FF Insights #609: Explaining electoral victories

March 14, 2022: The fertiliser crisis; The Godfather is 50; An optical primer

Founding Fuel

[By Public.Resource.Org / via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)]

Good morning,

Now that we know the outcomes of the assembly elections across five states, there is much that commentators have to say. But all of this is post facto and it is an argument Shivam Shankar Singh hammers home in his book How to Win an Indian Election

“There is never any certainty in politics, and a lot of strategy is made as one goes along the way. Even the people contesting elections seldom know what’s going to work and what isn’t. The narrative around an election is usually constructed after the results come out. People marvel at how brilliantly an election strategy was executed. Journalists, politicians and election strategists often highlight a chain of events that led to victory. That chain of events, however, hardly provides the full story and the explanations are often an example of hindsight bias, a psychological phenomenon that explains the tendency of people to overestimate their ability to have predicted an outcome that could not possibly have been predicted. In reality, there are several chains that can be formed and any result can be explained using the same events that have occurred during an election campaign. In effect, this means that a party’s loss can as easily be explained with these events as its victory.

“Soon after I completed the LAMP fellowship, I booked my tickets to Chandigarh and reached IPAC’s office. The campaign was operating from a bungalow that had been made available for the purpose by a big businessman of Punjab who was supporting the Congress party. As soon as I arrived, it was clear that the organization’s functioning was going to be a lot more haphazard than an external observer would expect from India’s foremost political strategy company. There weren’t enough chairs, so employees sat on cardboard boxes and on tables, typing away on their laptops, preparing presentations on what direction the campaign should take. The only programme running at that time was ‘Coffee with Captain’, where the Congress party’s chief ministerial candidate, Captain Amarinder Singh, interacted with young people in events where coffee was served. It was in essence a rebranding of IPAC’s old campaign, ‘Chai pe Charcha’, that they had organized before the 2014 elections for Narendra Modi.

“After a few days of orientation, we were to be placed in the teams that we would work with. I had initially thought of working on data analytics but it soon became clear that it would be an operation that oversaw data entry rather than any actual analytics… Data collation efforts and the analysis of prior voting data were primitive at best, so I decided to sign up for the events team and see how things functioned on the ground.

“It was clear that this was where IPAC and Kishor excelled. The organization employed people who were brilliant at creating graphics and organizing events that created a buzz.”

So, a dose of scepticism around most narratives will be ideal.  

The fertiliser crisis

Fertilisers in India are a battleground where politics has been traditionally played over decades. There is a long history to this. Large parts of the population depend on agriculture for sustenance and subsidies on fertilisers are used as a carrot to woo voters. The second order impact these decisions have been well documented and includes longer term adverse impact on India’s soil. But NewsClick reports that the lessons don’t sink in and all indicators are that another crisis is in the offing. The raw materials to produce fertilisers are imported and given the current global situation, that does not look viable.

“The availability of fertilisers in India has become increasingly dependent on imports. In 2021, imported urea accounted for about 21% (6.4 million MT) of the total available area in the country. The corresponding share for DAP was 55% (4.5 million MT), and MoP was nearly 100% (1.5 million MT).

“China has emerged as the most important exporter of DAP to India in recent years. Globally, China accounts for nearly one-third of the total DAP trade and one-tenth of urea. In 2021, 40% of the total Indian DAP imports were from China. However, due to an energy crisis in December 2021, China halted the exports of DAP until June 2022. This is an essential cause of the sharp rise in the international price of DAP.

“With an increase in the price of natural gas, the main raw material for nitrogenous fertilisers, Russia, one of the biggest exporters of urea, has cut down exports in December 2021 and banned exports of ammonium nitrate from February 2022…

“The recent eruption of hostilities in the Russia-Ukraine crisis and related sanctions by the EU and the US on Russia have resulted in increasing price of crude oil and natural gas, disruption in shipping lines and other freight movements. The crisis would inevitably further push the international price of fertilisers upwards and create havoc among the importing nations, including India.

“In other words, there is a simultaneous disruption in the supply of all the three most important fertilisers from key exporting countries. In addition to all this, the Covid-19 pandemic and the shortages in the availability of shipping containers continue to aggravate disruptions in the supply of finished fertilisers and key raw materials like rock phosphate and phosphoric acid.”

Dig deeper

The Godfather is 50

Fifty years ago, on March 14, 1972, The Godfather premiered at Loew’s State Theatre in New York City. It impressed critics and fans alike, and became the biggest grosser of that year, and won Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It’s considered to be a landmark film, and still resonates with fans and inspires film makers. Paramount, the studio that bought the film rights for the novel from Mario Puzo for a mere $80,000, plans to re-release the film to commemorate its golden jubilee. 

In The Conversation, Gill Jamieson, Senior Lecturer in Film, Television & Cultural Studies, University of the West of Scotland, writes: “The Godfather trilogy continues to resonate with fans long after its original release. Coppola’s epic crime saga would do for Italian gangsters what the great Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein—director of Battleship Potemkin—did for Russian revolutionaries: lend the story a gravitas and epic grandeur that belied the brutality of the power struggles involved.

“In her book The Annotated Godfather, film writer Jenny M Jones describes the climactic baptism murders scene as a homage to Eisenstein’s iconic Odessa steps sequence from Battleship Potemkin—widely regarded as a masterpiece of 20th-century cinema. Coppola crafted an operatic denouement, crosscutting between the calm of the church and the violence of the executions with deliberate nods to Eisenstein’s celebrated montage sequence, staging the action on steps and stairs throughout…

“Novelist and cultural commentator Umberto Eco stipulated that a cult film must offer a ‘fully furnished world’ that fans can return to again and again.

“The forthcoming theatrical release of The Godfather trilogy provides an opportunity for fans to experience this cinema classic again on the big screen as part of a collective audience.”

Dig deeper

An optical primer

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Warm regards,

Team Founding Fuel

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Founding Fuel

Founding Fuel aims to create the new playbook of entrepreneurship. Think of us as a hub for entrepreneurs- the go-to place for ideas, insights, practices and wisdom essential to build the enterprise of tomorrow. It is co-founded by veteran journalists Indrajit Gupta and Charles Assisi, along with CS Swaminathan, the former president of Pearson's online learning venture.

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