Tuesday, January 18 2022

Dive In


There are jitters in the market about the revival of Jet Airways under the Jalan-Kalrock consortium. It’s been six months already since the NCLT (National Company Law Tribunal) approval, and the airline doesn’t even have basic requirements, like the AOP [airline operator’s permit] or fleet plan, in place.

That’s the gloomy take of industry experts on the likely comeback of Jet Airways. The new owners—UAE-based entrepreneur Murari Lal Jalan and UK-based Kalrock Capital—are struggling to get the airline back in the air. In comparison, Rakesh Jhunjhunwala’s Akasa Air is speeding ahead with its plans. Key point to note: Jet’s owners have not yet put in most of the money they’ve committed to—which is never a good sign. 


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Big Story

The election math in Uttar Pradesh: A guide

The TLDR: Where fates of polls elsewhere are determined by electoral tides, in India, it is all about hawa—and the direction of the wind of popular sentiment. And that’s why the mini-exodus of Other Backward Caste leaders from the BJP has been raising eyebrows—and questions about the saffron party’s future in the state. This time around, all the talk is about the other ‘C’—caste not communalism.


Researched by: Sara Varghese & Ankita Ghosh 


The UP election: The basic deets

The Assembly polls will be held over seven phases between February 10 and March 7. A total of 403 seats are at stake—of which the BJP currently holds a staggering 325. Its primary rivals are:

  • Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party in alliance with 15 smaller parties.
  • Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party which is fighting by its lonesome.
  • Also a lone warrior: the Congress Party led in the state by Priyanka Gandhi—though she has not been named as its Chief Minister candidate.
  • The rest—including Aam Aadmi Party, Trinamool, Left parties etc—will mainly act as “spoilers”—taking away votes from the big three.


To be clear, the BJP’s only real rival in the list above is the Samajwadi Party. The rest may play a role if a post-election alliance is needed to keep the BJP out of power.


Why this election matters: Uttar Pradesh is the biggest state in the country—and accounts for 80 Lok Sabha seats. And it lies at the heart of the BJP’s ‘Hindi heartland’ strategy—to sweep states like Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh etc to win at the Centre. So UP is key to the BJP’s future in the national elections slated for May 2024. 


Point to note: Uttar Pradesh voters are notoriously fickle—and almost never elect the same party twice in a row. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath will be attempting to break a “35-year jinx” by winning twice in a row. The number of seats needed for a majority: 202. 


The big fat election pie

Professor Ashutosh Varshney broadly breaks up the voting blocs in Uttar Pradesh in the following way


“Basically, it is a 20-20-20-40 state: 20% upper caste, 20% Dalit, 20% Muslim and 40% OBC. Some communities are a bit smaller (Muslims, for example, are 19.2% of the state), others slightly larger (Dalits are roughly 21%), and the upper caste and OBC figures are sample-based estimates. But, overall, the 20-20-20-40 division is a good starting point for political analysis.”


Now, none of these categories are homogenous, and contain significant divisions that can work to a party’s advantage:


  • Dalits are divided between Jatav and non-Jatavs—who have voted for the BJP in large numbers in the past.
  • Muslim Shias often vote saffron unlike the Sunnis.
  • Upper caste votes are split between Brahmins and Thakurs—who don’t always agree.
  • And the Other Backward Castes—basically middle-level castes that resent the dominance of the upper castes—are divided between Yadavs and non-Yadavs.


The winning formula: requires slicing and combining these divisions. A party either sweeps up two of those ‘20%’ groups plus enough of the 40% OBCs—or vice versa.


  • For example, Samajwadi party ruled with the help of Yadavs plus Muslims. BSP combined Dalit Jatavs with Muslims. 
  • But these were small majorities—formed with just 30% of the vote share. 
  • In 2017, the BJP monopolised the upper caste vote—and added non-Jatav Dalits. 
  • More importantly, it also won 58% of the OBCs by mopping up all the non-Yadav voters—in comparison to Congress+SP’s 18% and BSP’s 11% of the OBC slice. 
  • The result: the BJP won a whopping 40% of all votes.


Point to note: In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the party’s vote share rose to a dizzying 50%—thanks to the personal popularity of PM Modi. The BJP dominated every voting bloc—other than the core base of SP (Yadavs), BSP (Jatav Dalits) and, of course, Muslims. 


The BJP path to victory


Headlines that matter

Djoko is in visa trouble… again! 

Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia this week, and denied the chance to play in the Australian Open (explained here). But he may not be able to play in the French Open this year either—thanks to a new law that bans unvaccinated people from all public places in France, including sports arenas. Government officials said: “This will apply to everyone who is a spectator or a professional sportsperson. And this until further notice.” Meanwhile, one of his big brand sponsors Lacoste says it plans to “review the events” in Australia. (Reuters)

Kashmir Press Club has been shut down

The state government declared that the club has ceased to exist—and closed its premises. The trigger is ostensibly an internal conflict within the members—some of whom took over its management recently, claiming it was “not functioning properly.” Now state officials have cited “the unpleasant developments and dissensions between various groups” to shut it down.

But the reality is far more complicated. The club has been trying to hold elections for over a year. First, it was asked to re-register under the Union Territory laws. Then, its registration was delayed due to more bureaucratic foot-dragging in December. And here we are now. Kashmiri journalists and politicians are calling it a ploy to shut down the “only democratic and independent journalist body in the Valley.” You can see the scene outside the club here. (The Hindu)

Oxfam comes bearing bad news

The latest Oxfam report which shows that the richest Indians have more than doubled their income in 2021. This while the bottom 50% held just 6% of the national wealth. We added 40 billionaires—taking the total to 142—who have a combined net worth of almost $720 billion, more than the poorest 40% of the population. This is, of course, a global pattern. We leave you with this stark stat:


“A one-off 99% tax on the ten richest men's pandemic windfalls, for example, could pay to make enough vaccines for the world; to provide universal healthcare and social protection, fund climate adaptation and reduce gender-based violence in over 80 countries; while still leaving these men $8 billion better off than they were before the pandemic.”

Anne Frank's betrayer identified

A new investigation has zeroed in on the person who betrayed Anne Frank and her family—who were in hiding and eventually discovered by the Nazis. The likely suspect: Arnold van den Bergh—a member of Amsterdam's Jewish Council, which was forced to implement Nazi policy in Jewish areas. And he did it to save himself:


"When van den Bergh lost all his series of protections exempting him from having to go to the camps, he had to provide something valuable to the Nazis that he's had contact with to let him and his wife at that time stay safe.”

BBC News has more details.


In today’s edition

Sanity Break

  • Vennu Mallesh’s 'It's My Life What Ever I Wanna Do'


A list of intriguing things

  • A sensor that turns any N95 face mask into a ‘FaceBit’
  • A three-story stained-glass globe in Boston
  • Do you know about the giant smelly Corpse flower's Indian cousin?
  • What is it like to race down the German autobahn?

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