Bookies have accepted bets worth over ₹30,000 crore on various poll outcomes

In a narrow lane in Bhuleshwar, south Mumbai, is a nondescript shop selling mostly inexpensive garments and fancy saris. The atmosphere in the shop is leisurely, but the giant behind the counter is constantly talking into his cell phone. After every call, he makes an entry in a small pocket diary.

Welcome to Mumbai’s shadowy satta bazaar, where bookies apparently have ₹30,000 crore running on the Lok Sabha elections.

The burly man comes around the counter, offers a firm handshake and guides you to a small but well-ventilated room with a computer terminal.

In bookies circles, he is known as “Sandeep Mama”, placing bets on behalf of clients across western India. And, it transpires, the entries in his pocket-book dwarf the balance-sheets of many a mid-size company

Odds favour Modi as PM

Since the stars of the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi are shining bright, the primary bets are on him becoming the Prime Minister, he says.

The betting odds for Modi being elected are 19 paise. This means if he manages to occupy 7 Race Course Road, then a person waging a ₹100 bet will get ₹119. But if Rahul Gandhi manages to become the PM, the betting odds are ₹11.50, which translates into ₹1,150 for every ₹100 bet placed.

The odds climb to ₹22 for Mulayam Singh Yadav becoming the Prime Minister. The brave ones who bet on the former wrestler will get ₹2,200 on their ₹100 bet, if he becomes the Prime Minister.

Bets have also been placed on the number of seats the BJP is likely to win. The odds on the BJP wining 200 seats are 10 paise. For 210 seats, it is 22 paise and for 220 seats, 42 paise. The odds climb to 68 paise for 230 seats, 85 paise for 240 seats and ₹1.35 for 250. The odds for the Congress winning 55 seats are 32 paise. It is 62 paise for 60 seats and ₹1 for 65 seats. The bookies don’t see the Congress winning more than 70 seats for, which the odds are ₹1.35.

Gone underground

A senior Mumbai Police official says the IPL betting scandal has driven the satta bazaar “really underground”, with even the informer networks going dry. Most transactions are now done on the internet, through Skype, BlackBerry Messenger, customised mobiles with special SIM cards, and other secure means. Encrypted software and via overseas servers leave no electronic footprint, laments the officer.

(This article was published on April 21, 2014)
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