5Forty3.in, India’s newest data startup, deserves your support!

Dr. Praveen Patil is an election number cruncher par excellence. He has founded a startup (www.5forty3.in) to revolutionize how election data are collected, analyzed, and projected.


The startup has ground volunteers spread across the length and breadth of the country as we head into 2014 elections. On election days, the team reports realtime feed to the headquarters that are used to project trends by the hour. This is the high-quality stuff in election analyses that has been so far reserved to the Western democracies.

This is how 5Forty3 describes itself:

As India heads into arguably the most decisive election of 21st century, we at Five Forty Three bring you the most comprehensive coverage of election analysis. Neutrality is our virtue and data is our religion. Tapping the vast network of our on-the-ground political pundits spread across more than a dozen Indian states and combining it with psephological inputs from an experts panel, we present a one-stop platform for all the election analysis that you would ever need.

They need your financial support to last through this long election cycle, and sustain beyond that. They do have a subscription service that will give you more number crunching than you’ve ever seen. It’s also very very cheap: $10 or Rs. 500, less than your movie ticket! Even if you’re remotely interested in politics, please do subscribe. You’ll thank me for saying this now before the first major phase on Thursday, April 10!

If you want to go a step further to donate to the cause, please do so here:


Wannabe PMs’ Debate: First, can we debate Track Record vs. Tape Record?

I find it absolutely funny that there’s a petition calling for Narendra Modi, Arvind Kejriwal, and Rahul Gandhi to “debate” on their national agenda. And, nothing surprising here, LordAK has signed this petition!


Of the three, there’s only one leader with a solid track record of serving the country for 12+ years. The second one has tape record, and a track record of running away from responsibility and hard work. The third one lacks even that tape record.

First of all, how can the petitioner select only these three when there are scores of more accomplished political leaders such as Ms. Jayalalithaa or Ms. Mamata Banerjee or Mr. Naveen Patnaik or Mr. Shivraj Chauhan or Mr. Nitish Kumar who have track record? These leaders might probably have better chances of becoming PMs than LordAK.

Modi is a declared PM candidate of NDA, Rahul is the undeclared one of UPA, and LordAK is the media-declared one. Naturally, the media wants to promote him to be in the same league as serious PM contenders. His Made-for-TV statements during debate will also add spice to their primetime TRP ratings.

I have nothing against TV debate among PM contenders per se, but a debate, to be credible, should be among serious contenders for power. Otherwise, the one who has no chance/intention of becoming PM has least stake in the debate, and can throw in irresponsible statements such as:

  • “I will solve world hunger” or
  • “All my opponents are in Ambani’s pockets” or
  • “I am the only honest person in India” or
  • “There’s not an atom of development in Gujarat.”

That person has nothing to lose, and everything to gain by making bombastic, self-righteous statements. This is by design. A serious contender for power has everything to lose by trying to engage with a Made-for-TV personality.

Therefore, I do agree with Arun Jaitley’s wise advice to Modi not to engage with mavericks who have little stake in the system: Nothing to lose, everything to gain by making wild allegations when a camera hits your face.

Elections are also a great occasion for the mavericks. A maverick per se is independent in thought and action. He is not bound by the conventional rules. He is out of the ordinary. He shrills and at times is outlandish. He knows every trick on how to focus attention on himself. He attracts attention and publicity. He has no qualms about switching positions. He is more colorful on electronic media than conventional politicians. Social media particularly the Twitter has a huge space for accommodating the maverick opinions. Many mavericks are committed to ‘rent a cause’ philosophy. They are on the lookout for causes which they can espouse.

… Their style is unconventional. They make arguments in an idiom intended to derive maximum publicity. A maverick has a habit of making allegations without substance. Conventional politicians are reluctant to join issue with them because a maverick is capable of hitting below the belt. He is a wild card.

I have always wondered how to deal with a maverick. Do you answer questions which a maverick puts to you? Do you meet him when he tries to gate crash into your house? Do you allow him to occupy the centre stage by engaging him or do you ignore him and continue with your conventional style of setting the agenda? That I feel is a safer option. Silence can be the best response to a maverick. Silence is dignified. It saves you the embarrassment of engaging with a maverick on his bizarre agenda.

Sushma Swaraj circa 1999: The art of winning Kannadigas’ hearts

Memories from the past. Sushmaji contesting against Sonia Gandhi in Bellary, Karnataka in 1999. Vajpayee was at his highest ever popularity. Swaraj speaks in ಅಚ್ಚ ಶುದ್ಧ ಕನ್ನಡ (Achcha Shuddha Kannada) that she’s learned in just 2 weeks after the announcement of her candidature. Remarkably, this was without even a written script in front of a lakh-strong crowd! The Bellary crowd contrasted her dedicated efforts to speak in Kannada impromptu with her opponent’s. The atmosphere is so electric.

Within just two weeks of campaigning, she secured about 3+ lakh votes from Bellary that was a Congress stronghold since Independence. BJP was not even existent in the district before Sushma set her foot here.

2014 is the first time since 1999 that BJP supporters are so enthusiastic about the prospects of the party. Today, Sushmaji is going to the people for a record 11th time from Vidisha, Madhya Pradesh.

While we are on the topic of Sushmaji, my mind travels back even further to 1996 when she delivered what’s regarded as one of the finest-ever speeches in Parliament by an opposition leader. This was when Vajpayee government fell after 13 days, and Deve Gowda became PM with the support of Congress, a party that was thoroughly rejected by people of India just a month before.

Sushmaji, you’re inspiration and a worthy example to millions of women (and men) in our country. Go Sushmaji!

Has Aadhaar become “aadhaar” to Nilekani’s campaign?

Whenever I think of Nandan Nilekani’s Aadhaar (Unique ID), it unnerves me that a government agency, in collaboration with several private companies that won the bid for technology, have all-pervasive access to private identifiable data such as biometrics, addresses, and phone numbers. Being as visionary as Nandan is, he failed to get a privacy protection law enacted by the parliament to back the scheme. As a result, there is NO legal recourse to a private citizen for the possible misuse of the data, because hey, there is NO law whatsoever!

nandanNo mature democracy will ever allow such a brazen extra-legal activity to take place within its jurisdiction. Indian democracy, under the aegis of economists and lawyers and technocrats, proved it isn’t so mature. Nandan got down to work on the behalf of Indian citizen, without ever being authorized by her (via Indian parliament) to do the work for her. She never had a voice to say:
“My dear IITian, Infoscion Visionary, thanks but no thanks!”

It is not hard to imagine numerous ways it can be misused by vested interests. What’s most dangerous is when the vested interests turn out to be politicians to overturn democracy itself. Mr. Nilekani, if this report turns out right, you have let thinking Indians down, the very Indians who were inspired by your fairy tale background and read “Imagining India” at airport lounges of the world.

Please clarify to that thinking Indian today. Are you trying to “canvas the base” to win over South Bengalurians?


Nandan Nilekani, co-founder of Infosys and the Congress’ candidate from the Bangalore South constituency, seems to be leveraging his expertise as head of the Unique Identification Authority of India or Aadhaar project to prepare for the next general elections. To this end, he has been sending out personalised letters to the heads of every household within the constituency. What is unusual is that the cover containing the letter looks nearly the same as those that were used to send out the Aadhaar numbers and bears the name of the addressee and his/her father on it.

For those wanting to understand why dangers of Aadhaar are real and not mere hyperbole, please read Firstpost editor-in-chief R Jagannathan’s articles:

“Why is Aadhaar being shoved down our throats?”

“Neta Nilekani is fine, but I still wouldn’t buy his Aadhaar”

BS Yeddyurappa: From Victor to Villain to Victim, all by 24×7 Media (save IE’s Shekhar Gupta)

BJP has taken back Bellary’s B Sriramulu. This is indeed a disappointing news for those who follow Karnataka politics closely. Sriramulu and Reddy brothers were the prime reason for the fall of the image of Yeddyurappa’s government in Karnataka, which gave a bad name to otherwise good governance of BJP in various states. Technically, Reddy brothers are not back in BJP because BSR Congress wasn’t allowed to merge with BJP. However, Sriramulu is their closest aide, and for all practical reasons, he represents them. I am indeed disappointed that BJP did not heed Sushma Swaraj’s opposition before inducting Sriramulu (knowing well that she was their benefactor all these years that led to the fall of the first BJP govt. in Karnataka). This was Sushmaji’s tweet:


This post is not about him. There are still a lot of questions asked about BJP taking back former CM BS Yeddyurappa into the party fold. But very few people have bothered to find out what exactly is the truth, and how he was victimized by a combination of party rivals aligned with Reddy brothers, Congress-appointed governor HR Bharadwaj, a motivated Lokayukta Justice Santosh Hedge wanting to make headlines as part of India Against Corruption movement, and a willing media to play up the propaganda.


Contrary to popular perception, Yeddyurappa has never been convicted by even a lower court. The Karnataka High Court, while dismissing the case against Yeddurappa, gave him as clean a chit as one could get (http://www.firstpost.com/politics/good-news-for-yeddyurappa-as-clean-a-chit-as-it-could-be-238196.html). It severely indicted Lokayukta for not just leaking the confidential report to the media in a motivated manner, but also violating all norms of “principle of natural justice” by not providing BSY an opportunity to defend himself, and pronouncing him guilty in press conferences. This caused incalculable damage to the public image of BSY, who is one of those very few politicians in the country who has built his/her non-existing party from the ground up for 40 years in the most hostile conditions before coming close to power, and still remains a committed grassroots politician to this day.

This well-researched article from Kiran Kumar, complete with High Court judgement, makes for an eye-opening read for those who only have a vague idea that BS Yeddyurappa is BJP’s equivalent of A Raja (2G) or Shiela Dikshit (CWG) or Manmohan Singh (CoalG). The author doesn’t give clean chit to Yeddyurappa on any pending case (if any), but only tackles the cases that forced BSY to be removed from CM’s chair and earned him nationwide rebuke.


The author tackles the following hard questions:

  1. Was BSY indicted by Lokayukta report on illegal mining in Karnataka? (No.)
  2. Then why did Yeddyurappa go to jail?
  3. What’s the latest finding on Hegde’s report? Was Lokayukta’s mistake responsible for Yeddyurappa’s resignation? (Yes.)
  4. Was Yeddyurappa the first Chief Minister of Karnataka to help the State control illegal mining? (Yes, he actually canceled mining licenses issued by SMK and HDK!)
  5. Did Lokayukta Hegde’s much publicised report stand any scrutiny in the High Court? (No.)
  6. Even if BSY is cleared of Lokayukta’s report related FIR, he still has other cases. Why did BJP let him in?
  7. If BSY was not guilty, why did media not report the junking of Justice Hegde’s biased report?
  8. Why did media treat Santosh Hegde as hero? (Because he was part of Anna movement that was media’s then heartthrob)
  9. Was Yeddyurappa wrongly painted as super corrupt by Indian media? (Yes, to equate a much cleaner BJP with Congress as part of a political conspiracy to dilute the effect for Congress.)
  10. Finally, what else should be said about BSY case?

BSY’s unfortunate fate is the tragedy in the making for media’s excessive, uncritical love towards 5-star activists who want to win popularity contests without hard-work, by calling every leader names. It can destroy a career of nearly 50 years within a matter of a few days. It is also a lesson to Indian public not to be “taken in” by the latest fantasy of the media.

Today, Indian Express editor Shekhar Gupta has a conscience-pricking piece for Indian media willing to elevate anyone with a photogenic face but zero credentials to Mount Everest, only to drop them from there when a newer face looks shinier. It is a must-read on a day when the former media-darling Arvind Kejriwal has threatened to jail journalists.

shekar-guptaTo give you some history, during the height of Anna movement in 2011-12, Shekhar Gupta made a clean break from the rest of the media to question the movement. Most of his readers, including me, were taken aback by his repeated questioning of “holy grail” of anti-corruption plank of Team Anna. I remember writing a letter to him asking why he was speaking in UPA government’s voice.

Today, Shekjarji, you stand vindicated. You deserve my salute!


Postscript: Kejriwal said to our reporters a few times that The Indian Express was not a paper he bothered to read. He said this to one of our photographers too. But these are Indian Express photographers. So sure enough, they caught Kejriwal, while he sat on dharna, intently poring over what else but The Indian Express front page carrying a P. Chidambaram interview (by our editor, Mumbai, P. Vaidyanathan Iyer), where he regretted his party’s support to the AAP government. We used that on page one the next day. Could we have asked for a better compliment from Mr Kejriwal? His abuses, we can list on our CVs. With pride and joy.

Pratap Simha climbs Chamundi Hills!

Fearless Kannada journalist Pratap Simha gets BJP ticket from Mysore-Coorg.


For the uninitiated, Pratap Simha has redefined Kannada journalism as we know it. He writes things as they are on topics others would rather push under the carpet in the name of secularism and socialism such as demographic change, political protection to terrorism, grander geopolitical designs behind inducement-based religious conversion, love jihad, corruption at very high places and so forth. His articles are so cutting that his life was on the radar of terror organizations. (Ref: http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/journalist-among-11-arrested-for-karnataka-terror-plot/995739/0)

After Times of India took over Vijaya Karnataka (where he was a journalist), he left to Kannada Prabha (reason not known). Today, he has bid goodbye to his favorite profession of journalism. While Kannada journalism has lost a solid voice, Karnataka politics gains it.

Hope our beloved Mysoreans give him an opportunity to serve the cause of the nation from parliament. Indeed a very happy day for all Pratap Simha fans!

Congratulations and best wishes to Pratap Simha and Mysoreans+Kodavas! Way to go, BJP!

This was his facebook message announcing the unexpected turn of events in his life:

My beloved friends, YES it was a tough decision, YES i am putting my career into great risk, YES my heart is bleeding to leave Journalism, YES i am in great pains to exit from writing, that I loved most, YET I have decided to contest from Mysore-Kodagu! Mysore is Karnataka’s cultural capital n Kodagu is the land of warriors. You are my inspiration n strength. Please do support me to make NaMo as our next PM only to save great Bharat.

How “Paid Media” behaves when its favorite politician is stung?

In the last two days. we’ve been trying to follow up on how much coverage media is giving to AK’s match-fixing Bhagat Singh interview with AajTak. This is a test case for media neutrality. So far, my worst fears on media being hand-in-glove with Congress+AAP is being proved beyond doubt. None of the major channels NDTV, CNN-IBN, Times Now, and of course AajTak/HT (the very culprit) has given this news any space it deserves. All the awareness seems to have been restricted to the youth on social media. Not one channel has questioned AAP hard on the expose, and not one anchor has organized a panel discussion on the dangers of media-fixing, and orchestrated interviews to a free and fair media. Sadly, even those who are smart enough to understand the gravity of the situation haven’t made sufficient noise calling for sacking of Mr. Punya Prasoon Bajpai who continues to be the head of AajTak’s editorial team.

(To clarify, I never expected anyone from AAP calling for the honest Mr. Arvind Kejriwal’s head, so no let down there! AAP’s intellectual leader Mr. Yogendra Yadav, otherwise very voluble on paid media rhetoric, has been conspicuously silent.)

Am I exaggerating the dangers of paid media here? I’d humbly say “No!” Our democracy survives on access to information to public so they can freely make up their minds. If the information reaching them is orchestrated or corrupted due to vested interests, it is possible that a section of gullible masses can be wooed by such interests to harm the interest of the nation, via the ballot boxes. Paid media is no different in that sense from voter bribes.

A case in point is this:

  • When AAP leader Prashant Bhushan called for Kashmir to be given to Pakistan, and army to be withdrawn, there was a hue and cry. As a loyal patriotic Indian, the then Delhi CM gave an interview to Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai calling Kashmir an integral part of India, and thereby gaining the trust of some of his nationalist followers who might have been offended by such statements.
  • Similar was the case when Yogendra Yadav talked on Maoists, or someone else on Khap Panchayats, and caste reservations. Each time, Kejriwal took an opposite stand from his extremist colleagues to appeal to the fickle-minded middle class.
  • Then came Kejriwal’s unbeatable hypocrisy at a speech to industrial body CII in Mumbai. When in power for 49 days, the man did everything he could to throw muck at private companies, gave subsidies from taxpayers even before a probe found any company guilty of corruption, threatened a government takeover of discom companies, and canceled FDI in retail without a debate on the merits of retroactive withdrawal of a state policy (I agree with recalling FDI in retail, but would have liked a debate on the merits of retroactive policy withdrawals). Well aware that his 49-day honeymoon had lost middle-class support, this man now borrowed a slogan from his rival PM candidate:

    “Government has no business to be in business! Aha!!”

As with everyone else, I too was misled and genuinely thought that ex-CM of Delhi was now a changed man with fresh, modern ideas on the economy, Kashmir, reservations, and whatnot. Alas, that hope turned out to be short-lived, as this video has depicted. What Kejriwal has shown with this jugaad is that he cannot be trusted at his words, especially in orchestrated interviews with cozy journalists. Could it be that his lectures on business, Kashmir, Naxals, reservations, Khap are just carrots doled out at middle-class to split anti-Congress vote in 2014, aiming to impose a weak unstable regime on India?

At this hopeless juncture, Zee News is the only channel that has made any serious effort to get answers from Kejriwal himself for the serious violation of journalistic and political ethics. The eternal questioner-in-chief, always happy asking questions from all and sundry, as expected, ducks the Zee News’s questioner now. No wonder.

Indian media, please do your job! A sincere request from a concerned Indian.