Thursday, May 23, 2019

Number of the day: 78

One in seven women Lok Sabha candidates have been charged in some kind of criminal case: “Of the 78 facing cases in 2019, four have declared cases of murder (IPC Section 302), 16 have declared cases of attempt to murder (Section 307), and 14 have declared cases relating to crimes against women (Section 313).” Well, that’s one kind of gender equality.

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The biggest news story today, explained.

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The election results… coz, really, what else is there to talk about?

The time of reckoning is finally here— for the nation and the various political parties. TBH, we’re all more than ready for it to be done and dusted after this long and bitter election season. Here then is a quick guide to help you parse the results as they trickle in.


States to watch: Uttar Pradesh, Bengal and Odisha.


Uttar Pradesh: The BJP swept a staggering 70 of the 81 seats in 2014 which also gave it a comfortable majority in the Lok Sabha. This time too, the extent to which it retains those gains will determine its fate. To stage a comeback, the mahagathbandhan is relying on caste loyalties—i.e. Mayawati’s Dalit votes plus Akhilesh’s Yadav constituency. The BJP is betting on its tried-and-tested strategy of mobilising a cross-caste Hindutva vote-bank.


Bengal: The BJP is hoping to make up any UP losses in Bengal and Odisha. In Bengal, the complete decimation of the Left and Congress has left BJP as the sole beneficiary of the anti-Mamata vote. The party has also capitalised on rising resentment against Muslim immigrants. This is, in essence, a test of Mamata Banerjee’s popularity, and whether it can withstand the BJP challenge.


Odisha: The state’s 147 Assembly seats and 21 Lok Sabha seats are both up for grabs this time. Biju Janata Dal’s Naveen Patnaik is one of the longest serving Chief Ministers in the country, and is expected to hold on to his post. But BJP, which won only one Lok Sabha seat last time, is hoping for a better showing in 2019—again to shore up potential losses in UP. Also: Patnaik is a potential ally in case the NDA needs help crossing the majority mark.


State elections to watch: Other than Odisha, states going to Assembly polls include Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, and Sikkim. There are also crucial bypolls which will determine the fate of the ruling AIADMK in Tamil Nadu (21 seats)  and the BJP-led coalition in Goa (4 seats).


What about those exit poll numbers? Exit polls are tricky in India for a variety of reasons—sheer size of the country, the problem of getting a representative sample etc. But the biggest challenge is translating vote share into actual seats. A significant vote share in a state, for example, may yield only a small number of seats. Why? Let’s say Party X got a lot of votes in Bihar, but they are spread thin across the state. So those votes may not add up to a majority within a particular constituency. Various exit polls have different ways of converting vote shares into seats—which is also why they vary so wildly at times.


The three possible outcomes: Cutting through the noise and heated analysis, there are only three possible results today:

  • BJP untethered: If the party once again scores a comfortable majority on its own, then it will be rightfully seen as a resounding mandate for PM Modi— who is now synonymous with his party. Expect a lot more of what we saw in the first five years, except now on steroids.

  • BJP with brakes: If the BJP finds itself dependent on NDA allies to form the government, expect them to play a bigger, more vociferous role in shaping its agenda. Modi and Amit Shah will have to pay more attention to the demands of their coalition members. If even the current NDA can’t make the majority mark, the BJP will inevitably turn to either Naveen Patnaik in Odisha or Jagan Reddy in Andhra Pradesh for support. And that will put them in a powerful kingmaker position. It remains to be seen if they will support Modi’s return as PM.

  • Mahagathbandhan: This is the wildcard outcome in every sense. Telugu Desam chief N Chandrababu Naidu and NCP’s Sharad Pawar have been corralling the opposition parties in recent days. And Congress apparently has a plan in place—which includes taking the back seat on the choice of PM. But for all the talk about Mayawati and Mamata,  it is entirely unclear who will lead this new front.

Learn more: The Telegraph has a good analysis of the BJP prospects in UP and Bengal.  Indian Express reports on Congress’ plan if BJP fails to get a majority. The Quint compares vote shares predicted by the two most reliable exit polls. Economic Times offers a concise overview of what to expect if the BJP wins, and what if it does not. Mint rounds up the big seat battles to watch out for. 

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vowing to never go drinking with Australians

Britain goes to the polls: The European Parliament elections kick off today, and the UK will vote to elect their members. Most likely to win: the Brexit Party which loathes the EU. How does that work? (Reuters)


Why Trump is awful news for Apple: The ongoing trade war’s biggest casualty may well be Apple, according to Goldman Sachs analysts. They say that if China bans the sale of Apple products, it could wipe out 29% of the company’s earnings. Unthinkable? Maybe not given the growing support for an iPhone boycott in China. (Mint)


What does it take to steal EVMs: 500 masked men armed with sticks, daos and guns including AK-47 assault rifles. Also: not-very-smart folks who don’t realise that this kind of drama-baazi is sure to lead to a fresh election. Discretion is the better part of valour, especially when stealing votes. (India Times)


The perm is back! To which all we have to say is noooooo! (The Guardian)


Damning evidence that Aussies are gross: “To ‘do a shoey’ is to pour alcohol (usually beer) into a shoe (yours or someone else’s) and chug it. Beer cascades down your shirt. Then you (or someone else) wears a wet shoe for the night.” Yup, that’s a time-honoured Down Under tradition. And all sorts of celebs have done it, including Post Malone, Patrick Stewart, Gerard Butler, Hugh Grant and Jimmy Fallon. Eeew! (New York Times)


Why small dogs hate big dogs: The answer is right here.


Netflix India heads do not want to live in Mumbai: That’s what we learned from this story about Simran Sethi who decided to quit rather than move from LA to the city. And she is not the first India head to do so. Her predecessor Swati Shetty quit for the exact same reason. Really, what do you have to say for yourself, Mumbai? (Variety)


Beware missionaries bearing drinks:  A US-based Christian non-profit was providing a bogus “miracle cure” for cancer, malaria and HIV/AIDS to almost 50,000 Ugandans—including little babies. Except it contained sodium chlorite and citric acid, which combine to create chlorine dioxide, an industrial bleach. Wow! (Washington Post)


Coming up next, a supersonic jet: which will travel at five times the speed of sound, and will take you from New York to London in 90 minutes. Expected price of a one-way ticket: $3000. Well, the Concorde was a huge success, right? (CNN)


Rat invasion of New York: Climate change and construction have unleashed a new peril in the city where rats now “frolic brazenly in broad daylight.” Rodent sightings have soared 38% since 2014. Also: to illustrate the gravity of this story—and totally freak us out—the Times features a rat scurrying across your laptop screen. Double eew! (New York Times)

Who you gonna trust? Let’s rephrase that: which celeb you don’t know from Adam are you going to trust? If it’s a sportsperson, then the number one answer for Indians is Virat Kohli. No, Dhoni is not even on the list. The most trusted businessman: Ratan Tata, followed by Walt Disney and Bill Gates. Coming in at number four: Mukesh Ambani. No comment. (Business Standard)

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Unexpected, thought-provoking and always worth your time

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The ‘Photos We Love’ Edition

At times, we love looking at pretty cows (except when they’re blocking traffic). Other times, we heart gorgeous photos of Italy. And at the end of this bitter election season, we could all do with a little bit of beauty.

Italy’s la dolce vita years

These are photos of Italy in the 1950s/60s, a nation revelling in prosperity, art and culture after the difficult war years. As Wallpaper explains, Paolo di Paolo’s gorgeous images—be it of stars like Sophia Loren and Raquel Welch or ordinary Italians—possess “a timelessness because they capture the spirit of being alive.”

Check out: Paolo Di Paolo's Italy in the 1950s and 60s – in pictures | Guardian

Sex, Love etc 2

The cow is a beautiful thing

In India, the cow has become an ugly subject thanks to gaurakshaks, lynchings, and culture wars over beef-eating. It is, therefore, a refreshing change to behold Werner Lampert’s “epic ode” to the stunning diversity of these animals, from “the skyward-pointing horns of Ethiopian Raya-Azebo cattle to the spellbinding eyes of Austrian Montafons.” They are truly beautiful. (Atlas Obscura has more on Lampert if you’re interested.)

Check out: Holy cow! 10 surprisingly beautiful photos of cows all over the world | Wanderlust

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