to Mandrem, this is also a constituency which used to be a stronghold of MGP, but where BJP has been on the ascendancy in the recent few years. Around 70% of the voters of this constituency voted for the BJP candidate in the 2014 election. Expected to be a three cornered fight with advantage for the BJP candidate. Rajendra Arlekar, the current candidate, is a sitting minister (Forest, Environment and Panchayat) and former speaker. Former Panchayat minister Manohar Azgaonkar is contesting on the MGP ticket. The fact that BJP was actively considering dropping Arlekar from the constituency does not portend well for the candidate. This may see a close election.

  • Bicholim (Previously – Independent, Currently – Lean MGP)

This is a direct contest between the BJP and the MGP candidate. Naresh Sawal, the MGP candidate is the current MLA. He was elected last time as an independent. The BJP candidate had fought from the assembly constituency on Congress ticket last time where as the Congress candidate had contested on a BJP ticket.

  • Tivim (Previously – BJP, Currently – Tossup)

This seat will have a straight contest between Congress and BJP. Mr. Nilkant Halarnkar, the former tourism minister and state NCP president will now contest the seat on a Congress ticket. The nomination of the Shiv Sena candidate has been rejected from this seat. Although the segment is currently with BJP, it has seen close contests in the last two elections .

  • Mapusa (Previously – BJP, Currently – Lean BJP)

Francis D’Souza, the current Deputy Chief Minister, is a four time MLA from this segment. BJP had won 65% of the votes from this segment in 2014 general election and 74% of the votes in the 2012 Assembly election. It will take a huge miracle to unseat him.

  • Siolim (Previously – BJP, Currently – Tossup)

Mr. Dayanand Mandrekar is a three term sitting MLA and a minster of civil supplies, water resources, archives and archaeology, art and culture. The main opposition will be in the form of the Goa Forward Party candidate who has tacit backing of the Congress which is not contesting from this seat.

  • Saligao (Previously – BJP, Currently – Lean BJP)

This seat is another strong BJP bastion. The seat is represented by Mr. Dilip Parulekar, the current minister of women and child development, ports, tourism and protocol. He is involved in multiple scams. Both Goa Forward Party and Congress have fielded candidates here and this may lead to division of votes. Agnelo Fernandes, the Congress candidate, is a former two term MLA with neighbouring Calangute.

  • Calangute (Previously – BJP, Currently – Tossup)

Calangute has long been known to be a Congress bastion, but voted in favour of BJP in 2012. Surprisingly, the Congress candidate narrowly won the seat in the 2014 general election even when BJP had actually improved on its performance. It is expected to be a straight fight between Michael Lobo, the sitting MLA and Joseph Sequiera, the Congress candidate. The seat has a sizeable minority population and will see a close fight. The support of Agnelo Fernandez, former MLA and current candidate of Saligao, will be crucial.

  • Porvorim (Previously – Independent, Currently – Toss Up)

Current independent MLA Rohan Khaunte is being supported by Congress which has not fielded any candidate in this constituency. However, the seat saw a close fight in 2012 and a decisive victory for BJP in the 2014 general election. It is expected to again be a close fight.

  • Aldona (Previously – BJP, Currently – Lean BJP)

An erstwhile Congress bastion, the seat had seen decisive victory for BJP in both the 2012 Assembly election and 2014 Lok Sabha election. Glenn Ticlo, the sitting of MLA of BJP is favoured to win in a fight with the Congress candidate Amarnath Panajikar while the AAP and MGP candidates may register some votes. This seat also has a predominantly Catholic population and may see a close contest.

  • Panaji (Previously – BJP, Currently – Toss Up)

The former seat of Manohar Parrikar, this constituency is currently represented by Siddharth Kuncolienkar of BJP. This seat has voted reliably for BJP dating back at least till 1999. The main opposition contender will be Atanasio Monseratte, the candidate of United Goans Party who is being supported by Congress and has a strong base in the region. Monseratte has been an MLA of neighbouring Taleigao for multiple terms. GSM and AAP candidates are also in the fray. The AAP, BJP and GSM candidates are all from the same community which may result in a division of votes.

  • Taleigao (Previously – Congress, Currently – Toss Up)

This seat is contested by Jennifer Monserratte , the sitting MLA and wife of the Atanasio Monseratte, the former MLA from this segment. This seat has been a Congress/UGDP/Monseratte stronghold over the years; however, BJP has been able to gradually increase its vote share in this seat in the recent years. This is expected to be a close fight.

  • Cruz (Previously – Congress, Currently – Lean Congress)

A Congress stronghold, the sitting MLA Atanasio Monseratte has been expelled from the party and is contesting in this election from the Panaji seat on a United Goans Party ticket. Congress has instead nominated former sarpanch Antonio Fernandez. The seat was last time contested by MGP. This time both MGP and BJP have declared candidates for this seat.

  • Andre (Previously – BJP, Currently – Lean Congress)

Previously a Congress bastion, the seat was won narrowly by BJP in 2012. In 2014 general election, BJP continued to maintain its narrow margin over the Congress candidate in this segment. Francisco Silveira, a former three term MLA, will contest the seat on Congress ticket whereas Ramrao Wagh, brother of the current ailing MLA will contest on BJP ticket. Apart from them, there are eight other candidates in fray. This seat may swing back to Congress.

  • Cumbarjua (Previously – Congress, Currently – Lean BJP)

Three time MLA Pandurang Madkaikar is favoured to win here. He is currently contesting on BJP ticket, having changed his party affiliation from Congress. Prior to that, he was with MGP.

  • Maem (Previously – BJP, Currently – Lean BJP)

This has become a safe seat for BJP in the recent years. However, current MLA and present speaker of the House Anant Shet has been dropped from the ticket this time. Instead the son of a former Congress MLA has been given the BJP ticket. It remains to be seen how much of an impact this will have on the poll results. Shet has, however, not filed his candidacy as an independent from this segment.

  • Sanquelim (Previously – BJP, Currently – Lean BJP)

This assembly segment is another BJP stronghold and it was won comfortably by the party in both 2012 Assembly election as well as 2014 general election. This is a mining belt and has been affected badly by the ban on mining. Dharmesh Saglani, the Congress candidate, does not have the full backing of the party. GSM and AAP candidates are also in the fray. Suresh Amonkar, the GSM candidate, is a former health minister.

  • Poriem (Previously – Congress, Currently – Lean Congress)

This remote segment, located in the North East of the state, is the pocket borough of Pratap Singh Rane, former Chief Minister and current Leader of Opposition. He is up against Vishwajit K Rane, his own relative and the BJP candidate. This seat has traditionally remained a Congress constituency although the margin of Rane has come down in 2012 and BJP had a lead from this segment in the 2014 Lok Sabha general election.

  • Valpoi (Previously – Congress, Currently – Lean Congress)

This segment is represented by Vishwajit Rane, son of Pratapsingh Rane. Vishwajit Rane has won from this seat in the last two elections, held in 2007 and 2012, although BJP had a narrow lead from this segment in 2014 Lok Sabha election.

  • Priol (Previously – MGP, Currently – Toss Up)

This seat is represented by Deepak Dhavalikar, the President of MGP. BJP is supporting independent Govind Gaude in this segment,

Gaude came close to defeating Dhavalikar in 2012. This will be a close contest between the two, even though AAP and Congress have also nominated their candidates from the seat.

  • Ponda (Previously – MGP, Currently – Lean Congress)

Congress won the seat thrice between 1999 and 2007. However in 2012, the seat was won by MGP, the alliance partner of BJP in the state. The interesting thing about this constituency is that BJP and MGP have together polled solidly here, but only when they fought the election in an alliance were they able to defeat Congress. Ravi Naik, a former CM, has won from this seat thrice and he will seek to utilize the division of votes between BJP and MGP to wrest back the seat. The sitting MLA is contesting on the MGP ticket.

  • Siroda (Previously – BJP, Currently – Toss Up)

Siroda will see a straight fight between Mahadev Naik, the BJP MLA and current Industries and Social Welfare Minister, and Subhash Shirodkar, five time MLA. Shirodkar represented the seat between 1984 and 2007, before Naik defeated him by a whisker in 2007. In 2012, Naik was able to increase the margin of victory, but he is facing anti-incumbency this time. This will be a close fight.

  • Marcaim (Previously – MGP, Currently – Lean MGP)

Sudin Dhavalikar, the chief ministerial candidate of MGP-GSM-Shiv Sena alliance has won from the seat four successive times and he is expected to win the seat this time as well.

  • Mormugao (Previously – BJP, Currently – Toss Up)

This seat has had close contests between Congress and BJP in the past with a smattering of votes going to MGP. Previously a Congress stronghold, the seat has been represented by Milind Naik, the state Power Minister in the last two sessions. The margin of victory for Naik was only around 6% in 2012 and the seat may see a close fight in this election, with MGP fighting separately. A number of BJP workers have also rebelled against the sitting MLA and decided to support the Congress candidate.

  • Vasco da Gama (Previously – BJP, Currently – Lean BJP)

Vasco da Gama has alternated between NCP and BJP in the last few elections. Carlos Almeida had won the seat handily in 2012 and he will contest again in 2017. Joseph Philip D’ Souza, the NCP state chief and two time former MLA who had lost in 2012 is again contesting on the NCP ticket. However, unlike last time, he would not have the support of Congress which has fielded its own candidate. Incidentally, the South Goa Vice President of BJP, Mr. Krishna Salkar, is also contesting the seat as an independent, after leaving BJP. As a result, both Almeida and D’Souza will see erosion in their respective vote shares. However, considering the strong margin by which Almeida had won the seat in 2012 and the fractured nature of the field, he may win again in this seat.

  • Dabolim (Previously – Congress, Currently – Lean BJP)

Congress narrowly won this seat in 2012, but it broke decisively in favour of BJP in the 2014 general election. Five time MLA Mauvin Godinho has recently quit the Congress to join BJP and will fight in the election on BJP ticket. The Congress has instead fielded Francisco Jose. BJP is likely to wrest this seat back.

  • Cortalim (Previously – BJP, Currently – Toss Up)

The seat is currently represented by Alina Saldanha, the only woman minister in the cabinet, in charge of Environment, Rural Development, Science & Technology. Alina Saldanha became the MLA after the untimely death of Matanhy Saldanha who was elected in the 2012 Assembly election, Now Olencio Simoes, Matanhy’s sister’s son, is also contesting the seat on an AAP ticket. The seat has historically seen smaller parties like UGDP and GVP perform well. This year, United Goans Party, Goa Su-raj Party, Goa Vikas Party and MGP have put up candidates in the seat apart from BJP, AAP and Congress. Independent candidate Vas has also strong pockets of support. BJP never won this segment before 2012 and its lead fell to a few hundred votes in the 2014 Lok Sabha election. Overall, this seat looks wide open.

  • Nuvem (Previously – GVP, Currently – Toss Up)

Fracisco Pacheco, the sitting Goa Vikas Party MLA, has recently switched over to the Goa Su-Raj Party and is the main contender for the seat along with Wilfred D’Sa, the Congress candidate. Alexo Sequeira, former Congress strong man from this segment, has been denied tickets and may be tacitly supporting Pacheco. The AAP and NCP candidates are also in the fray. This appears to be close contest.

  • Cartolim (Previously – Congress, Currently – Lean Congress)

This is a straight fight between Congress and AAP. A traditional Congress bastion populated by mostly Catholic voters, BJP has little if any presence in this segment. Arthur D’Silva, the BJP candidate, is considered an outsider in this area. Sitting MLA Lourenco’s main contender is Edwin Vaz, the AAP candidate.

  • Fatorda (Previously – Independent, Currently – Lean GFP)

The seat has alternated between Congress and BJP several times before it was won by Vijai Sardesai, an independent in 2012. Vijai Sardesai has since formed a new part called Goa Forward Party. Although the talks of an alliance between Congress and GFP have not materialized, no Congress candidate has been put up in this segment. Instead Joseph Silva, a local Congress leader, will contest the seat on GVP ticket. The main fight in this constituency shall be between Sardesai and Damodar Naik, the BJP candidate. Sardesai is favoured to win here.

  • Margao (Previously – Congress, Currently – Lean Congress)

Digambar Kamat, former Chief Minister, has represented this segment since 1994. However, the BJP candidate eked out a lead in this constituency in the 2014 Lok Sabha election and there may be a tough fight in 2017. Kamat is still favoured to win. The main contender is Sharmad Raiturkar of BJP.

  • Benaulim (Previously – GVP, Currently – Toss Up)

This is an open seat with multiple candidates in fray. Sitting MLA Caetano Silva is contesting the seat as an independent and has tacit support of BJP and part of the Congress workers in this seat. Another Congress leader Maria Rebelo is fighting on the GVP ticket. GVP was incidentally the winner last time. Veteran politician Churchill Alemao, the owner of Churchill Brothers, is contesting the seat on NCP ticket while the Congress candidate Edwino Barreto is a relative lightweight. Add to that the AAP and GSRP candidates. But the main contest is expected to be four cornered in nature among Silva, Alemao, Rebelo and Barreto.

  • Navelim (Previously – Independent, Currently – Lean Congress)

The seat was won last time by Independent candidate Avertano Furtado who had defeated Congress stalwart Churchill Alemao. This time, the Labour and Fisheries Minister will be up against Luizinho Faleiro, former CM and another veteran Congress politician. Faleiro is favoured to win the vote. However, Edwin Cardozo, an independent backed by Goa Forward Party, may take away some of the votes of Faleiro. On the other hand, BJP is gong to support Furtado instead of putting up a candidate of its own. As a result, Satya Vijay Naik, a MGP candidate who has the backing of some of the anti-Furtado forces in BJP, may carry a chunk of the Hindutva votes.

  • Cuncolim ((Previously – BJP, Currently – Toss Up)

This is another open seat where a number of viable candidates are competing. While Rajan Naik is the sitting BJP MLA, he is facing severe anti-incumbency factor and the presence of a Shiv Sena candidate. The Congress Party has been weakened by multiple defections and apart from Clefacio Dias, the official nominee, Joaquim Alemao, an independent, John Monteiro, the GVP candidate, and Devendra Dessai, the Shiv Sena candidate, are also former Congressmen. Another strong contender is Elvis Gomes, the chief ministerial candidate of AAP.

  • Velim (Previously – Independent, Currently – Toss Up)

Around 12 candidates are competing in this seat and no body is a particular favourite. Benjamin Silva, an Independent, is the sitting MLA and his main competitor is Felipe Neri Rodriguez, the Congress candidate, who he had defeated last time. AAP Candidate Cruz Silva and GFP’s Anthony Rodriguez are also strong contenders.

  • Quepem (Previously – Congress, Currently – Toss Up)

Chandrakant Kavlekar, the current MLA of Congress, won the seat in 2012 thanks to split of the BJP vote among various candidates. However BJP has this time managed to present a united force behind Prakash Velip, the candidate. As a result, there may be a close fight for the seat with slight edge to Velip. The AAP candidate may also take away some votes from Congress.

  • Curchorem (Previously – BJP, Currently – Lean BJP)

This is a straight fight between Nilesh Cabral, the sitting MLA of BJP and Shyam Satardekar, the GSM candidate. Satardekar, contesting on a Congress ticket, had incidentally lost the seat to Cabral in 2012. Cabral is favoured to win the seat.

  • Sanvordem (Previously – BJP, Currently – Toss Up)

Similar to Curchorem, this is also a straight fight between Ganesh Gaonkar, the sitting BJP MLA and Deepak Pauskar, the candidate of MGP. Gaonkar is facing significant anti-incumbency headwinds.

  • Sanguem (Previously – BJP, Currently – Lean BJP)

This is a BJP stronghold where the party has won five consecutive times. Subhash Phal Dessai, the sitting MLA, is favoured to win here, although he faces stiff competition from Ravindra Velip of AAP, Vassu Gaonkar of MGP and Savitri Kavlekar of Congress.

  • Canacona (Previously – BJP, Currently – Lean BJP)

Canacona is another BJP stronghold where it has won three consecutive elections. However, this time, it has decided to drop Ramesh Tawadkar, the sitting party MLA and minister, in favour of Vijai Pai Khot. Tawadkar has resigned from the party and is contesting the election as an independent. The fight is expected to be between Tawadkar and Khot.

Based on the seat by seat analysis, the following emerges as the range of seats each of the political parties is expected to garner:

Name of the Party Range of Seats Expected
Bharatiya Janata Party 12-25
Indian National Congress 8-17
MGP-GSM-Shiv Sena Alliance 2-5
Goa Forward Party 1-2
United Goans Party 0-1
Aam Aadmi Party 0-4
Others 0-7

Thus while BJP may be expected to emerge as the single largest party, Congress may spring a surprise and finish ahead of it. Even if it does not, it may finish well within striking distance of BJP. The best scenario for BJP will be to obtain majority on its own, while the best scenario for Congress will be to emerge as the single largest party and form a Government with the support of parties like United Goans Party, Goa Forward Party, Goa Vikas Party, Goa Su-Raj Party, independents, etc. AAP, on the other hand, does not appear to be the strong favourite in any particular segment and may at best, hope to win 2-3 seats.

A point to note here is that candidates belonging to the same political party often simultaneously under perform or over perform in a number of seats. That is, the parties may perform close to the minimum or maximum limits shown in the table above, and may even breach the limits. In a multi-party first past the post system being followed in Goa, the swing of a few percentage points may change the winning party in a number of seats. In other words, the above limits should not be taken as hard and fast projections; however, the indications are clear – BJP is ahead in the current horserace, but it may fall short of majority while Congress is behind BJP and it may need the support of other parties to form a Government in case BJP falls short.

 

 

 

 

 

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