Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Number of the day: Rs 600 billion

That’s how much Indian political parties spent to woo Indian voters, making the 2019 election the most expensive in the world. The amount ($8.7 billion) is even greater than the 2016 US election total ($6.5 billion). The average spend per vote: Rs 700.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The maha cut-bandhan

It’s over. The grand alliance between Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav has come to an end, marking the demise of hopes of a united opposition.


First, some background: Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, officially parted ways yesterday after an embarrassing performance in Uttar Pradesh. The so-called mahagathbandhan won only 15 seats compared to BJP’s 62. The alliance had been based on caste arithmetic—i.e. the hope that the combined Dalit-Jat-Yadav-Muslim vote would overpower the BJP’s strong UP base. Sadly, the math did not add up.


Ok, so what happened? Mayawati dumped Akhilesh in a mostly nice way. Yes, she kinda called him a loser for not winning his party’s “base vote,” i.e. its Yadav constituency. But she also said nice things like: “Our relationship isn't only for politics, it will continue forever.”  And she kept the window open for reconciliation, saying, “Abhi permanent break-up nahin hai. If the SP chief is able to push his cadre into mission mode, we can again get back together.” (‘The One Where Maya And Akhi Take A Break’)


What did Akhilesh say? He was the perfect gentleman: “Agar aaj se sabke raste alag-alag hain to uska bhi swagat, aur badhai sabko” (If people have decided to go their separate ways, I welcome it and wish everyone good luck). The two parties will separately contest the 11 Assembly seats that are up for grabs in the upcoming by-elections.


So what happened here? Mayawati’s decision is not really about SP’s performance. It reflects the lessons she seems to have learned from the BJP’s sweep of UP.

  • The Lok Sabha agreement was ‘Mayawati for PM; Akhilesh for UP CM’. Now that the pradhan mantri dream has shattered, her only available path to power is the CM gaddi in the 2022 Assembly elections.  

  • Modi taught the opposition that personality trumps caste calculations -- at least in the Hindi belt. So Mayawati is going back to the playbook that won her the 2007 UP election, i.e. personal charisma plus vote consolidation.

  • The Dalit-Yadav combination was always an uneasy alliance as the Yadavs have a history of anti-Dalit violence. A long-term relationship with the enemy—more so without the compensation of gaining power—could make her Dalit base more vulnerable to a strong BJP pitch.


The bottomline: Politics makes for strange bedfellows... and fickle ones. Neither party can afford to lose another election to the BJP. Come 2022, if their best hope of ousting Yogi Adityanath is yet another gathbandhan, expect the two leaders to hug and make up.

Learn more: Indian Express offers an extended analysis of Mayawati’s logic. The Hindu explains why this is a bad short-sighted decision for both parties. The Print blames Mayawati’s bureaucratic approach for her loss. Times of India crunches the numbers to figure out if she can make it on her own. The Wire explains how the BJP kept the alliance at bay in UP.

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loading up on beer for the big India match

Your Trump-in-Britain update is here: Day 2 brought us this bouquet of delights:

  • The Trump Baby blimp was out in full form, but was stabbed by an enraged Trump-loving American tourist. The blimp was fine but she cut herself and was later arrested. Karma is a… etc.

  • The blimp, however, may have been overshadowed by a 16-foot talking robot nicknamed ‘Dump Trump’. It’s basically Trump taking a dump on a gold toilet while he farts, tweets and says stuff like “no collusion,” “you are fake news” and “I’m a very stable genius.” The excellent video is here!

  • If you’re wondering at the energy and creativity of the British insults, an organiser of the Trump blimp offers this insight: “Trump has repeatedly shown that he doesn’t respond to reason, to facts or to science. What he does respond to is humiliation.”

  • Trump’s absurdly short white waistcoat which sparked an elaborate fashion critique (excellent photo included) from The Cut and a shorter, more effective one from author Stephen King: “With his belly curving out of his white waistcoat, he looks like a well-fed, brainless aristocrat from the 19th century. Which is about what he is.”

  • An astonishing clip of Theresa May and Donald Trump NOT shaking hands when they met at No. 10 Downing Street. They shook hands with each other’s spouses but not one another?!

  • This New York Times’ walk down memory lane which includes every sexually gross thing Trump has ever said about Princess Diana and Kate Middleton. Wait, that royal banquet must have been awkward!

  • This photo gallery with the most amusing (and accurate) captions thus far.

A new case of Nipah: A year after Kerala managed to contain a potential epidemic, a new case has been reported in Ernakulam. The virus—spread by bats to livestock and then to humans—has a high 75% mortality rate, and there is no vaccine for it. The 300-plus people who were exposed to the patient have been placed under ‘home quarantine’. (Indian Express)

Putin is a Tinder snoop: Other governments want to spy on their citizens’ text messages, phone calls and emails. The Russians, OTOH, are insisting that the company hand over all its user data, including DMs. If it fails to comply, the dating app will be blocked as has happened with Telegram and Linked in the past. Umm, because there are terrorists on Tinder? (Associated Press)


An alarming new climate change report: warns that “planetary and human systems [are] reaching a ‘point of no return’ by mid-century, in which the prospect of a largely uninhabitable Earth leads to the breakdown of nations and the international order.” To put it even more bluntly: “[T]he scale of destruction is beyond our capacity to model with a high likelihood of human civilization coming to an end” by 2050. (Vice)


The Flipkart vs GOQii battle over discounts: The maker of wearable fitness products sued the Walmart-owned retailer for offering nearly 70% discounts—claiming these were far deeper than what the two had agreed upon. Flipkart claims it is not responsible for discounts offered by third-party vendors. The All India Vendors Association has decided to join GOQii’s cause to protect its constituency of small retailers. And the outcome of this lawsuit may well determine the future health of your wallet and that of Walmart. (Reuters)


India plays South Africa today: in its opening match in a World Cup that has already brought its share of surprises (hello, Pakistan, Bangladesh!). But here’s a reassuringly nerdy analysis of the reasons why India remains the favourite to win it all. (The Field)


A garbage heap to rival the Taj Mahal: The 213-foot landfill in Ghazipur on the outskirts of New Delhi is on track to grow taller than our national treasure. It takes up the area of 40 football fields and takes in 2,000 tons of garbage every day. Indian cities currently generate 62 million tons of waste a year—a number that is expected to grow to 165 million by 2030. Ghazipur may soon become a more representative symbol of our nation than the Taj. (Daily Mail)


‘Super 30’ looks super bad: if its newly released trailer is any indication of Hrithik Roshan’s attempt at a Bihari accent. And while the true story behind it is very worthy, we’re a little unsure as to whether IIT coaching lends itself to Hrithik’s action hero-style growling.


But this trailer is looking super good: Dhanush’s Hollywood debut film, ‘The Extraordinary Journey Of The Fakir’ looks like it’s going to be a whole load of fun. The trailer is here.


What is Mamata-di most afraid of? Three little words: Jai Shri Ram. So much so that “Bengal intelligence agencies have been instructed to identify the areas along the chief minister’s main and alternative routes where she could be accosted” with the dreaded chant. We can’t stop laughing. Neither can the BJP. (The Telegraph)

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Everything we don't know about human desire

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A list of DMs that won’t get you laid

We live in a world of relentless WhatsApping which makes us lazy texters. Add in the stress and inevitable silliness of trying to get together with strangers. The result: This funny list of ‘dos’ and ‘dont's' for dating app messages.

Read: Online Dating Messages Not to Send | P.S. I Love You

Sex, Love etc 2

Why women lose interest in sex first

Therapist Esther Perel is famous for her blunt and unconventional views on sex and relationships. Here she explains why women get bored with monogamy sooner than men. The reasons, as always with Perel, are surprising.

Read: Esther Perel on Sex, Monogamy, and Who Really Gets Bored First | Goop

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