BJP slips but maintains advantage in betting market

The 120-year-old satta bazar, or betting market, at Indore has rarely been so quiet during election season as this time around. The IPL cricket championship which concluded on Sunday was one distraction. But the bigger reason was the police raid a month ago that sent it into a hush.

The market that wagers big ticket on everything under the sun has cautioned all regulars against possible police raids. Last month’s raids led to several arrests and seizure of telephone networks in Indore and Bhopal. Only experienced hands know how to deal with the subdued mood caused by police vigil.

The “show has to go on”, says a newsperson who regularly reports the activity. The betting urge is irrepressible. Such measures, sometimes, push up the rates. The market is said to be operating under intense scrutiny.

The satta bazar had predicted a Congress victory in the December assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh which came true though the numbers fell short. The bookies initially gave the Congress party 122 seats while the then ruling BJP was trailing at 90. But as the tickets were finalised after the scrutiny and the battle lines were drawn, the BJP inched ahead past 100 to settle at 102 while the Congress slipped to 114. It stayed there on the figure in the market and in reality.

With just one phase of polling left in the current elections there has been a drop in support for BJP, according to punters. Till about ten days ago the odds were in favour of BJP to cross a total of 240 seats on its own and making a comfortable majority along with other partners of the NDA. The last two phases BJP’s tally is being quoted at 220 in the satta market.

In Madhya Pradesh the next round of polling is due in the Malwa and Nimar region, generally considered to a stronghold of the party. With the denial of tickets to some stalwarts and growing resentment among party men the stock has come down. Of the eight constituencies up for grabs in the final round the BJP held seven. Given the results of the assembly elections held just five months ago it was surprising that the betting market kept its trust with the BJP. The Congress is still tottering at 100 seats at the national level. That sentiment persists.

In Bhopal the change in mood was drastic after the nomination of Pragya Thakur. Divijaya Singh who seemed sitting pretty with a month-long advantage of structured campaigning suddenly found his younger rival zooming past riding emotive issues of Hindutva and nationalism. Punters mostly bet on the overall tally of the parties. But factors like local influences of contests sway the punters. The going rate is generally quoted on the tally the BJP is expected to reach at national-level. It hovered at 248 in the last week of April and has come to 220.

The odds could change. With the visits of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi the atmosphere is surcharged and both parties are revise their estimates. The rebel activity and dissent of dropped candidates, ability of the leadership to address the issues and the capacity of intra-party rivals to hurt the chances of various candidates do influence the punters. However, in the final analysis the gut feeling dictates the call.

Indore’s satta market has always witnessed intense activity during polling or the cricket season. The activity at other times is on ordinary issues like prospects of rain or rates of commodities or such events. Some calls have gone woefully wrong too. For instance the 2015 polls in Delhi and Bihar were called wrong by the Indore market. “The Aam Aadmi Party opened at 17 seats, but won 67,” says an old hand at the market.

The worst debacle was the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls of 2017. The markets called the BJP figure at 203 seats, which actually overshot to 325. That was perhaps the occasion when payments could not be made to many punters.

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