Bookies bet on Congress win in election

NEW DELHI Tue May 12, 2009 5:12pm IST

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (L) and Rahul Gandhi, Congress party general secretary, wave to their supporters during an election campaign rally in Amritsar May 11, 2009. REUTERS/Munish Sharma

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (L) and Rahul Gandhi, Congress party general secretary, wave to their supporters during an election campaign rally in Amritsar May 11, 2009.

Credit: Reuters/Munish Sharma

Related Topics

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - If India's faceless bookmakers are any guide, the ruling Congress party will probably scrape through the current election with Manmohan Singh the firm favourite to retain the prime ministership.

Wednesday is the final day of a month-long election involving more than 700 million voters. But with no single party expected to win an outright majority, the election has become a game of securing the highest number of allies to boost parliamentary numbers.

Betting is illegal in India. But in a maze of back alleys in the old quarter of Delhi, bookies, between taking bets on all-time favourite cricket, are working the phones and taking bets on the next government ahead of the actual vote count on Saturday.

"There is no other business at the moment. People are either betting on cricket (Indian Premier League) or on who will form government," said a gold trader sitting on the floor of his tiny shop in front of a bank of phones.

Congress is favoured to take 140 seats in the 543-member parliament, the highest among all the parties, but still far short of the half-way mark of 272 required to rule. It is banking on regional allies and possible support from communists to shore up the numbers.

The Bharatiya Janata Party is expected to win 125-130 seats, but the odds are improving that they will win more.

Singh is the evens favourite to take the prime ministership, while BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani is considered a 3-1 chance to win the top job.

"There is no other candidate," said another trader who said he was in touch with people who were involved in the betting business.

But while the bookies put their money on Congress, Indian shares rose 4 percent on Tuesday on speculation that the BJP, seen as pro-business, had gained some ground in the final stages of the vote.

The BJP, some analysts have said, has been smarter at alliance building than the Congress which lost the support of the communists last year over a nuclear deal with the U.S. and failed to win new allies.

TIGHTLY GUARDED

Traders said the betting was on a lower scale in this election compared with previous votes, mainly because it coincided with the Indian Premier League cricket games being played in South Africa every night.

"Cricket is the favourite. There is more money riding on it than anything else," said Prem Prakash Sharma, the general secretary of the Delhi Bullion and Jewellers Welfare Association.

He estimated that between gambling on cricket and the election, 60 percent of the trade in the gold market was down.

The million-dollar betting industry operates entirely by word-of-mouth, and based on trust. Tightly controlled, few in the business admit to it.

"The whole betting business is really like a big train. A few people get off, but there are far more coming in," he said.

(Additional reporting by Manoj Kumar; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

(For a graphic of a Reuters' poll on the elections, click on

here)

FILED UNDER:
Comments (0)
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.

  • Most Popular
  • Most Shared

Healthcare Corruption

TOP SHOWCASE

Tihar Food Court

Tihar Food Court

Restaurant run by Tihar convicts wins praise for politeness, hygiene.  Full Article 

Repaying Investors

Repaying Investors

Supreme Court could allow Sahara boss to conduct asset sale talks, company says.  Full Article 

Reuters Exclusive

Reuters Exclusive

Lupin, U.S. firms weigh bids for GSK's mature drugs: sources.  Full Article 

Apple Results

Apple Results

Apple revenue lags Street's view despite strong China growth  Full Article | Full Coverage 

Female Foeticide

Female Foeticide

India faces crisis over dwindling numbers of girls, U.N. says.  Full Article 

No Ceasefire

No Ceasefire

Israel pounds Gaza despite international peace efforts.  Full Article 

Final Journey

Final Journey

Train carrying MH17 bodies on final journey reaches Ukraine city.  Full Article 

Transfer Season

Transfer Season

Real Madrid sign Colombian Rodriguez.  Full Article 

Reuters India Mobile

Reuters India Mobile

Get the latest news on the go. Visit Reuters India on your mobile device.  Full Coverage