India Insight

India state elections: Exit polls give BJP the upper hand

By Aditya Kalra and Shashank Chouhan

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is likely to win in four of the five states that went to polls over the past month, exit poll surveys conducted by Cvoter and the India Today-ORG group showed. Such a victory will be a boost for the party and its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi ahead of the 2014 general elections.

The results for all the states, except Mizoram, will be announced on Sunday. Here’s what the exit polls forecast:

MADHYA PRADESH: The BJP has been ruling the state for 10 years, and exit polls indicate the party will retain power in the 230-member assembly. The Congress party’s campaign, led by Jyotiraditya Scindia, helped it improve its tally as compared to 2008, but the BJP still has the upper hand, polls showed.

The Cvoter exit poll said the BJP will win 128 seats this year, as compared to 143 seats in 2008. The Congress is likely to win 92 seats, up from 71 in the last elections. The India Today-ORG survey predicted more success for the BJP, with the party likely to win 138 of 230 seats.

DELHI: Exit polls are indicating that the BJP will make a comeback after 15 years in the national capital. Delhi registered a record voter turnout of 67 percent this year in the Dec. 4 elections, which were seen as a three-party battle between the BJP, the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).

Movie Review: R…Rajkumar

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Prabhu Dheva’s “R…Rajkumar is the latest in the series of “masala entertainers” that Bollywood seems to churn out with alarming regularity. Watching one is like watching another, and reviewing one is like writing about all of them. Here are the five commandments that filmmakers follow while making these excuses for movies. We have used “R… Rajkumar” as our test case.

Hero’s raison d’être: win girl, annihilate villain
Romeo Rajkumar (Shahid Kapur) is obsessed with Chanda (Sonakshi Sinha), calling her his “lollipop”, making lewd kissing noises (that sound like a sink is being drained out) and stalking her everywhere. When his mob boss (Sonu Sood) falls in love with Chanda, Rajkumar decides to fight him and his village gang. Couldn’t they just elope to the city and live a peaceful life? No. Romeo has to beat up people with wooden horses and waste litres of fake blood.

Leading lady: spunky and independent. Turns into a doormat when she meets hero – Sonakshi Sinha
Not just in this film, but pretty much every film she’s done. She starts by beating the daylights out of cat-calling men. When Rajkumar stalks her, she shoos him away with a nonsensical song. Then she falls in love with her stalker, runs to him for help when the villain makes advances, and reaches the height of submissiveness by standing and shedding quiet tears while the love of her life is beaten to death.

No end to suffering for Bhopal gas victims

Twenty-nine years have passed since a poison gas leak from the Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal killed thousands of people. For the estimated 100,000  survivors and their children who cope with birth defects, illness and a variety of other health problems, it might as well still be the 1980s.

It was 12 a.m. on Dec. 3, 1984 when 40 tons of toxic methyl isocyanate leaked from the plant. In the J.P. Nagar neighbourhood that was worst affected, many people died instantly. The death toll is more than 5,295, according to the Indian government though projections based on an Indian Council of Medical Research study put the figure as high as 25,000. An estimated 574,372 people have been affected in some way by the gas; health activists say more than 150,000 have been seriously affected.

Lung and eye complications are common among people in this area. Many also suffer from loss of limb function along with severe palpitations and recurring chest pain.

Connecting borrowers and lenders: Indians try peer-to-peer model

Srinivas Porika tried for months to get a loan of 250,000 rupees ($4,000) to pay for his sister’s wedding, but every bank he tried turned him down. The problem: Porika’s employer, a tech start-up company, was not on the banks’ lists of pre-approved companies.

“They were ready to give me a credit card, but were not ready to give me a loan,” said the 28-year-old from Hyderabad, who met several bank managers and officials to plead his case.

The wedding went ahead in 2012, but only after Porika dipped into his savings and borrowed from friends. With an insufficient bonus at work and pressure mounting to pay off his debts this year, Porika turned to a peer-to-peer (P2P) lending website.

Equity funds outperform in November; smaller shares rise

India’s diversified equity funds bucked the trend in the broader markets to eke out gains in November, as a strong performance by mid- and small-cap shares and sectors such as capital goods supported unit values.

Data from fund tracker Lipper, a Thomson Reuters company, showed that such funds rose only 0.21 percent on average in the month, but outperformed the 30-share BSE Sensex that fell 1.8 percent.

Mahesh Patil of Birla Sun Life Asset Management cited the outperformance of mid- and small-cap stocks as the “main reason” for positive returns generated by diversified equity funds in November.

India should widen focus to migrants in AIDS fight – U.N.

India has been “fairly successful” in fighting AIDS by targeting key affected populations such as intravenous drug users, transgendered people, sex workers and homosexuals, but its focus must broaden to high-risk mobile communities to keep the disease under control, the United Nations said.

Policies focused on prevention and a huge social mobilisation have allowed India to reduce new infections of HIV, the virus which causes AIDS, by as much as 57 percent in 10 years; and more than 650,000 people living with HIV are receiving antiretroviral therapy, the second-largest number in the world by country, according to UNAIDS.

There are about 2.1 million people living with HIV in India, with an estimated 130,000 new infections per year.

India’s political parties pump up the radio volume

Anyone who keeps a radio turned on in India’s National Capital Region knows that election fever has settled on Delhi ahead of the Dec. 4 state polls. The ruling Congress party, main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and newcomer Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are betting big on radio campaigning — a medium that reaches millions of people across economic classes and backgrounds.

Overall, about 250 million to 500 million rupees ($4 million to $8 million) have been spent on radio advertising in this year’s assembly election in Delhi – at least 200 percent more than during the 2008 state elections, Sunil Kumar of radio consulting firm Big River Radio estimated.

The AAP, or “common man party,” led by Arvind Kejriwal, has allocated 20 million to 30 million rupees ($320,000 to $480,000) for advertising, with 60 to 70 percent for radio and phone calls, said Dilip K. Pandey, an AAP secretary responsible for their communication strategy.

Magnus Carlsen dethrones Viswanathan Anand as world chess champion

World number one Magnus Carlsen toppled local favourite Viswanathan Anand in Chennai to add the world chess championship title to his already impressive resume on Friday.

A draw in the crucial 10th game after 65 moves of play gave the young Norwegian an unassailable lead in the 12-match contest and put an end to Anand’s hopes of retaining the FIDE title he’s held since 2007.

Carlsen, about a week shy of his 23rd birthday, led 6-3 before Friday’s game and needed just a draw to become the first champion from the West since American Bobby Fischer’s reign ended in 1975.

Sesa Sterlite, Bajaj Auto top Sensex losers this week

The BSE Sensex posted a third consecutive weekly fall, closing nearly 1 percent lower amid persisting worries over the slowdown in foreign investors’ buying into Indian shares.

Data shows FIIs sold shares worth $9.5 million on Thursday, snapping a 32-day buying streak as minutes from the last U.S. Federal Reserve meeting showed a decision on tapering its bond-buying programme may be taken at one of its next few meetings.

In the coming week, investors will keep an eye on July-September GDP data and fiscal deficit numbers for the April-October period. Here are the top Sensex losers and gainers of the week:

Movie Review: Gori Tere Pyaar Mein

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

In Punit Malhotra’s “Gori Tere Pyaar Mein”, a woman with no medical training deems it fit to deliver a baby; an architect who hasn’t worked for years thinks he’s capable of building a bridge (who needs engineers?); and rich, privileged people feel better about themselves when they throw money at poor children.

Director Malhotra’s attempt at making a “feel-good” romance has characters that are as hollow and fake as the film’s screenplay. The heroine, an NGO worker, espouses causes from AIDS to land-grabbing to making documentaries about sex workers, but feels no remorse when she cheats her way out of a traffic jam to get to a wedding on time.

There are stereotypes aplenty. The people of Tamil Nadu state only eat idlis and vadas; the Gujaratis only eat dhokla for dinner; and they all speak with pronounced accents. Diya (Kareena Kapoor) is the do-gooder heroine, flitting from one cause to the other. Sriram (Imran Khan) is an aimless and self-centred young man, who lives off his parents, and does not understand Diya’s need to play the Good Samaritan.

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