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During my time away, a story that fascinated me — in a train-wreck kind of way, and as a cautionary tale of the danger of the media disseminating half-baked news — relates to the murder of one Paresh Mesta. The India Today channel and its consulting editor Shiv Aroor played a lead role in propagating the story; social media backlash then prompted Aroor to write an extended defense of his actions. Here it is, and it is worth reading in full as an exemplar of everything that is wrong with the media in general, and TV news in particular.

The first four paras are an extended ‘woe is me’ pity-party aiming to paint himself as the victim, and an attempt to stake out the high moral ground. Skip lightly over those, and consider the real story, which begins with paragraph five and the tweet that started it all:

This, says Aroor, was deemed a “story” worth following up because it was tweeted by an elected representative. And so, he says, the IT reporter in the area filed a follow up “quoting sources”. Here is the report he cites; read it carefullyand see if you can find a single source being quoted. Also note, vide this report, how quickly a Union minister latched on to the incident and gave it a political coloration.

But most importantly, note this: In the follow-up report that Aroor presents as exhibit A in defense of his brand of journalism, the reporter has not spoken to anyone from police/law enforcement to find out what actually did happen. What follows is a startling abdication of every single journalistic norm (Emphasis mine):

Deciding that this would be our top story at 5pm, we invited both the police and BJP MP Shobha Karandlaje to join us on our show. Given logistical constraints on the ground, the option was provided to pre-record with both or either. While Shobha Karandlaje took our questions, the police did not join us on the show.

A tweet promoting the show carried the gruesome allegations of the BJP MP and sources on the ground – a tweet that I personally composed. Unlike my earlier tweet, this one didn’t carry quotes indicating that it was an allegation.

Starting at the top: On what basis did Aroor decide this was the lead story? At this point, 24 hours after the body was discovered, all he had was the intemperate allegation of a politician with a long history of fomenting communal trouble. Note that as soon as the body was discovered, Karandlaje began to talk of ‘jihadi forces’ and of the ‘targeted killing of Hindu activists’. Note also that even as she was busy using the killing of a young boy to further her party’s political ends, she latched onto another incident to light further fires:

In actual fact, however, the girl in question was attempting to escape the attentions of a stalker, Ganesh Eashwar Naik.

This, then, is the person on whose unsupported word Aroor based an editorial decision on. Note, further, that his focus is on “getting police on the show” — not first checking with the police to find out what the story really is. And he compounds his criminal error when he, in his own words, “personally composed” a tweet carrying the allegations — without quotes, or other indications to suggest they were merely allegations. In other words Aroor, who starts off with a verbose defense of his journalistic integrity, took an allegation and converted it into a personal attestation.

Much is then made of how Aroor in a subsequent broadcast asked Karandlaje if she had any specific proof to back up her allegations. Which begs the question: Isn’t that what you ask first, before you decide if the allegation deserves air time? Giving a fact-free allegation considerable air time, giving it your imprimatur by airing it as fact sans the telltale quote marks, and then asking if there is any proof is so far removed from basic journalism that it constitutes a sackable offense were it a tyro; when the “consulting editor” of a major channel does this, it is way beyond the pale. And then there is this:

Later that evening, the police, which had sparked its own controversy by declaring that the death was a “samanya saavu”, released a Q&A report with a forensics doctor, a document that appeared to fully contradict the BJP’s explosive charges. I happened to be among the first to tweet this out:

Wait, what?! How did the police “spark its own controversy”? The meaning of the police statement is clear — or would be, if you weren’t determined to see it through a predetermined lens: the police is saying, merely, that this is not a communal incident. Apparently Aroor believes he fully fulfilled his responsibility as a senior journalist by suggesting — some 48 hours after he decided to run a full fledged story based on an unconscionable tweet — that the BJP should now explain the basis of its charges:

And then, this:

The following day, Karnataka CM Siddaramaiah tweeted that the death of Paresh Mesta was “unfortunate” – a curious choice of word. Just as the BJP was certain this was a gruesome murder, was he certain this wasn’t murder at all? Could a murder ever be “unfortunate”? Was he simply alleging that this wasn’t murder, but a natural death, much like the Karnataka Police had done the previous day?

Seriously, is this guy compos mentis? “Could a murder ever be “unfortunate”?”, he asks. Sorry, but what the actual fuck does that even mean? And then he goes on to parse the CM’s statement, and in the process put words in the mouth of the police — note that the police did not say it was a natural death; that is not what “saamanya saavu” meant.

And then there is this (emphasis mine):

The following morning, putting the spotlight on the political war that had broken out, we planned a morning face-offbetween the ruling Congress and the opposition BJP on the issue. While the BJP joined us, the Congress apparently declined, forcing us to plan a face-off between the BJP and a member of the CPI (considering the allegations were of a political killing). Here’s that full broadcast:

“…forcing us to plan a face-off…”?!!!! Really? By then, four days had passed; communal tensions had been created by an unsubstantiated allegation — and Aroor admits that the allegations are unsubstantiated — and yet this consulting editor is still riding the fake news for all it is worth. His focus is on the next sensational talk fest, the next “show”, the next spin.

Related reading: The Rise of the Pseudo-Event

Remember what he says at the outset?:

I’ve been branded a communal hatemonger, a rabble-rouser and a plainly bad journalist who deliberately picked up the Paresh Mesta story with the specific intention of, among other things, “scoring TRPs”, “fanning communal tensions before the Karnataka elections”, “currying favour with the BJP”. Calls have gone out from several quarters for my sacking, arrest or both. I stand accused by some of these sites of peddling fake news.

Net net, by his own admitted actions, Aroor has amplified an unsubstantiated allegation, which gave it oxygen, which led to communal tension; his journalistic choices have been irresponsible throughout. As for the allegation that this “story” has to do with the Karnataka elections, consider what is happening on the ground:

#1. Karandlaje in short order propagated a fake story of jihadi rape. #2. Even two weeks after the original incident, Union Minister Anant Kumar Hegde was openly threatening violence in the state. Read that again, slowly: A Union Minister, sworn to uphold the rule of law, threatening violence and bloodshed. #3. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh continues to beat the drum of “justice” at a rally in Karnataka. Again — this is the central minister for Home — the man in charge of law and order in the country. #4. Tensions flare in Belagavi and every time some semblance of peace is restored, there is a fresh outbreak.

Do you need to be told that the next major state election is in Karnataka? Here, a clip from a story cited earlier (Again, emphasis mine):

Even after the state government handed over the investigation into Mesta’s death to the Central Bureau of Investigation on December 13, the BJP refuses to scale down its protests. For the coming week, it has announced a “jail bharo andolan”, calling upon people across Karnataka to court arrest to protest the Congress government’s policy of favouring Muslims. Chief minister Siddaramaiah has accused BJP of using Mesta’s death to create trouble for political gains.

The communal tensions come at a time when political parties are preparing the ground for Karnataka assembly elections to be held in the first half of 2018. In 2012, BJP had won in just one of the six constituencies in Uttara Kannada district and one of the eight constituencies in neighbouring Dakshina Kannada district. The 14 seats in coastal Karnataka will prove crucial in deciding the winner of next year’s election.

Connect the dots: Karnataka is Congress-ruled. Elections are due. The BJP, consistent with its win-at-all-costs methodology, has in rapid succession used two fake stories to stoke communal tension, and already begun to propagate its time-tested “favoring Muslims” allegation — the party’s go-to trope in every single election, in every single state. And all this is happening in the one region where the BJP is most anxious to gain a foothold.

Here is the part that should scare you: The dates for the Karnataka elections have not even been announced yet. And already, a former state-level minister, and two Union ministers, have done their damndest to light fires. Who knows what else is in store as the campaign actually gets under way?

All of which is why the “journalism” of the likes of Aroor — thoughtless, if I am being charitable; unprincipled, if I am being honest — is so dangerous; it is the oxygen that feeds the flames of bigotry, of hatred.

Elsewhere:

#1. BJP MP Kirron Kher joins the long line of politicians using fake photos to stoke faux patriotism

#2. A “fringe” outfit (I’ll have more to say on these fringes in a later post) in Karnataka is outraged that Sunny Leone, gasp!, is scheduled to perform at a New Year’s event in Bangalore. What will she wear?! Will she wear anything at all?!! Shock, horror!! And so the police — whose duty is to maintain law and order, not cater to every damn bunch of lunatics threatening the peace, decides to cancel the event. That is who we are today — a nation captive to every ragtag outfit that can say it with stones.

#3. Proving yet again that politics is the last refuge of the certifiably insane, a BJP MLA says that Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma chosing to get married in Italy is an unpatriotic act. The bit that should worry you?: “The crowd that had gathered there was seen applauding as the MLA was speaking.”

#4. The Hindu Jagran Manch — yet another of our ‘fringe’ groups, of which more here — threatened violence if Christian-run schools in Uttar Pradesh celebrated Christmas. Which is par for the course with the HJM. What should make you sit up and take notice is this: A Union minister saying, in support of the HJM threat, that schools are not religious places and people should celebrate only in their homes.

#5. A CAG report, which names Ramdev’s Patanjali in a list of polluters, provides a grim view of the Clean Ganga project.

Now, as per the CAG report, the river in the Prime Minister’s constituency of Varanasi happens to be along one of the most polluted stretches. In six cities of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal oxygen levels in the water have plummetted from the level it were in 2012-2013. Total coliform bacteria levels in all cities of UP, WB and Bihar was very high. The water quality in these cities was not even fit for bathing.

#6. In Rajasthan, a man kills a Muslim, videotapes the incident, and uses the videotape to raise money for an anti-Muslim campaign. Over 700 people from across the country deposit over three lakh in his account. A Hindu group supporting the killer clashes with police and raises a saffron flag over the area courthouse premises. And it turns out that the wrong man was killed.

Unpack this slowly:

During grilling, Shambhul told police that labourer Mohammed Afrazul, a resident of West Bengal’s Malda, was not his target.

He wanted to kill one Ajju Sheikh because he was in contact with a girl whom Shambhu regarded as his sister. But we suspect Shambhu had an affair with her,” said Rajendra Singh Rao, police circle officer of Rajsamand.

This hero on whose behalf people are raising funds and attacking cops brutally killed a man while meaning to kill another man he believed had eyes on ac”sister” he was having an affair with. Now what? Can the 700 idiots who “contributed to the cause” ask for their money back?

Tailpiece: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, according to TimesNow which, these days, is on a batshit hashtag trip, is engaged in Mission Sab Ka Saath. Per which Modi, on December 19, met fisherfolk in Kerala who were affected by Cyclone Ockhi and told them this:

“This is not the time for a lecture and I assure you that we will do everything to help you and that’s why I myself have comeWe are all with you and will do everything. With Christmas round the corner, we wish all the missing return back,” he said in his brief remarks on the occasion.

But even that is nothing compared to what he said next:

“The cyclone hit Lakshadweep, Kerala and Tamil Nadu and many of the fishermen are yet to return. We have taken quick action by first sending Defence Minister (Nirmala Sitharaman). The whole country is with you in your grief,” he said to claps from the grief-stricken families.

“…claps from the grief-stricken families”? Where is that facepalm emoji when I need one?

The cyclone hit the Kerala coast on November 30.

Originally published by Prem Panicker here.

1

As I write this post, Indian Digital rights activists are watching in horror as "ethical hacker" Ankit Fadia has been declared the brand ambassador of Digital India. As Twitter goes nuts trying to show how big a "blunder" this is, perhaps it is time to realize that it is not a blunder. It is a deliberate stupidification of India with deliberate installations of mirrors of Modi's will rather than independent intellectuals.

Deliberate incompetence is the hallmark of appointments by Modi sarkar and they happen too often to be considered mistakes. From Smriti Irani, who faked her own education credentials handling National Education to Ankit Fadia, a self proclaimed ethical hacker no professional respects is only the tip of the iceberg that had started showing up right from Modi's election campaign.

Kirron Kher, contesting from Chandigarh in the Lok Sabha Elections had candidly admitted in an interview to the Indian Express, "I am not a politician. I do not see myself as politician. I see myself as somebody who is working for my city and fought (elections) to get one more seat to (Narendra) Modi ji. That is how see myself. I did not ask for the ticket. It was given to me and now I am here." Contesting against a 4 time MP Pawan Bansal of the Congress and Gul Panag of the Aam Aadmi Party, the candidature of Kirron Kher had been met with black flags by BJP workers themselves in Chandigarh. She won.

From Modi's holograms being projected nationwide to sidelining of senior leaders, Modi is clearly a man not interested in the contributions of others, even as he accepts their necessity. The Supreme Court rapped the Women and Child Ministry for the delay in filling vacancies in the National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, but the reason turned out to be the PMO not clearing their appointments.

But if we see the appointments being made, there is little reason for cheer. Amartya Sen resigned in protest citing unprecedented interference in academics from the government. I do not see him as a leftist, but I am aware the supporters of the present government do. Yet we now have students of the FTII protesting as well. Surely the case cannot be that Modi lacks supporters among excellent actors that he settled for Gajendra Chauhan to avoid dealing with a "secular" (as his current whine in foreign countries goes)?

In a scathing piece on the rise of "anti-intellectualism" under the present government, Rishi Majumder identifies the common thread behind persistent absurd appointments as "The lack of a strong, distinct, individual vision for what they want to achieve with their charges." even as they are good managers. I see it as the appointees being conduits for a vision dictated from sources out of public scrutiny. Mirrors, mirrors everywhere, readily reflecting someone's will.

But there is more. It is a deliberate flaunting of unchecked stupidification in an obscene carnage of an intellectual India. The word "intellectual" itself has been turned into a slur by the supporters of this regime. The message is clear. "We do not want your fancy theories. We want the freedom to define scholarship however we wish." The trend is far reaching and flaunted at the most trivial of opportunities. Of all the journalists in the world, Modi chose Fareed Zakaria to give his first interview. Till then, Farid Zakaria's biggest attention puller was when his articles got pulled down for plagiarism.

Smriti Irani got rewarded for her loyalty and robust defense of Modi.  Fine. But it is not just that. What she was entrusted with was something she had been discredited for. It is not about less qualified politicians. Faking qualifications on an election affidavit is an act that declares that her qualifications felt inadequate to her own eyes. She could have been rewarded in many other ways, but she now she handles the nation's education. Something she has been established as inadequate about.

It is not merely loyalty. Modi's supporters include several senior journalists as well, but would someone like say, Kanchan Gupta accept being told what he could ask and what he couldn't? In addition to showing critics that they cannot stop him, no matter what he does, Modi's choices of people are also a statement of what behavior among supporters will get rewarded. Modi does not want independent thinking even among his supporters. Kanchan Gupta and Subramanian Swamy - two of the most independent thinking right wing thinkers are conspicuously free of responsibility, even as jokes circulate about Advani in the margadarshak mandal. The three countries Ajit Doval (who had been caught with Chota Rajan'sgangster) took an interest in, bombed in terms of foreign policy. As we speak, freaking "Hindu" Nepal has people outraging against India. It does not seem to matter to anyone. Baba Ramdev is selling churans to cure dengue and collaborating with the Defense Research and Development Organization - toward what purpose is anyone's guess.

Modi himself seems to take absurd speech to greater heights when he talks of Ganesha's head being an evidence of plastic surgery being practiced in ancient India. Not even transplants, mind you. Plastic surgery. While speaking of a super elite hospital helping improve healthcare for the masses in India, like the 32-rupees people would be lining up to pay over a thousand rupees to even be seen as an outpatient in this miracle hospital. Let there be no doubt that not even an effort to sound rational was made.

At a time when Modi has the biggest organized support among all public figures on the internet, at a time when he launches an average of two websites a month, at a time when a large part of his election victory was due to towering ethical and unethical efforts online, it is absurd to imagine that he does not have anyone to be a better brand ambassador for Digital India than Ankit Fadia - who is not respected by anyone other than abject ignorant newbies to coding. As far as appointing for incompetence goes, Ankit Fadia would rank as his second most spectacular appointment (the first being Smriti Irani, of course), because for anyone who has even passable knowledge of the subjects Ankit Fadia writes about, his name has become synonymous with plagiarism. A superstar script kiddie with dubious claims to fame. But he has the one thing Rishi Majumder had identified as a prerequisite. There is no evidence of Ankit Fadia even wanting to learn as long as he can sell his books and meaningless certificates.

Modi sarkar does not care that it reflects idolizing of incompetence on issues crucial to the nation. It does not need to care about public opinion for another 3.5 years. In a world where policies useful to cronies must be pushed unhindered, intelligent people slow things down with their questions. Even when they support. Unthinking and efficient people doing as told is what makes selling the country out from under people's feet possible. Meticulously following the government's stand, and unperturbed, supporting the government's opposite stand as well, when criticism forces a U-Turn.

 

The message to supporters is even clearer than it is to critics. I want your support, not your brain. If you want your reward, this is your key.

 

22

Here is how I see the Lok Sabha Elections unfolding. If you want a TL;DR version, we'll be going for this circus all over again, soon. This is merely about where we are headed right now.

If you follow me on Twitter, I've said most of this there already. I was requested to write this post for some reason I can't fathom, but obliging the readers.

Indian National Congress

Not much to say here. They may get seats out of sheer inertia, but they have shown themselves incapable of thinking enough out of their patterns to expect much out of what has royally failed.

After 10 years of a notoriously private leadership, people have no idea what the country's leaders are all about. They do not want more of that, and that is the problem. Rahul Gandhi is trying valiantly to fix this, but it is too little, too late.

The musical chairs with the buck prevents it from stopping anywhere, and while the UPA2 government definitely pulled it off successfully, leaving the citizen too impotent to nail them and get answers, the voiceless people have an unerring instinct to use their voice in the one place it does damage - the polls. They do not want another round of looking foolish for being wronged, because no one has done wrong.

The final nail in the coffin will be the Frankenstein's monster they have unleashed on the country. They HAVE profited by pointing out to the Hindutva extremists and projecting themselves as the only available sane alternative for the country. The monster they were riding has now bucked them off and trampled them and is devouring them alive as they are held immobile.

Bharatiya Janata Party

Yep. The Frankenstein's Monster is growing even as it rots from within. BJP is not going to make an independent government. At best (and extremely unlikely) is an NDA government. I doubt this government will be of adequate strength to impose Modi on the country.

Chances are, Modi may never become an MP. His clinging to his Chief  Minister's chair even at this late date indicates that being Chief Minister of Gujarat and not going into the Parliament is still an option. I imagine Modi will not become an MP if he cannot be PM. He needs the power that comes with the Prime Minister's position (let's forget about Dr. Manmohan Singh for a moment) for major ass covering that is coming his way. When his cases in the Gujarat riots hit the Supreme Court, he is going to need an act (all puns intended) of God that a mere Minister cannot conjure up.

So, for Modi, this is a make or break gig, which currently looks more break than make. If Modi does win, it will be a blow to democracy, but a tribute to his advertizing skills.

The successful winning over of the corporations that formed cartels with UPA has worked well. Whether it is cheap lands, or opaque handshakes, Modi has got the top 1% of corporations in India controlling most of the power to put their eggs in the BJP basket instead of UPA. Where he once had to reach to a foreign firm to make himself look good in spite of relentless Indian media scrutiny, he can count on Indian media to cover up for him now.

That said, the psychological brute force wielded to make this possible has alienated him to many within BJP - particularly the seniors - left allies unsure of where they stand (witness allying with Shiv Sena while rejecting MNS, but getting Raj Thackeray to do a Rakhi Sawant tour of Indian media - where his party has no particular say with regard to National Elections). The sheer amount of stretching of truth that has been needed crumbles on scrutiny, and the development myth shakes at every communal message. The rest is a downhill of tu-tu-main-main, veiled communal threats and massive exhibitions of disregard for Indian constitution and laws. It doesn't help that most things they accuse others of turn out to be true about themselves.

The carpet bombing of the country is based on the new "education products" of adveritzing and management, where you believe that pushing your brand in everyone's face is what gets people to buy it. Unfortunately, for this theory, Parle G is the world's largest selling biscuit, so try guess how much it gets pushed in people's faces. The failure of education that divorces it from observable reality is ironically what will save India this election.

I disagree with Arvind Kejriwal that Modi losing Varanasi will mean that he cannot be PM. If Modi can win Ahmedabad, he will merely use spin doctors and still be PM if NDA can form the government. On the other hand, if NDA cannot form a government, or the Modi lobby cannot convince all allies to make Modi the PM, then even if Modi wins both his seats, he will abdicate both to continue as Chief Minister in Gujarat and opt for a PM whom he can dictate (Rajnath Singh seems to be promoted these days). He entered politics as CM and he will exit it rather than being a part of a team led by someone else.

Even if BJP wins, once this rush of money fades away, the party is going to splinter and bring down the government. The writing is on the wall - which is one of the reasons BJP is opting to install Modi puppets in as many seats as possible, even at the cost of dislodging senior leaders with mass bases - to survive when the fallout starts. Kirron Kher saying that Chandigarh was a seat to win for Modi isn't an accident, this is her highest attraction for the Modi lobby.

Togadia is a supporter of Modi. Ignore the spin doctors. I'll believe Togadia is not a Modi supporter the day he tells people not to vote for Modi or BJP under Modi. Don't hold your breath. Togadia is thrilled at the success of Gujarat riots under Modi and knows well that Modi is now completely dependent on the nuisance value of zealots to stay out of prison. Modi doesn't have to like Togadia to be useful. Witness his complete silence on the communal messages from his party. At best distancing himself and continuing to work to present a development smokescreen. Why in the world would Togadia have a problem with that? He's already said that Gujarat will be a completely Hindu state and Modi pretended not to hear it a week after Modi called for wooing Muslims. Modi calls Togadia's threat against minorities in majority areas as "irresponsible" - not a wrong view to have. Merely a wrong thing to say.

It is the classic good cop, bad cop routine, where both cops are herding you to the same destination. You are disgusted by Togadia? He is Modi's enemy. Voting for Modi is the best way to hit at him. You adore Togadia? Have patience. Gujarat model is growing.

This is basically the complete reinvention of India on the cards and will not happen easily. Unfortunately, with the kind of deals with the devil BJP has done to make it possible, it won't die easily either. One way or the other, India is destined to suffer from the choices already made.

The good news is that parts of the corporate consensus on Modi are hedging their bets. This indicates a possibility that they may not support him beyond the election if he fails - but work with whoever wins. The others remain devoted to Modi. This faction will leverage nuisance value against any non-Modi-led government that forms. A comprehensive defeat of BJP will end this farce. It is unlikely given the kind of money poured in and the sheer diversity of manipulations employed.

A third front

This is possibly the best thing that could happen to India in this stage. A third front with or without a decimated Congress (not with Congress as largest party). It is not looking very concrete at the moment, but given the sheer political splintering in the country, if it doesn't happen now, we might as well forget it.

Aam Aadmi Party

Aam Aadmi Party is the wildcard this elections. It has in its wake a swathe of broken stereotypes and naysayer predictions. It remains to be seen if the skepticism of a media that doesn't even have an entry in its surveys for a party with 450+ candidates joins the debris of the AAP rise.

Given the distortion of news on the Aam Aadmi Party, it is difficult to make an estimation of their impact on the ground, which is probably a good thing, since a poll showing AAP getting very few seats in Delhi (probably doctored) saw a massive wave of media negativity against it in Delhi Assembly Elections. Regardless, news about AAP could be accurate, distorted or reported by AAP themselves resulting in wild fluctuations in terms of its ability to represent what is going on. So cannot get a sense of what their prospects are.

Going by poll surveys, they get between zero to five seats. Others say double digits, which is as disparate as 19 and 99.

If we are to go by the amount of resources BJP has invested in discrediting AAP as a viable option for people (far more than that for discrediting the Congress, which is in theory the real contender and the largest party in country), one would imagine that they are serious competition for BJP - which would put it between 160 seats by my guess and 250 seats by BJP supporter claims. This, of course assumes that BJP spending on hate campaigns is determined by data from campaigning that identifies threat and not random fixation (which is also possible - BJP is not very sane these days - in which case, this source of behavioral data would be useless).

The other part of the AAP threat to BJP of course is that AAP will have ready support from several parties if it chooses to form a government, and it will be out of "cartel control" so to say, since on a National level, AAP will hardly have no alternative except the BJP mirror Congress. Entities that have traditionally allied with BJP have appreciated AAP, including Raj Thackeray and Mamata Banerjee - who had also endorsed their calls for RTI for political parties through ALL MPs from their party. They may not support AAP now, but they have made their appreciation clear in the past, and if AAP is in a position better than those holding their support strings? Who knows? Navin Patnaik, Nitish Kumar, Mayawati have been seen as vaguely hopeful, even. CPI-ML is actually endorsing Kejriwal in Varanasi to aid in defeating Modi. If AAP is in a position to form a government with support, there is going to be no dearth of support, because smaller parties, like the people of India had no real choice beyond BJP-NDA and Congress-UPA either so far. So far AAP claims to be independent, and it genuinely is, when it comes to chasing their manifesto. But this doesn't mean that it won't pull off a Delhi surprise again, particularly if it means keeping both Congress and BJP out of power.

THIS IS THE REAL THREAT OF AAP TO THE POLITICAL CARTELS.

Of course, this is dependent on how many seats AAP gets. It could indeed get five. But the risk is there, because at this stage, no one knows.

But the cartels are taking no risks. In Varanasi at least, it appears as though BJP, Congress and SP are leaving each other alone to target Kejriwal.

Regardless, AAP is unlikely to form a government with a clean majority, and anything less is going to collapse under the nuisance value of cartels who do NOT want AAP to reform their cash cows into oblivion.

AAP should also consider the possibility of supporting a third front if it forms, if it results in Congress and BJP being in opposition. This will create space for reforms that allow more action against political cartels.

It will also provide some stability aganst the combined nuisance value of the two biggest parties and their owners

This is basically stuff I've said on Twitter over time. No idea why people want me to put it all in one place. I'm neither an "expert" nor using real statistics. Merely observing nuances that indicate what may really be happening.

Might be interesting to check back in a month, though 😀