India's Two Big Leagues

India is currently consumed by its two great passions: cricket and elections
By Dinesh Wagle
This article first appeared in the Op-Ed page of today’s Kathmandu Post. Here is the PDF version of the page.

This is a season of fierce competition in India. The two great Indian games are going on and, if the television viewership rating reports are anything to go by, both of them are trying hard to hold the whole of India firmly in their grips. The competitions that share the same acronym IPLs — Indian Premier League (of cricket) and the Indian Parliamentary League (of national elections) — are full of maverick teams and charismatic players who are, like the leagues themselves, playing against each other with full vigour and energy.

While the likes of MS Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar are pitched against each other under the banners of Chennai Super Kings and Mumbai Indians respectively in the cricket league, the veterans of Indian politics like Lal Krishna Advani of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Manmohan Singh of the Indian National Congress are involved in an intense fight in the electoral battleground. Some of the matches have already been played in both leagues but the results are equally unpredictable in both.

What is known to the public, however, is the fact that the second edition of the cricket league didn’t become as big a hit among Indian viewers as it had been last year. Instead, the news channels that reported and analyzed the parliamentary poll’s first phase on April 16 managed to gain audience significantly. “As IPL (cricket) viewership in season two has dropped, elections have been a hit,” wrote one newspaper. According to a TV viewership rating agency the first IPL weekend (April 18-19) viewership was 3.5 points while political news garnered 3.6.

This time the games are happening in South Africa thanks to some politics in the sport in India. The central and some state governments led by the Congress party expressed their inability to provide security to the games saying that their priority was the parliamentary polls. The IPL boss Lalit Modi who has a close association with the opposition BJP (particularly in Rajastan) wasn’t amused. The charismatic businessman and the brain behind the IPL concept promptly decided to take the whole game outside India, thereby giving the much needed continuity to the money spinning game and its brand. Some cricketing officials inclined to another regional party openly blamed the Congress for depriving the Indians the opportunity to watch the games in stadiums in India. It was also said that the Congress wanted to take revenge against some of its regional allies who are influential in cricket politics and taking doubtful stands regarding their support to the party in the polls.

While the 20-over matches are swift and intense compared to the original and longer formats (Test and One Day) of the game, the political matches for the parliament seats that also include cabinet berths and the prime ministerial position are even more dramatic and colourful. You never know when a team is formed or dismantled or when an ally suddenly turns hostile. Broadly speaking, there are mainly three groups of teams in the Indian polls that are better known as alliances. (For the record, there are only eight teams in the cricket league.)

The ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is led by the Congress while the main opposition party BJP leads the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Several regional parties are members of these alliances. Those who are not call their group the Third Front. But all these big banners are valid for the member parties as long as their interests are fulfilled. No one is permanently committed to the alliance and their options are always open. Political treachery and opportunism are part of the games and are closely followed. One day you are praising a person, the next day you spit venom against the same person only to praise him/her again on next occasion! Like all third world democracies, insults are publicly exchanged by leaders, money is distributed to voters and, in the worst cases, candidates and voters are killed.

Having said all that, democracy is India’s biggest pride. It is its democracy that has given India respect globally. Democracy is also a tool for its billion plus citizenry to have their say in the affairs of the state. It is amazing how India manages to organize such a huge spectacle in the span of a month in places ranging from those that are hit by insurgency and secessionist movements to those that experience total lawlessness and anarchy. Not to mention those that receive heat measuring up to 45 degrees celsius.

Thanks to the democratic and other systems that are firmly in place India can handle any crisis (small or big) with ease. Leadership change in any vital institution like the Election Commission itself in the middle of the electoral process becomes a cakewalk. Naveen Chawla replaced N Gopalaswami as the Chief Election Commissioner last week even as some parties hurled allegations against both the outgoing and incoming CECs. But that is part and parcel of a democracy. “What a system,” commented my friend over Gmail chat from Kathmandu. “Just imagine what would happen if the EC were to be changed in Nepal in the middle of elections?” Three days of Nepal bandhs and destroying of public property worth billions perhaps.

But in the age of 24-hour satellite television, the Indian democratic exercise has also become a major source of entertainment that has, as mentioned earlier, defeated cricket in the TV viewership ratings war. And this cricket is not just about bats and balls. It is an unprecedented mix of games and entertainment which brings us to India’s another great passion: Bollywood.

While cricket is considered a single unifying religion in the religiously, linguistically and politically divided nation of India, Bollywood provides a dose of entertainment to the majority of Indians (and many around the world). But Bollywood these days is suffering from strikes. The disagreement on revenue sharing between film producers and theater chains (also called multiplexes) has become so nasty that Bollywood hasn’t seen any big releases in the past several weeks. Indians might not complain now as the cricket league will be entertaining them until May 24. Glimpses of Bollywood are very much visible in the games as some prominent stars of the movie industry won some cricket teams.

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17 thoughts on “India's Two Big Leagues”

  1. the picture we are looking at could just be a tiny picture ……………………… what maoist is planning could be really big ………………….. it is likely that their plan is …………………………………. their inside man in NA would eliminate oppositions in NA and ……….. PLA and YCL are to eliminate political leaders, civil society members, judges ………. …………………………(k p oli was saying he got information that some of the member of govt. are bringing in arms and ammunition, he used to be in home ministry so he must have some kkind of connections) ……………..
    ………………………… and we all know maoist are cold killers …………………………………..we all have come to know maoist have already have penetrated NA, APF and nepal police so it would not be hard for them to coup if their man would have been Coas ………………..
    ………………………… every one needs to be careful at this time ………………………… how maoist were able to make a fool out of some UML ………. ……………. are they involved too ……………………………. army and home ministry needs to investigate…………………………………… somebody with the excess to information should gather all the clues and draw picture …….

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  2. ……………………………….do not give maoist a chance to blood bath
    …………………………………………………………………………………………….
    could panchays who are now supporting maoist be motivating/helping maoist to coup………. and later double cross to being in gynandra …………… this is the easy way for gynandra to return. ………………………………….
    ………………………………………………

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  3. What I like is laughing at another country at home it makes me upset, sad and depressed….
    Politics are a sad game indeed with ego instead of goodhearted.
    I did not believe when they said indians are cruel, how they treat nepalis, but it is like the concentration camp victims they end up being like the nazi themselves.
    Keep on writing and have an ice cream for me at Neerulas. And I looove those big movie theaters!

    That is what I like about Nepal and India I am a happy analphabet and cannot read all those sad things. So what about rural masses? Like me analphabet but busy to joke.
    Under the oppresive hindu fanatic rulers pointless try and understand. Makes me think of Mexico DF a capital with 20 million inhabitants we had earthquake now I have to think of how to convince my cousin to leave that antsheap.
    Ora et labora pray and work.
    In Mexico we got fanatic cristeros movement especially women because they prohibited catholic religion. They became soldaderas, soldiers. For God.

    The real concern of course is seeing the real situation in China and India, we are on our own.
    good news in a sense….What kind of world we live in. And municipalities in Nepal unable to cough up citizenships because after corruption era lost in predemocratic nomansland.
    Secret bribing. But cricket we copy.

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  4. Do not talk about a game as stupid as cricket. It is the game shaping towards creating Indian supremacy in the world. Actually cricket is a game batted by Indians, fielded by Indians, bowled by Indians, umpired by Indians, promoted by Indians, Officiated by Indians, Commentated by Indians, and of course fixed by Indians. At the end of every game, Indian wins. If any bad news is published about a Indian player, Indian will threaten to stop the funding of ICC, hence no action is taken against such person. But if the same thing is done by player of any other country, he will be fired and will be banned from playing the game again. This is a example of game of cricket losing its essence.

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  5. some of the basics next govt. has to follow:
    *try to avoid war but do not run away from possible war.
    *strickly impliment rule of law even if it means to shoot terrorist.
    *use force to clamp down violent demonstration.
    *cut all the financial source of terrorist like casino.
    *unite society, form defence groups(praticar groups).
    *try to get donations, weapons from for. govts.
    *security organs. need to work on intelligence and cooperation between them and public

    unity and defence group is the key ………………………. one way or another……….. we have to bring peace.

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  6. Two good parties is good, then unite to combat terrorism like Sarkozy who called in a lapsus the spanish premier Rodriguez Zapatero ‘not intelligent ‘and the other one did not react but HOW HE SMILED because all commented internationally on how smooth relations had been between the two leaders!

    We can learn from politicians even somebody calls a thing you did not intelligent you keep smiling.
    How they do that?????????????????’maybe rule and regulation or civil war past already. I hate that spanish populist party all their people are awful.

    I suppose we should be more equanimous not dislike or like. Then no games. No winners no loosers. Boring peace.
    Do not set to fire anything.

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  7. mask factory will be better business.
    no movies not games i think that virus was sponsored by farmaceutic industry. So reality catches up in the second half. Time out.
    I can see in the dark.

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  8. EVIL society which was sleeping deaf during all the
    atrocities of Maos have now waken up.

    They are now giving instruction to parties and the prez.
    and campaigning for the criminals.

    What a shame

    Like

  9. common between two leagues is country men fighting with each other, both are getting ugly, international communities are giving interest, expensive

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  10. many are saying T20 is the game of youth…………………..
    i do nto believe that ………………………… regarding batting.. …….. highly experienced stroke players are going to rule ……..just like in super bike (they have got lots of experience aand aged is around 40s i think) …… those who can strike every ball.. almost…………………. and regarding ballers ……….. experience with youth ….
    …………….. i do not understand one thing……………… why are they paying batsmen more than ballers ……….. a great baller would perform well regularly but great batsmen would not ………………………………. ………

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  11. Wagle & UWB why are you so silent nowadays when the country is facing one of the most critical times in its political history. Either you got some grants from the government to do some ethnographic studies on the effect of media on emerging democracies or got death threats from armed goondas, ethnic based militants &/or the maobadis/khaobadis???

    Your recent post was on April 25 which was mundane or deliberately trying to avoid the topic. Either UWB has become irrelevent or sold out.

    What happened to pen is mightier than the sword concept? Only about 3 years ago, you were at the forefront of protecting democracy & ensuring a birth of a republic. Now that every democratic ideals, pluralism, tolerance, freedom of the expression & a free republic is under grave challenge, yet, UWB chooses to remain silent!!!

    I don’t understand that…

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  12. Agreed with Bridohi

    EVIL society which was sleeping deaf during all the
    atrocities of Maos have now waken up.

    They are now giving instruction to parties and the prez.
    and campaigning for the criminals.

    What a shame

    Like

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