How Bezwada Wilson Liberated Lakhs Of Manual Scavengers In India

By Shivam Vij

(First published in HuffPost India, 27 June 2016.)

Since the Indian Parliament outlawed manual scavenging in 1993, the very existence of a dry latrine became illegal. Bezwada Wilson’s Safai Karmachari Andolan would take a crowd of former manual scavengers, mostly women, to demolish dry latrines wherever they could find them. On one occasion, they even did it inside a court complex!

The resulting hullabaloo around the demolition would help Wilson spread awareness about the law against manual scavenging. This is just one of many ways in which Wilson has brought down the numbers of manual scavenging from lakhs to a few thousand. Continue reading “How Bezwada Wilson Liberated Lakhs Of Manual Scavengers In India”

May We Ask Just One Question About Modi’s Permanent Campaign?

By Shivam Vij

Governing with political approval requires a continuing political campaign, wrote a pollster for US President Jimmy Carter in 1976. This gave birth to the theory of permanent campaign.

Reliance on political patronage and the party organization gave way to pollsters, campaign strategists, data and technology. By the time the Bill Clinton era arrived, this had given way to the idea of the permanent election. The administration behaved as though an election was always round the corner.

Narendra Modi’s 2014 election campaign was never over. He’s always campaigning, always pitching, as if an election is always round the corner. An election is indeed always round the corner in India, and every state election is seen as a referendum on Modi.  Continue reading “May We Ask Just One Question About Modi’s Permanent Campaign?”

In Punjab Face-Off, AAP Seems To Have Fallen Into A Congress Trap

(This article by me first appeared in HuffPost India on 18 April 2016.)

Did the Aam Aam Party yesterday fall into the trap of giving the Congress what it wants: moving the political discourse from everything else to the persona of Congress leader Amarinder Singh?

Continue reading “In Punjab Face-Off, AAP Seems To Have Fallen Into A Congress Trap”

Amarinder Is ‘Punjab Da Captain’ To Remind Voters Where Kejriwal Comes From

By Shivam Vij

(This article first appeared in HuffPost India on 11 April 2016.)

It’s a sketch of a blue turban, a yellow inner turban prominently revealing itself through it. The background is white; there is no face. It’s the logo of ‘Punjab da Captain’, Prashant Kishor’s campaign to project Congress leaders Amarinder Singh for the chief minister’s chair. The idea may seem obvious, but there’s more to those three words and the sketch than meets the eye.

Continue reading “Amarinder Is ‘Punjab Da Captain’ To Remind Voters Where Kejriwal Comes From”

Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Kishor And Captain: The Making Of A Summer Blockbuster In Punjab

By Shivam Vij

(This article first appeared in HuffPost India on 21 January 2016.)

In some ways, it will be a battle of equals. The two people who changed how election campaigning is done in India, Prashant Kishor and Arvind Kejriwal, will be face to face in the Punjab assembly elections in early 2017. Continue reading “Arvind Kejriwal, Prashant Kishor And Captain: The Making Of A Summer Blockbuster In Punjab”

Why CNN-IBN Dropped Its Bihar Exit Poll

[This article first appeared in HuffPost India on 6 November 2015.]

The CNN-IBN news channel had aired promos for its Bihar exit poll through last week. The exit polls, like counting days, are big for all news channels so this was not out of the ordinary. On Friday night though, as polls came to a close in the crucial battlefield of Bihar and every major television channel rolled out exit poll results, CNN IBN did not air the exit poll results it had promised viewers the previous week.

According to multiple sources in the channel, it decided to drop the poll due to inadequate explanations that were forthcoming from its polling partner, an agency called Axis APM. Its results forecast very high numbers for the Nitish Kumar-led Grand Alliance, at 169-183. It said the BJP and its allies would get 58-70 and others would get 3-7. Continue reading “Why CNN-IBN Dropped Its Bihar Exit Poll”

Bihar’s Greatest Mystery: How Did BJP Let Its Caste Strategy Go So Awry?

By Shivam Vij

(First published in HuffPost India, 25 October 2015.)

First they said they have an OBC-EBC strategy. Then they gave away a large number of tickets to upper castes. Then they said their chief minister will be from amongst the backward castes. Now Amit Shah says it could be from upper castes or backwards, we’ll decide after the elections.

The BJP’s shifting, confused, botched up caste strategy in Bihar can best be described with the Hindi proverb, Dhobi ka kutta, na ghar ka na ghat ka. By now the party finds itself between a rock and a hard place, sending mixed signals and confusing all voters. Continue reading “Bihar’s Greatest Mystery: How Did BJP Let Its Caste Strategy Go So Awry?”

Why Red And Yellow Are Nitish-Lalu’s Colours This Bihar Election

(First published in HuffPost India, 20 October 2015.)

PATNA — The visuals of the Grand Alliance’s outdoor campaigning stand out not only for the lack of clutter, but also for their colours. The hoardings, the 300 raths traversing Bihar, the election stage–everything in the Grand Alliance’s election campaign in Bihar is blood red in colour. Some of the hoardings are yellow, and some of the early Nitish Kumar hoardings were in a bright multi-colour pattern that would have better suited a mobile phone advertisement. Continue reading “Why Red And Yellow Are Nitish-Lalu’s Colours This Bihar Election”

10 Reasons Why The Grand Alliance Is Doing Better Than The NDA In Bihar

[This article first appeared in HuffPost India on 12 October 2015.]

Sanjay Kumar of Lokniti-CSDS writes that Bihar looks like a difficult, close contest, and we shouldn’t blame the opinion polls if they get it wrong. This seems to be a shift from his own survey data published in the Indian Express, which said that the National Democratic Alliance was a good 4% ahead of the Grand Alliance.

When this writer wrote in the Huffington Post that the details of Lokniti’s own data suggests that it’s advantage Grand Alliance, Sanjay Kumar and Suhash Palshikar responded saying that they stand by their assertion that the NDA was ahead.

What good is the survey methodology if it can’t give us clarity in a close contest? When it’s not a close contest, it’s clear as daylight which way the hawa is blowing. It is bizarre that Lokniti-CSDS is warning us in advance to not blame the surveys. Why not?

This change comes in the heels of the final opinion polls, some of which suggest the Grand Alliance is ahead. Ground assessment from Delhi-Patna journalists also seems to be suggesting that the Grand Alliance is ahead. Continue reading “10 Reasons Why The Grand Alliance Is Doing Better Than The NDA In Bihar”

Tejpal’s Trial Hasn’t Even Begun: Has He Gamed The System?

(First published in Huffington Post India on 23 January 2014.)

Thank you, Mid-Day newspaper, you did a great service today. You published a stupid piece of opinion by Malavika Sangghvi, asking us to sympathise with a rape accused named Tarun Jit Tejpal. Twitter and TV alike had forgotten Mr Tejpal’s action, which your newspaper describes as a “grave error”. But thanks to you, people have been reminded of it. Continue reading “Tejpal’s Trial Hasn’t Even Begun: Has He Gamed The System?”