Projections for 21 Lok Sabha seats of Odisha #Elections2014


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The historic general elections 2014 are coming to an end and everyone is now waiting for the results on the May 16th. In Odisha, the elections for the 21 Lok Sabha seats and 147 assembly seats happened simultaneously. The two phase elections in the state ended on April 17th with almost a month to go for the result day. This election is important for Odisha as the incumbent Chief Minister Naveen Pattnaik is seeking mandate for a record fourth term in the office. There are intense speculations going on among many whether BJD can repeat its magic in the elections and how will national parties like BJP and Congress will fare.

Being a political enthusiast from Odisha, I conducted a constituency wise research and tried to understand the political current in each of the 21 LS constituency. Based on that research, I have tried to predict the outcome the results in these seats. At this point I should make it clear that these are not based on any sample surveys and no statistical tool has been used. The research is based on my understanding of Odisha politics. I have already posted this on twitter & facebook on April 17th, 6 pm itself. Sharing the seat projections again on this blog to properly document the projection with detailed explanation.

Before I get to the constituency wise prediction, here are my five major observations about the Odisha elections 2014.

1. Historically, people of Odisha do not vote on the basis of caste or religion. But personality and charisma of a leader influences voting pattern very much. That explains why the people of Odisha are smitten by the Naveen Pattnaik phenomenon for last 14 years.

2. People want Odisha to have a larger voice at the national stage. Many people (especially in urban areas) are of of the view that by not aligning with any major political formation at the center, BJD has failed to bring big opportunities for Odisha in last 5 years. There’s a definite drop in the BJD’s popularity ratings when compared to 2009 when it got its best ever results.

3. Even after the BJD rule of 3 terms, there is no love lost between the 3.5 cr population of Odisha and Naveen Pattnaik. Despite the early hopes in the Congress camps of being able to corner BJD this time, factional feud ensured that state congress unit’s constant decline continues. The state of Congress in Odisha can be gauged from the very fact that the Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh joined BJD just before the elections. Delhi High Command’s mishandling of the state unit by tusting inefficient and unpopular leaders like Jayadev Jena and ignoring senior congress leaders’ opinion led to around 20 plus major leaders’ departure from the party just before the election.

4. Majority of Odias want Narendra Modi as the PM of India. However, due to the weak structure of BJP in the state, many voted for BJD owing to the TINA factor. There are also many constituencies (mostly western Odisha and some of the urban pockets in the coastal Odisha) voted for the BJP in the Lok Sabha thanks to the Modi wave, but chose BJD in their respective assembly seats.

5. The ‘Modi for Center, Naveen for state’ trend was heavily observed in case of the youth. Voters in the age group 18-30 are the most vocal supporters of Modi in Odisha. Many young voters voted for BJP without even knowing the name of the BJP candidate in their constituency. BJP has also recovered some of its party structure in its traditional base of western Odisha which it had lost to BJD during its alliance government. One can expect at least 5-10% vote swing in favor of the BJP this time.

Now let’s move towards the projections now.

Odisha Phase-1Odisha Phase-2

Final Projection for all 21 seats

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*Update (14th May):Figures of the leading Exit Polls for Odisha is as follows.

Exit Polls LS Seats Predictions for Odisha
BJD BJP INC
CNN IBN-CSDS 12-16 3-7 1-3
Aaj Tak-CICERO 10-14 5-9 1-3
ABP-Nielsen 9 10 2
Times Now-ORG 14 2 5
New 24-Today’s Chanakya 12 8 1
India TV-C Voter 11 6 4
Satta Market (for BJP) 5

 

Detailed explanation for each constituency is provided below.

Constituency 2014 Prediction 2009 Remarks
Phase-I
Bargarh BJP Cong BJD is not in the race here for the LS. Many BJD loyalists (including workers) voted for BJP candidate to defeat Congress MP Sanjay Bhoi
Sundargarh BJP Cong Sundargarh is BJP’s secure seat. Jual Oram had lost this seat by a margin of 0.5% votes last time. Long time respected leader in this area
Sambalpur BJP Cong Modi’s rally here was a major boost in a constituency which was already leaning towards the BJP
Bolangir BJD BJD While BJP’s Sangeeta Singhdeo is expected to do better in urban areas, the prince of the Bolangir royal family Kalikesh Singhdeo is expected to retain the seat in a tight battle.
Kalahandi Cong Cong Kalahandi is witnessing a tough triangular fight. Congress’ Bhakta Charan Das is a veteran leader in this area with many loyal supporters. BJP’s surge riding the Modi wave will hurt BJD’s chances here
Nabarangpur Cong Cong Maoist affected Nabarangpur shocked everyone with 82% voter turnout. Historically, a Congress bastion, Congress’ Pradeep Majhi is expected to retain the seat as the BJP’s surge is again expected to curtail the BJD hopes here
Kandhamal BJP BJD While BJP is ahead in the G Udayagiri and Baliguda segments, BJD is strong in Phulbani and Boudh segments in this communally sensitive constituency. This is a very close battle which I believe should go in favor of the BJP
Aska BJD BJD Considered as BJD’s fort, Aska is secured for BJD
Berhampur Cong BJD Popular movie actor Siddhant Mohapatra shocked everyone last time by defeating veteran Congress leader Chandrasekhar Sahu. Traditionally a Congress seat (Congress has lost here only twice) will return to Sahu again as BJD’s Sidhant’s popularity has dropped due to his prolonged absence from the constituency.
Koraput BJD BJD Another Congress bastion which was breached for the first time ever by BJD in 2009. However, Koraput is expected to repose its trust in BJD once again
Phase-II
Keonjhar BJD BJD Famous for mining activities, Keonjhar, which was once a BJP seat has shifted its allegiance towards BJD lately.
Mayurbhanj BJD BJD Sudam Marandi (previously in JMM) joining BJD will further help BJD in Mayurbhanj. One of the few constituencies where BJD may increase its victory margin compared to last time
Balasore BJP Cong Odisha’s lone minister in the UPA-II, Srikant Jena had won Balasore last time gaining from a fierce fight between BJD and BJP. This time around, Srikant Jena has lost the trust of the local Congress cadre. He is unpopular among the common people as well. BJP’s Pratap Sarangi has an image of incorruptible and selfless social worker which is helping him. He has a connect with the grass-root which his opponent from the BJD lacks.
Bhadrak BJD BJD The main battle is between the BJD and the Congress. The 7 time MP Arjun Charan Sethi is expected to win the seat for straight 5th time.
Jajpur BJD BJD An interesting constituency to watch as two powerful factions of the BJD have locked horns here because of ticket distribution. A completely unknown and inexperienced candidate Rita Tarai has been fielded by the BJD as a result. However, the BJP and Congress are so weak here that BJD may get votes by default. BJP may replace Congress at the second place
Dhenkanal BJP BJD BJP has never won Dhenkanal which has traditionally shifted between Congress and BJD (Janata Dal in past). Though BJD has repeated its 3 time MP Tathagata Satpathy, BJP’s Rudra Pany has made huge gains if ground reports are to be believed. Many Congress workers have switched allegiance and working for Pany’s win here. Though a very close call to make, I feel Modi wave will help BJP making new ground here.
Cuttack BJD BJD 4 time MP from Cuttack, Bhartruhari Mahatab of BJD who won the last election by a margin of 2.36 lakhs votes is not expected to face any opposition from Congress or BJP
Kendrapara BJD BJD Kendrapara is considered as the fort of anti-congress politics in Odisha. Congress has never won Kendrapara since 1957. Baijayant ‘Jay’ Panda, who is considered as the face of Odisha in Delhi, should win handsomely here.
Jagatsinghpur BJD CPI BJD has left this seat to its alliance partner CPI last time. BJD’s Dr. Kulamani Samal shouldn’t face any resistance to win this coastal district
Puri BJD BJD Ace Supreme Court lawyer Pinaki Mishra is fighting from this electoral fort of BJD. Congress’ new face Sanchita Mohanty is not even in the picture anywhere.
Bhubaneswar BJD BJD Baba Prasanna Patsani is immensely popular because of his saffron attire and humorous speeches. Thanks to his and his party BJD’s popularity, Patsani doesn’t campaign much but has been winning this seat easily. Patsani managed to get the BJD ticket after a lot of consultation among the BJD ranks to give a new face a chance. The rethink was due to Congress fielding a veteran cine artist Bijay Mohanty and BJP’s young (and unknown) Pruthwiraj Harichandan riding the Modi wave. In Bhubaneswar City, a big number of voters voted for BJP in the Lok Sabha even though they didn’t know anything about Harichandan. But with only 40% voting in the city, and BJD’s Patsani being popular among the rural voters, Patsani will retain Bhubaneswar.
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Is there a Modi wave in India?


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If anything the voter turnout in the initial phases of the election tells us, it is that the general election 2014 is no normal election. This election is as much about finding practical solutions to our problems as it is about opposing the status quo. The general public’s political awareness has increased in last 2 years. The public wants to engage in different issues rather than preferring to be helpless bystander. The youth of India (many first time voters among them) has also started taking a lot of interest in the day to day politics.  There is an underlying hope among the electorate that the 2014 election results will change the economic and political scene in the country forever. There is a ‘current’ that is working in the country which has made the public to resist nonperformance of the political class.

How big is this current? Can it be called a wave? Is it similar to the political wave India experienced in the elections of 1977, 1980, 1984 and 1989? What is the nature of this wave? Is it anti-Congress or Pro-Modi wave?

On December 8th, when the results of 4 assembly elections were declared, I was of the view that if India is experiencing any wave like phenomenon then it is anti-congress in nature and Modi is the face of this wave. The voting pattern in the 4 states (Rajasthan, MP, Chattishgarh & Delhi) indicated that people voted more against Congress than for BJP (which is the principal alternative of Congress in India).

Is it the same for parliamentary elections as well? Or has the anti-congress wave converted into a pro-Modi wave with time? Obviously, the final result on the May 16th can answer these questions.

In case, the following results are obtained on the 16th of May, the wave can be called an anti-congress wave.

1. Congress ends up with historically low number of seats (<=114) in the 16th lok sabha.
In 1999, Congress was reduced to its lowest ever figure in Lok Sabha (114) thanks to the rising BJP and regional parties. If Congress’ seats in the 16th Lok Sabha is around that figure or even lower, the mood all over the country can be declared as anti-congress. If we assume the Opinion poll results to be true, then this scenario is very much likely on the May 16th. In fact many polls are predicting less than 100 seats for Congress this time which will be a serious blow to the grand old party of India.

2. Congress fails to achieve the first position (in terms of no. of seats) in almost all states.
As per all opinion polls, except Karnataka (close fight, but Congress ahead), Kerala and Assam, Congress is nowhere in fight in any of the states. Congress may not even win seats in double digit in many states.

3. Most big leaders of UPA (including Sonia and Rahul Gandhi) will lose their seats.
In 1977, the Janata wave had swept the North India and as a result of which Indira and Sanjay Gandhi had lost their ‘safe’ seats of Amethi and Rae Bareily. It was a sign that Congress was thoroughly defeated. Will 2014 see a repeat? The reluctance shown by senior congress leaders to fight this time seem to be an indication what the results might be.

*If Sonia and Rahul manage to win their seats (even with less margin), the 2014 wave can be easily considered as smaller than the 1977 wave.

4. Congress becomes a minor player in the South India.
Even when the anti-congress wave had swept the whole of North India, South India remained sympathetic towards the Congress in 1977. In fact, after losing the Rae Bareily seat, Indira Gandhi seeked re-election in 1978 from Chikmagalur in Karnataka. The electoral wave post emergency, therefore, was not pan India and limited only to North India. The support for Congress in the southern part of the Indian peninsula can be gauged from the very fact that Sonia Gandhi fought from Bellary, Karnataka along with the Rae Bareily when her acceptance was in doubt. It is not surprising therefore that the state of Andhra Pradesh has been providing the largest no. of MPs to Congress in last 2 general elections.

If the recent opinion polls are anything to go by, Congress’s survival in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu is under serious risk. In Karnataka, it is in neck to neck fight with a resurgent BJP after Yeddyurappa’s return.

Now for this anti-congress wave to convert into a pro-Modi wave, following events need to occur.

1. BJP will win a record number of seats in the Lok Sabha (185+ at least)
BJP’s highest ever tally in the LS is 183 which it won in the 1999 general election. If there is a definite support in the public for Modi, it must cross the 183 mark set by Vajpeyee. If there is indeed a wave, it should breach the 200 mark as well which will be an unprecedented achievement for a party which has a limited geographical spread.

2. All big leaders of the NDA should win their seats handsomely

3. Modi will secure thumping victories from both his seats

4. Not just the Congress, even the regional parties/AAP fail to stop the BJP
If regional parties and AAP who are opposed to the BJP & Congress win a fair number of seats (which will automatically lead to a <185 seats scenario for the BJP), then it will puncture the claims of a pan India Modi wave. If people prefer a third party in seats where Congress (or its ally) is not the prime opponent of the BJP, then BJP can’t claim to be the public’s natural choice for the Congress’ alternative.

However, the non-congress, non-BJP parties are not doing well if the opinion polls are to be believed. As per such poll results and ground reports, JDU in Bihar and SP, BSP in UP (which are the major regional players) will finish below BJP in the respective states. In Odisha, reports claim that BJP has made some serious dents to the BJD vote bank in parliamentary polls without having solid party structure in the state. Sensing the mood, even non-NDA regional parties (like MNS, INLD etc.) are using Narendra Modi’s name for their poll campaign.

5. In South India, BJP gets more seats than the Congress
All requirements for a true Modi wave will be complete if BJP, for the first time in its history, wins more seats than the Congress in the south India. It looks like a possibility as BJP has gained ground in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh (after alliance with TDP). Its alliance in the Tamil Nadu with MDMK, DMDK and PMK can also win a few seats and heavily damage the AIADMK base.

How Narendra Modi’s “lack of education” is advantageous for him


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Even though constitutionally our leaders need not be highly educated (even literate), we, especially the urban middle class, wish to have learned politicians to lead us. That’s the reason, Arvind Kejriwal, Jairam Ramesh and Manohar Parrikar with their IIT degrees are model leaders in popular perception. When educated professionals, be it Sashi Tharoor, Nandan Nilekani or Adarsh Shastri, join politics, we get over-excited with the hope that they will bring new perspectives to the old world of Indian politics. That’s the reason, in 2004, people of India had high expectations from the government led by eminent economist Dr Manmohan Singh. Is lack of proper education of our leaders dangerous then? What it means to have an uneducated leader?

A few months ago, Aakar Patel, in an article for The Mint, argued how “lack of proper education” can lead to certitude which can be dangerous at times. According to Mr Patel, “doubt is the sign of an enlightened mind” which is seen as indecision in India whereas certitude is seen as a “virtue in making leaders strong and decisive”, but decisive leaders tend to make stupid decision due to lack of awareness of opposing arguments. To quote Mr Patel, “Extreme certitude, of the sort we observe in Gujarat’s chief minister Narendra Modi, is actually a negative quality when coupled with a lack of proper education. Modi has never been to college and his degree is from a correspondence course”.

I beg to differ and let me explain why. First of all, in a country like ours, social status plays a huge role in determining the quality of education one can get. So don’t hold it against someone. And good education doesn’t necessarily guarantee good governance by the leader. But does lack of it affects the leadership and decision making process?

Usually, people in a leadership role but with less knowledge try to simplify the issue in their hand. They try to understand the issue in layman’s terms and they take the help of only experts and nobody else. To bring clarity in their understanding, they don’t hesitate to ask simple questions which the learned people may feel embarrassed to ask. They don’t leave the subject till they understand each aspect of it with utmost clarity. It is no wonder that Narendra Modi, the front-runner in the PM race, seeks inputs from economists and policy experts like Jagdish Bhagwati, Arvind Panagariya, Ravi Mantha and Bibek Debroy for his economic vision. A group intellectuals is closely working with Modi to shape his strategies to address many problems that India faces now.

Contrary to Aakar Patel’s argument that an uneducated leader may act on his instincts, he would actually rely more on data than his instincts. Therefore, the decision taken will be balanced, objective and effective. In fact, it is the highly educated leaders with their own personal bias and disdain for other’s views who have more chances of taking decisions unilaterally.

People with less education try to compensate the deficiency of theoretical knowledge with practical experience. Before taking any decision, they check if the same had been tried by anyone ever in the world and what was the outcome. This kind of research helps in finding out the best practices of the world and follow it in your area. Take for example the much talked about Narmada canal top solar power plant in Gujarat. The idea is to fix solar panels over the 19000km long Narmada canal network to generate solar power. This is actually an improved version of the idea of floating solar panels which was implemented first in a pond in California, US.

So, if you know your deficiencies in terms of formal education, you can actually use it to your advantage. Modi has been doing it as the Chief Minister of Gujarat and he will be able to do it as the Prime Minister as well.

Mood of the Indian Online Voter Survey – 2014

Can you spend 3 minutes of your time to help me understand the mood of the Indian online voter? Please give your response on this survey 

How Narendra Modi affected the #ElectionResults2013


The Modi Wave

The Modi Wave

As the #ElectionResults2013 started pouring in this morning, TV studios across the country started asking one common question: “Is there a Modi wave?”. The answer is, certainly, NO. The wave that has swept the four states (Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Chattishgarh) that went to the elections in 2013 is “Anti-Congress” in nature but Modi is the national face of this wave. Some political analysts have, however, expressed their doubts over Modi’s influence over the BJP‘s performance in the 4 states assembly elections as the BJP didn’t sweep Delhi and Chattishgarh. Did the BJP’s Prime Ministerial Modi fail to impress the people then? Let’s find out how the Modi factor affected the BJP’s performance in each of these 4 states.

Madhya Pradesh:

Madhya Pradesh is the state which was influenced the least by Modi. The reason was obviously the presence of a strong leader in the incumbent CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The BJP government boasted an impressive report card and the government was expected to get the mandate to rule the state for the third term. However, there was a belief that BJP’s strength in the assembly would be reduced with Congress doing a late catching up thanks to the leadership of Jyotiraditya Scindia. The results, however, show that BJP has actually gained seats compared to the last elections in MP despite the 10 years of incumbency. It can’t be conclusively said if the 20 odd seats that the BJP has gained was because of the Modi factor. In short, Modi had a limited influence in MP and he worked well in the supporting role in the state.

If I could rate Modi’s effect on the MP results on a 10 point scale, I would give 5/10.

Rajasthan

Another state where BJP was set to return to power was Rajasthan. The state has a history of changing government in every 5 years. Add Vasundhara Raje‘s charisma to that and it was almost certain that Congress would lose the state despite it being the model state for the Congress brand of governance. But did anyone expect the Congress to hit the lowest mark with a measly 21 seats in a 199 member assembly? This decimation of congress was partly due to the Modi factor as accepted by Vasundhara Raje a short while ago. Gujarat being a neighboring state of Rajasthan, usually comparison happens between the two states in terms of governance. Gujarat’s progress under the Modi brand of governance certainly played a role in influencing the people of Rajasthan rejecting the congress brand.

Modi’s effect on the Rajasthan Results: 6/10

Chattishgarh

History suggests that assembly elections end up with close fights in Chattishgarh with 5-10 seats difference between the winner and the other party. BJP has retained its position (49 seats compared to 50 seats last time) even though the initial trends showed Congress inching ahead of the BJP. Despite the much lauded good governance provided by Dr Raman Singh and his government, there were doubts over the ability of this govt. to return to the power because of two basic reasons. One, the 10 years of incumbency and two (the most important as well), the behaviour of Bastar area which everyone thought would go in favor of the Congress expressing sympathy to the slain congress leaders in a maoist attack. Modi, a clever politician, knew this well and focused a lot on Chattishgarh. He visited several times and addressed 12 rallies in the state which has only 90 assembly seats (that’s one rally for every 7-8 seats). In the end if BJP managed to retain power despite the doubtful start, a large part of the credit must also go to Modi.

Modi’s effect on the Chattishgarh Results: 7/10

Delhi

Despite the 15 years of Congress rule, BJP was never in a position threaten Congress in Delhi. It was always hopeful of getting back to the power by default as the only viable alternative to encash the anger for Congress misrule. On the emergence of another strong alternative in the form of Arvind Kejariwal’s AAP, BJP didn’t start its campaign well. AAP’s volunteer activism based campaign was well suited for Delhi and thanks to its clean image, it started capturing the anti-congress votes. Thanks to the infighting and lack of a leader with a clean image, BJP was losing out in the race initially.

Narendra Modi‘s intervention in this scenario was on two fronts. First, he projected Dr Harshvardhan with a clean image as the BJP’s CM candidate in Delhi. As the decision had the backing of Modi, long-time CM hopeful Vijay Goel had to go with the decision without creating any drama. Modi also addressed 7 mega rallies (1 each in every Lok Sabha constituency/1 rally for every 7 assembly constituency).

As per the results announced today, BJP has ended up as the single largest party in Delhi and within a striking distance from a simple majority. There’s just one question for those asking “where’s the Modi wave?”. Considering AAP’s stunning performance and the splitting of the anti-congress votes, would the BJP have won the 33 seats it has now secured if Modi hadn’t been a factor? That should answer how Modi affected the Delhi elections.

Modi’s effect on the Delhi Results: 8/10

 

Rahul-rage on Convicted Neta Ordinance: 5 Things You Need To Understand


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“My opinion on this ordinance is that it’s complete nonsense”, Rahul Gandhi thundered at the Press Club of India. Rahul added that the ordinance that seeks to protect convicted MPs and MLAs “should be torn up and thrown away”. What was on Rahul’s mind when he outrightly rejected the same ordinance that his party’s govt. cleared and sent for the approval of the President of India? Was the Congress Vice President really kept ignorant on such an important government decision? What’s the message that the Gandhi scion and the Congress party wanted to give? Here are the five things you need to understand on the whole issue.

1. Rahul wants to regain his image
A few years ago, when Rahul Gandhi entered the arena of politics, he was hailed as the symbol of the aspirations of the Indian youth. People had expected Rahul Gandhi to change the way politics is done in India. He had also created the right noises initially to gain an image of a new age politician who could bring back respect to Indian politics.

But Rahul Gandhi’s abject failure and poor performance as an important politician and a member of parliament caused a loss of that image. His silence on several issues of national importance didn’t help his cause. UPA’s track record on corruption and mis-governance was also linked to Rahul’s image. As a result, the youth has now accepted a 60+ Modi as its favorite hero and role model. In fact, my guess is even Arvind Kejriwal is more popular among the youth than the ‘young’ Gandhi.

Rahul wants to regain that ‘role model of youth’ image back. As the youth is angry with the rising influence of criminals in the politics, Team Rahul decided to use the Convicted Neta ordinance for this effect. Rejecting the ordinance could be the least he could do to bridge the increasing gap between him and the young voices of India.

2. Rahul Gandhi wants to look strong
As part of his image makeover strategy, Rahul wants to look decisive and strong. Perhaps to counter the Modi effect. While the BJP’s PM candidate, Narendra Modi, wins new fans with every speech of his, Rahul Gandhi, who lacks oratorical skills, has an image of a soft and confused leader in the public perception.

To reverse such views, Rahul, wanted to show determination and firmness in his views on the controversial ordinance. He used strong words like ‘nonsense’, ‘torn up’ and ‘thrown away’ to show his conviction. However, only time will tell how the people will react to Rahul’s outburst against his own party’s govt.

3. The whole drama was pre-planned
Yes, with a certain amount of confidence, I believe the Rahul-rage is not genuine and was meticulously planned. Rahul is an SPG protectee. He can not suddenly reach somewhere without first informing the SPG which is entrusted with the job of his security. As per some media reports, the SPG was well aware of Rahul’s plans to visit PCI. SPG was, apparently, instructed to secretly and silently, make necessary arrangements for Rahul’s protection. One TV anchor also said that PCI was informed last night by the Congress party (while booking the venue for ‘Meet the Press’ event) that ‘one big leader’ may remain present with Ajay Maken during the press meet.

Apart from that the visible restlessness to speak as soon as possible, rolling up sleeves frequently, inattentiveness towards other speakers and immediate leaving after making his point were some of the indicators that the only purpose of his presence was to make that statement.

4. Manmohan Singh doesn’t fit into Congress’ game plan for 2014
On this blog, I had written a year or two ago that Congress would dump Manmohan and promote Rahul Gandhi as the face of change in 2014. Today’s events strongly point in that direction. Rahul’s drama tried to paint the Manmohan led UPA govt. as sympathetic to the criminals, while the Rahul led Congress as intolerant of crime and corruption. This is a clear indicator that Manmohan will be made the fall guy for all the mistakes UPA has committed so far.

5. Congress saved itself from multiple embarrassments (From BJP & President of India)
BJP scored a few brownie points by making its opposition to the ordinance public. Its vocal resistance pushed the Congress to the backfoot. Similarly, President Mr. Pranab Mukherjee summoning 3 cabinet ministers to explain the hurry to push the ordinance was also embarrassing for the government of the day. It also raised the doubt if the President of India was contemplating to refuse to sign the ordinance. That would be the most embarrassing that the congress leadership could expect.

So, in a master stroke, the Congress party staged the drama which not only brought Rahul Gandhi back to prominence but also saved the govt. from a major embarrassment. If the President actually refuses to sign it (while this post is being written, Times Now has tweeted citing its sources that “Pranab not to sign the ordinance”) , the party can claim that that the president’s action was in respect to Rahul Gandhi and the Indian youth’s views.

What are SOPA & PIPA? Explanation in a layman’s language


Wikipedia observed a 24hrs blackout protesting against SOPA

SOPA and PIPA are the buzzing words on the internet these days. For the whole of last week, I noticed lots of discussions and activities happening around these two words on almost all social networks and online forums. Websites like Wikipedia, Reddit (and 7000 others) went dark for 24 hours protesting against SOPA & PIPA. With little efforts, I managed to understand that SOPA is ‘Stop Online Piracy Act’, a law proposed in the US Congress to stop the act of ‘piracy’. Similarly, PIPA stands for ‘Protect IP Act’, a bill almost similar to SOPA moved in US Senate. Then why so much outrage against the laws proposed to ‘stop online piracy’? Apparently, these two proposed US bills can potentially bring censorship on internet. I’m sure most of us know this much with no idea about the details of the two acts.

SOPA’s progress has been delayed as the bill was recalled on Friday. It has now been sent to cold storage till ‘wider consensus’ is achieved. So the proposed law, now recalled, was bad. But how bad and why so?

Today, while doing a detailed research on the topic to find out how exactly the bill is supposed to bring censorship, I found out some excellent resources which explain the whole issue beautifully. I am sharing the resources for the help of those who want to know more but still have no idea about the minute details of these two bills.

Check the video by Salman Khan of Khan Academy that does a brilliant job in describing the cons of two bills in a lucid manner. If you do not possess the technical knowledge of how internet works (Don’t worry, even the US politicians who support SOPA & PIPA have admitted that they don’t understand how internet works), this video is for you.

Those who have more time, you should this article from Gizmodo.com ‘What Is SOPA?’. A bit geeky stuff but gives a clearer picture. It lists out potential hazards of such laws with examples.

If the intention of the bills is to stop piracy, then SOPA and PIPA are definitely not the answer. To solve the problem of piracy, the cause of piracy needs to be addressed. In the current form, SOPA & PIPA don’t seem to be doing that rather it stands as a grave threat to the idea of free speech and freedom.

You can read the full text of the bill here: Stop Online Piracy Act 2011-12

What are your views on the proposed legislation? Share your views in the comments.

Taking the ‘quality @ IIT’ debate to the next level


Being an Engineering student myself, INFOSYS founder Mr. Narayan Murthy’s comments on the quality of students at IITs and the debate that followed interested me. Mr. Murthy commented that the coaching institutes that prepare students for cracking the IIT JEE entrance examination are the primary reason for the decrease in the quality of students entering IITs. Expectedly, the comments caused furore. Some opposed and some supported this view. But that’s it. That’s how debates happen in our country. People talk pros and cons of a topic, stress on trivial issues and the topic dies a premature death. Debates are rarely taken to the next level here.

My personal opinion on this issue is that coaching institutes are definitely not the reason for falling standards. These are the symptoms of a larger problem in the IIT entrance system. These institutes just exploit the loopholes in that system. The larger problem is the unnecessary importance the IIT exam system gives on the rank secured in the JEE. If single factor decides your entry to prestigious institutes like IITs, then everyone will try to score over others on that single factor. And that is when the third parties like coaching institutes come into the picture promising you to help in this cut-throat race. The present entrance system ensures only ruthless competition but no one ever pondered: Is this competition worth it? Does IITs get what they deserve? And most importantly, do the students who deserve IITs get there through this system?

There is one more issue, in my opinion, that is responsible for the falling quality of IIT students. Do people genuinely interested in engineering get into Engineering institutions? The answer is no. When you say, the present quality is not like what used to be, it really means previously those interested in pursuing career in Engineering used to enter such institutes and others chose other options. But the case is different now. Most of the students joining Engineering do not join it because they love it but because they (and their parents, relatives and ‘well wishers’) find Engineering course ‘glamorous’. Have you ever wondered why the quality of IIT students is more than the quality of students at state engineering colleges and the quality of the latter more than the quality of students studying in private colleges? The reason is the same. No wonder, more uninspired engineers are produced from the local private colleges.

But never ever a debate happens over this. We are only interested to know whether Narayan Murthy was right. But thankfully, IIT Guwahati Director has taken the debate to the next level. This morning, an interview of Mr. Gautam Barua, Director, IITG appeared in the Sunday TOI. I am reproducing the interview here and urge you to read it. Emphasis has been added to the parts of the interview that I found most important.

The Interview of Gautam Barua to TOI

TOI: Do you agree with N R Narayana Murthy’s comment that the quality of students entering IITs is poor?

Gautam Barua (GB): I don’t agree with the comment that IIT students are not good. I don’t fully agree with what Narayana Murthy said. The issue really is how the obsession with coaching is affecting the students entering IITs.

TOI: How is the coaching culture affecting students?

GB: It makes its impact on students after their selection. On entering the IITs after undergoing excessive coaching, the students are almost burnt-out and mentally fatigued. Then the IITs for them become a place to relax. Coaching is the primary reason that affects the performance of students. A mindset has been created that if they (students) do not opt for coaching, they may not have the chance to get admission to the IITs. That is why there is such a big business in coaching.

IIT has a brand value. Parents and students want to enter IIT without thinking what they will do. So after they graduate from the IITs, many of them don’t go for engineering jobs; they rather go for the finance sector, management or do jobs which have no connection with engineering. We have seen that about half of the students from IITs are really not interested in engineering.

TOI: Isn’t that undermining the excellent engineering education imparted by the institution?

GB: It is time for the government to create IIT-like institutions in the field of humanities. Let there be IIT-like institutions in economics, philosophy and other fields of humanities, with IIT-like campuses and branding. Then it will no longer be necessary for students to get admitted to IITs and later join non-engineering jobs. 

TOI: Does coaching by private institutes make entry into the IITs easier?

GB: IIT coaching is an industry now. But it doesn’t matter to us when it comes to student admissions. Even if there are no coaching centres, the IITs will fill up their seats with students.

TOI: Is there a move to make changes in the selection process of IITs?

GB: Yes, the government and the IIT council discussed the issues of the entrance examination and coaching institutes in September. It was decided to change the admission process where the current JEE will be replaced by the school board results and results of an aptitude test. Since there are 30 school boards in the country, a common method of standardized board results has to be decided upon. The method proposed by the council is to use the percentile ranks of students. There is little arithmetic in this. In this method, the absolute marks will be decided as the rank of the student in his/her board along with the size of the board (i.e., number of students taking the examination in the science stream in the board).

TOI: Will this method reduce the students’ over-dependence on coaching?

GB: Once this scheme is in place, the coaching part will be part of the board exams. So, with this method, school education becomes very important. I think it will be fine for schools to prepare students for the IITs.

TOI: Has the IIT brand changed or lost its sheen in recent years?

GB: Two decades back, the IIT as a brand solely depended on quality BTech students. Today, more than half of all the students in the IITs are in post-graduate courses. So in the 21st century, the IIT is in the process of building its brand through research and development, rather than through BTech output.

*End Of Interview*

I will be an engineering graduate in less than a year but admittedly I never loved engineering. Now I want to do an MBA but this time it is a conscious decision unlike the one I took 4 years ago. People often ask me why do I want an MBA after ‘wasting’ 4 years in Engineering (asking this question has become fashionable after the 3Idiots). I am blamed to have wasted Government’s money by joining engineering in a prestigious state govt. funded college and then shied away from doing engineering jobs. But the BBA/B.Com stream (students of which stream should logically get into the MBA bandwagon) was never made ‘glamorous’ for me to join it. This world always gave priority to the B.Tech+MBA degrees. So where is my mistake in choosing Engineering as my launchpad for an MBA degree? People join Medical or Engineering after Higher Secondary education simply because these fields are glamorous. If there had been any other glamorous and seemingly productive way available to go the MBA way, I (and many like me) might have used that. This is effectively the reason why the quality of engineers is dropping day by day. We, the ‘uninspired’ engineers, block the seats of those who might have loved engineering more than us. But the system gave neither us nor them an option. As Mr. Barua said in the interview, let there be top class IIT like institutes in every field of education so that students can pursue career in an area of their choice. Only then you should expect students of quality expected by IITs joining IITs.

[Sorry to the regular readers for not updating this blog for last one and half months. Academic pressure kept me away from the blog even though a number of incidents happened during this period that I would have loved to cover. The compulsions are not going to end anytime soon. So it may be hard to keep this space updated. May be till February next year. My target will be to find time to write at least one post per month till February 2012.]