Indian Elections Update

varun_gandhiTomorrow begins the 3rd phase of voting in India and in particular voting in Bombay. It’s back to the 1980’s here in India, the two big political heavy weights are bringing up issues from the past such as the Bofors scandal of the mid 80’s. But, I should not be surprised if the candidates are not going to talk about the real issues – food, infrastructure, education or water then what can you talk about.  That really leaves a candidate with two options to incite FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) in a voter and that is either past political scandals or religion. Varun Gandhi was reprimand by the Election Commission for talking religious smack at a voter rally. Thank god for video cameras or Varun would have continued down the path of communal riots.  His response to the video of him was classic – it was doctored and not him.

But, at the local level several TV stations have invited the candidates for South Bombay to an open forum and talk about the issues.  They all spoke well and seem to understand the problems and issues that are faced by people living in Bombay.  But, I get the sense many residents of South Bombay live in a bubble and don’t have a clue what is happening in the rest of India – The Real India.  And the real India is where all the real money goes. My petty issues of better roads and high speed internet seem stupid when compared to villages in Madya Pradesh that still have issues with running water and getting more then 8 hours of electricity a day.

The 2 main issues I hear most often in regards to the elections:

1. Who should I vote for? One party will pick my left pocket and the other my right pocket.  And, there is no point in voting for an independent like Meera Sanyal since the system won’t work with her.

2. If the Congress party is elected the Sensex will zoom up. Seriously, WTF? Another attempt to play on people’s fear since many are invested. No party Congress or BJP has even talked about their economic policy so how the hell can one assume if Congress is elected the equity markets will race up.  If you haven’t noticed the Indian markets are being driven in tandem with international markets and will continue for quite some time.

Honestly, I’m glad I can’t vote in this election it’s almost like picking between dumb and dumber.

Indian General Elections 101

emblem_of_indiaCan you smell it in the air? Yes, the Indian general elections are just around the corner and the mud slinging between the political parties has just started.  Elections will be held in 5 phases from April 17 to May  16, 2009. This is my first general election and since I can’t vote in India, I’m using the opportunity to learn about the election process, the political landscape and how it differs from the US.

The general election will decide which candidates get elected to a 5 year term to the Lok Sabha which is the elected lower house of the Parliament of India. This is where all the action takes place, it would be similar to the US Senate.  There are a total of 543 seats up for election in the Lok Sahba.  Each one of those 543 seats are similar to a golden ticket from Willy Wonka, once elected you are set for life and decide what projects and how much of a “fee” you should receive for your district.

There are two main political parties in India, the Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party aka the BJP.  There are also many other smaller groups that end up partnering with the bigger ones to create an alliance. The biggest of these smaller parties is the Samajwadi Party.  Once a political party has a majority in the Lok Sabha, that party can decide who will be the Prime Minister. Which means the general population does not vote for a Prime Minister.

Over the past several weeks each of the political parties have released their manifesto which details what they plan to do over the next 5 years. I like about the documents because it gives a true read of what the real issues are on a national level.  It’s also depressing because when you read them you soon realize the basics – food, water, electricity and security are top of mind issues. Both Congress and BJP have promised to provide 25-35kg of rice/wheat at Rs 2-3/kg to poor people – wow!  Now that’s pandering to the people and shows what the real issue is for most Indians – food.

Congress Party Manifesto
BJP Manifesto

Over the weekend the Samajwadi Party released their manifesto and a couple of their keys points: don’t use computers to replace jobs and ban english speaking schools.  They have back tracked on what they meant but the damage is done, it’s pretty clear they don’t want to see the country move forward, status quo is fine. They said they don’t want to ban english speaking schools but rather english speaking schools should not be mandatory since they are too expensive. Logically, they should figure out how to reduce the price of english speaking schools and make it affordable. As far as computers, how do you argue with an idiot.

On a more local front, I looked at the candidates that were running for the South Bombay district and who might actually impact my daily life.  There are a total of 14 people running, no one from the BJP Party but from the Congress Party is Milind Deora. Milind has held the position since the last election in 2004. The other notable candidate is an independent named Meera Sanyal, she is currently on sabbatical from ABN-Amro where she was the country head.

One thing I don’t hear anyone talk about is a debate between various candidates. I would think at least in the major metros the top candidates would use the debate to talk about their views and challenge the other candidates. However, I get the feeling no one truly wants to be put on the spot and rather trade sound bites via the media.

For up to the minute election news check out Google’s 2009 Lok Sabha election website.

Creating a Website?

godaddy_logoAs part of my back to basics series, I’m going to walk you through a quick and cheap way to create a web presence for under USD 55 a year.  I hear people all the time tell me they are going to hire a web developer to create a website for thousands of dollars, my first reaction is to cringe. 80% of the time you can get away with a website that I’m going to describe. Then if you really want to hire a graphics designer and not a web developer. You can create a website in 3 easy steps:

1. Register a name with a domain register.  The one I recommend and have been using for years is GoDaddy.com, if you want a .in address for India then head to registry.in. The domain name should cost around USD 10 a year. Update: GoDaddy can now can register .IN addresses for about USD 5/year.

2. Select a hosting provider.  I’ve been using GoDaddy.com for the past 4 years and have had no issues. But there are others such as Rackspace or 1and1. A yearly GoDaddy plan can be had for USD 45 a year.

3. Install WordPress. This is the critical step and the secret sauce. WordPress is an open source blogging package but also a content management system.  Thousands of companies use it for their corporate website not to mention the millions that use it for blogging.  As you can imagine this blog uses WordPress and has been for the past 5 years. Once you install WordPress you no longer have to deal with the technical details of a website from this point forward you use the WordPress GUI dashboard.

4. Pick a theme for WordPress.  A theme is what sets your website apart from others.  The beauty of WordPress is the community of developers that are creating tons on themes. Most are free and some can cost USD 100 which is cheap for a corporate website. Below are two places that have a ton of themes to pick from:

WordPress.org Themes Directory
Weblog Tools Collection

So who can benefit from this quick and cheap tutorial? Doctors, consultants, architects, jewelry stores, media professional, ad agencies, etc…the list goes on and on.

So there you have it, a quick and cheap web presence that should work for more then 80% of the people looking to create a website.