As polling day approaches in Delhi, it is politics before cricket in the satta markets of the capital. There are variables, some unknowns - the stuff that punters love.
Battle-hardened former Congress chief minister Sheila Dikshit, now in her eighties, is back in politics. Gritty cricketer Gautam Gambhir has been fielded by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as its candidate for the East Delhi seat, and he has let it be known that a newbie in politics does not need too much time at the crease before he targets political veterans. And the Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP) Atishi is trying to keep the focus on her favourite subject, that school education, while seeking votes.
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The punters in the capital's satta market -- in Khari Baoli, Karol Bagh, Old Delhi and south Delhi -- are siding with the BJP in Delhi but have not handed them a clean sweep, like in 2014.
According to them, that is businessmen, online traders and supporters of political parties, are bidding on the all seven parliamentary seats of Delhi. There is speculation that political winds will favour BJP candidates in South Delhi, West Delhi, Chandni Chowk , New Delhi and East Delhi, while Congress candidates in North West and North East could give a heads up to the Congress party.
That would mean thumbs up from punters to Ramesh Bidhuri in South Delhi, Gautam Gambhir in East Delhi, Dr Harsh Vardhan in Chandni Chowk, Meenakshi Lekhi in New Delhi and Parvesh Singh Verma in West Delhi.
"The base betting rate for all the seven seats predicted for BJP is 30 paise per seat and 50 paise for the Indian National Congress and Rs 1 for AAP in the national capital. The satta market is a game of risk, where a lot of money can be won or lost but it gives us a thrill," a punter told IANS on condition of anonymity.
"There is bid that out of seven seats, two will go into the Congress account, while AAP will get nothing.," he said.
As polling day approaches, the bets are going to change. And so might the odds. For that the punters are analysing every bit of information - campaign venues, speeches and information on brainstorming sessions by parties. They are also keeping a tab on all political stories carried by English and Hindi dailies. In fact, TV debates lead to a rise or drop in bidding value on a daily basis. Naturally, opinion polls play a part in the satta market bids.
Meanwhile, bets are also being taken on margin of victory and how the parties will rank in each constituency - first, second or third. They are also taking bets on whether Parvesh Singh Verma will get more votes than in 2014.
"There is an interesting bid this time between two of the biggest competitors, BJP Delhi President Manoj Tiwari and Delhi Congress President, Sheila Dikshit on who will win and by what margin. The base betting rate on Manoj Tiwari is Rs 1 and 50 paise on Sheila Dikshit. There is a 50-50 chance of either candidate winning but Tiwari carries a higher risk,a another political satta market punter told IANS.
A similar bid has been placed on North West Delhi constituency candidates, Hans Raj Hans of the BJP and Rajesh Lilothia of the Congress. The base betting rate on Hans Raj Hans is Rs 1 and 50 Paisa on Rajesh Lilothia, the second punter said.
Bids are being taken on candidates likely to lose their deposits. The base betting rate is fixed for AAP candidates.
According to one punter, in earlier days satta market players would wait for comments from the late self-styled godman Chandraswami on the political climate. They would take their cue from his meetings with political leaders. After Chandraswami's death, some punters began contacting astrologers.
The majority of punters belong to political parties, own small businesses or are traders who keep an eye on share markets. They are often in contact with political leaders and astrologers when placing their bids. Meetings are held in hotels, guest house and farm houses. Guests are reportedly invited through encrypted chat groups to stay out of the prying eyes of government agencies.
"The latest bets have been set after analysis of voting percentages in the earlier phases. The BJP is ahead but the one man show that was evident in 2014 due to Narendra Modi is not longer there," a leading bookie said on the condition of anonymity.