Saturday, December 20, 2008


I don’t mean the silly asses of Bollywood who are hired at fancy prices by political parties to draw crowds during elections: they do draw crowds but not votes.

What I am talking about are stars in their galaxies, millions of miles away from us, which, most Indians believe, have mysterious powers over our destinies. No sane person could possibly think it can be so but we Indians stick to our faith in the irrational. I often gnash my teeth and say to myself: “We are a nation of donkeys, forever hee-haw bullshit. I too am an ass but I bray out of tune.”

After denouncing everyone, I turn to see what psephologists, learned analysts of voting pattern, opinion polls, exit polls, etc. say. They contradict each other and leave me no wiser than before. I also turn to astrological forecasts: Venus, Mercury, rahu, ketu, Saturn, Uranus, Sagittarius, sun, moon etc. I don’t know anything about their movements, but our learned jyotishis keep a vigilant eye on them and get messages from them. They have different interpretations of these astral sparklers. They are masters of double-speak and couch their forecasts in a language that can be read in different ways. Our newspapers used to give them wide coverage. Now most of them have stopped making guesses about election results because they have come to the conclusion that it is impossible to know what is in the minds of electors when they go to polling booths.

The recent elections in six of our states were good examples of how hazardous it is to make electoral forecasts. However, a newly launched magazine which claims to be “the only magazine on earth in 14 languages”, in its issue of November 24, had four renowned astrologers make guesses about the elections to be held in six states. (I don’t know why it left out that podgy Parsi, Bejan Daruwala, who begins his prognostications with Sri Ganeshyae Namah and gets everything delightfully wrong, but nevertheless continues unabashedly.)

Let’s start with Laxmandas Madan, the editor ofBabaji, and a book on how to forecaste earthquakes. We have crossed swords before. He is very gussa with me.

He got the ouster of Vasundhara Raje as chief minister of Rajasthan right, but his forecast about Ashok Gehlot (“Gehlot not next Rajasthan CM”) was wrong. Now Gehlot is the Congress chief minister of Rajasthan.

He got the Congress victory in Delhi right, but side by side, he also forecast that if the Congress lost, Sheila Dikshit will be made governor of a state. Sheila won and is chief minister for the third time.

He got Uma Bharati’s becoming chief minister of Madhya Pradesh woefully wrong. Poor Uma even lost her own seat.

Yogesh Aillawadi got every forecast wrong, including Sheila Dikshit. Ajai Bhambhi and Sunita Chabra were marginally closer to the ultimate outcome.

Reading these forecasts after the results were out was great fun. I came to the conclusion that most forecasts are wishful fantasies of forecastors. I had to keep my finger crossed till the morning the results started coming in. I relaxed when I heard of the Congress victories in Delhi and Rajasthan. Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are a long way away and Kashmir a case apart. I had an extra celebratory drink in the evening. And slept soundly.

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