Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Ban bans

In the last two days, 171 people in Karnataka and neighbouring districts in Tamil Nadu have died after drinking poisonous locally-brewed alcohol. The 'hooch' is suspected to have been methyl alcohol rather than the drinkable ethyl variety.
Karnataka banned arrack last year. Clearly the ban has not worked. Liquor bans never do.
In Gujarat, alcohol is banned and has been for donkeys years. This means everyone has his or her own bootlegger, who will home-deliver the boooze you want, for a price. Everything is available; there's a whole economy that works to make it available. Typically, the local policemen, political neta, and goondas are part of the racket. Any individual who gets in the way of this very lucrative business is shunted out of the way, or intimidated into silence.
I figure things are no different here. The arrack ban probably benefits the very people who are supposed to enforce it. They look away, for a price.
That price is now 171 human lives.
It would be better if there was no ban, but quality standards instead.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

What pollsters call anti-incumbency

So everyone's been looking southwards for a bit now, to see which way the polls in Karnataka will go. The general expectation is that this will be a portent of things to come: a foreshadowing of trends going into the general elections.
If this is true, we're headed for interesting times. Different exit polls suggest different things, but this much is clear: the Gowdas aren't going to be as wiped out as a lot of people were hoping. In fact, they may even be left with enough seats to be able to play the role in government formation they have been salivating for.
The smart money was on the Congress going into Phase 1 of elections. However, it appears now from the exit polls that the party has not done as well as expected. The New Indian Express-CFore-Suvarna TV survey suggests it will get 39-42 of the 89 seats. NDTV says the swing is in favour of the BJP, and against the Congress, and predicts the former will garner 31 seats.
Either way, the JD(S) seems set to end up with 35-40 seats . In the house of 224, that could be crucial if the BJP fails to get absolute majority - which it now seems capable of doing.
If that happens, it would be the first BJP government in South India. And the parliamentary elections would become a whole lot more interesting.

Advani might make it to the PM's chair yet.