What law enforcing agencies have apparently failed to do, the falling stock market, rising inflation and lack of money in hand of people seems to have achieved. Players in the illegal betting business in the country are blaming these factors for ”surprisingly” little interest in betting on the biggest political event of today — the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s trust vote, to be held in Indian Parliament on 22 July.
”The syndicate had asked us for a market pulse to initiate betting for Dr Manmohan Singh’s government’s trust vote. But when we enquired from our khelis (local pointmen) the feedback was negative. So, the syndicate has till date not initiated any betting on this event,” said an Ahmedabad-based bookie on condition of anonymity.
The other reason being cited is that though the event has got plenty of media time and space, bettors are apparently either unaware of or indifferent to it.
”Nobody is bothered and if people do not come forward to put their bets in large numbers, we and the syndicate could end up losing money,” the bookie said.
This is in sharp contrast to the interest generated during the Indian Premier League 20-20 championship held in April and May. Wild guestimates by some bookies and their men suggest not less than Rs10,000 crore was bet during entire tournament.
According to the bookie, even the Gujarat legislative asssembly elections, held on 11 December and 16 December last year, generated a better response among bettors than the trust vote.
A high-ranking police official from Ahmedabad, who did not wish to be named, said that a ’faceless’ and ’anonymous’ syndicate consisting of an individual or a group of people anywhere across the globe, has threre or four bookies in each betting centre. These bookies in turn have khelis, who act as agents for the bookies and take bets from local bettors.
In Gujarat, bookies and khelis such as Dinesh Kalgi, Anil Saree, Gulu Sarkhej and Pradeep Dairy belong to a network that became active in betting on political fortunes in Gujarat since 1995, when the current union textiles minister Shankersinh Vaghela ousted the then chief minister of Gujarat and BJP leader Keshubhai Patel from chief ministership.
They represent the lowest tier of a structure where the big bosses operate from four main centres — Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore and Delhi. It is these men who at times are hired at a price of up to Rs1 lakh per betting event and their responsibility is to carry out an informal ground-level survey of political fortunes in specific regions and collect money from the bettors.
”It is always the syndicate that decides on what issues they want to initiate betting, based on the feedback they get from their bookies. This time, it appears the syndicate has not yet issued any diktat on initiating betting on UPA government’s trust vote. With little time left, it is unlikely there would be very extensive betting on this issue except by select few in major centres,” he said.
This was confirmed by a bookie based in Surat in South Gujarat. ”I have been in this business for over two decades but have never seen such lack of interest from the syndicate. I have not yet got any communication from my syndicate in Kolkatta,” he said. Mint’s attempt to get a view on the betting scene on the UPA trust vote from Mumbai and Delhi too drew a naught. ”Our bookie is not taking any bets on this as yet,” said a Mumbai-based kheli.
Talking about betting on political events, the Ahmedabad-based bookie said it is not just select businessmen and local politicians who beton political events but even national-level political leaders always appear eager for a little flutter and place their bets within a close-knit network of bookies.
”This could have been an ideal opportunity for betting. But with the stock market in doldrums and political parties supposedly putting their money elsewhere, money of most of our players have little cash in hand. This has hit our business hard and except in few pockets and fewer players, no bets are being placed,” said a kheli based out of Delhi.
Whether or not the Prime Minister would be able to win the trust vote on 22 July remains to be seen, but masters of illegal betting business have surely lost the battle this time.