Saturday, June 29, 2013

Munde's Rs.9 crores sets the cat amongst India's white pigeons

In one of those positive-firing-in-my-neurons moments Mr.Gopinath Munde, a senior BJP leader, accepted from a public podium that he spent more than Rs.9 crores in his parliamentary elections, much above the statutory mandated Election Commission limit of Rs.40 lacs. Personally I feel that it must have one of those sanctimonous "Oh, what the heck, why this hyprocrisy" feeling for Mr.Munde when he startled everyone - most of all his opponents (read the Congress) by such a frank admission. His political rivals are ecstatic that he has chosen to say something they would never have (at least not from a public platform)!

Perhaps the gravity of his mistake must have been apparent to him immediately after saying it, as in this nation we reward hyprocrisy and tartar-twisted-two-timing politicians who lie incessantly far more than simple, frank, honest ones. 

(media reports initially suggested 9 crores and 40 lacs as the amounts under debate, which was later rectified to 8 crores and 25 lacs respectively. Snippets from the People's Representation Act 1950 can be seen here)

Some big questions pop up, in the wake of this rather unexpected declaration from Mr Munde.
  • Does anyone - ANYONE - believe the spending amounts mentioned in the affidavits filed to the EC, by all winning (and runner-up) candidates, in the parliamentary elections, which declare an expense of around Rs 40 lacs?
  • Does even the Election Commission of India really believe any of those documents, so sanctimoniously filed with it, claiming they never breached its hallowed limit of Rs.40 lacs in the whole election?   (I suspect they must be having a long laugh reading those!)
  • Do we not know how difficult it is for a politician to really win an election in a typical parliamentary constituency in India? Each one is so big (the constituency, that is), with so many far-flung villages and hamlets, that accessing and influencing them all is impossible in a measly Rs.40 lacs? Even a small meeting of a thousand people will need a lac rupees or more to be well-managed.
  • Are we, and the EC, not aware of the unstoppable spikes of inflation that have jacked up the rates for tea, coffee, drinking water (bottled), printing, posters, pamphlets, fuel, jeep rentals, loudspeakers, manpower et al, in the past 20 years at a stretch?
Personally I feel that anyone who has set up an enterprise in India, and is running it, knows it is impossible to run a full-fledged election campaign and spend less than Rs.40 lacs. This is totally ludicrous, at least to me. (You may disagree)

So why the hypocrisy? What is the real problem? Can it not be solved?

Monday, June 24, 2013

Finally, Hashtags are mainstream!

Hashtag Twitter Facebook image for Bright Sparks blog Sandeep Manudhane SM
The humble hashtag
Say what you may, but going mainstream sounds hollow unless the biggest of them endorses you. And Facebook has done the humble Hashtag the favour finally. The “#” is now officially the disparate-content-puller-aggregator on the world’s biggest social media platform also, in addition to the hugely addictive Twitter.

So what is this Hashtag (hashtag from here on), what does it do, and why the fuss?

Many years ago (six is many in internet lingo!), open source and open standards advocate Chris Messina introduced the hashtag to Twitter, thereby transforming it into the fast moving yet stable content reference and sharing microblog we know it today. What would Twitter be without the humble # that so easily helps us look up any topic we wish to, in real time?

Perhaps it is this very ease of use that has finally prompted Facebook to accord the distinguished “officially approved” status to the hashtag. On its official blog, Facebook calls the hashtag feature the first step of “a series of features that surface some of the interesting discussions people are having about public events, people, and topics.”

This is a nicely couched way of saying – “Hey, we seem to have missed out on a great simple tool to collect separated information on same topic. Let’s catch it from hereon!”

Why are hashtags so cool?

Hashtags are perhaps the easiest way to read the BIG picture on a topic, rather than views of only those you are connected to.