The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) may have been touted as a dark horse in Delhi by several opinion polls, but the capital's bookies don't seem to be much impressed. Instead, they are betting big on the BJP to win the Dec 4 assembly polls.
The bookies have priced the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) the lowest at 2.25 paise and the Congress, despite the anti-incumbency factor, at 2.40 paise as a close second. The AAP at 3.40 paise is the least likely to win in Delhi and therefore the "most risky" to bet on, a leading bookie told IANS on condition of anonymity.
Explaining the rates, the bookie said that the lower a political party was priced the more favoured it was to win. However, betting on it would mean lower profits.
"If you bet, say Rs.1 lakh on BJP and it wins you will get Rs 2.25 lakh because of its rate. Similarly the profit on Congress would be Rs.2.4 lakh and on AAP it would be Rs.3.4 lakh," said the bookie.
"It's all about how much risk you are willing to take. Most of the people make multiple bets in a way that if they lose their money on one bet they recover it from the other," he added.
According to another bookie, bets opened in the first week of November, but the rates may fluctuate as polling day comes closer due to last-minute political developments.
"Bets of thousands of crores of rupees have already been made on the three parties and the figure is expected to rise substantially as we near the poll date," said the bookie.
In betting circles, a person who makes the bets is called a punter while the one who receives them is called a bookie. Betting is illegal in India. Police usually arrest a person - a bookie or a punter - under Sec 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code. It is a non-bailable offence and a person can be jailed for seven or more years if proven guilty of the crime.
Apart from the political parties, bets are also being accepted on which candidate would win from which constituency in Delhi. Of the 70 constituencies in Delhi, the bookies are getting the maximum bets on some particular ones which are expected to see a tough fight.
"The New Delhi assembly seat will see an interesting fight between Kejriwal (AAP chief), Sheila Dikshit (Delhi chief minister) and Vijender Gupta (BJP leader)," said another bookie. "Their rates have not been declared yet."
"If a candidate dies or fails to contest election due to any reason, the rates get changed," he added.
Meanwhile, the police are keeping a close vigil on 30 bookies including some women from all over Delhi especially in areas like Ambedkar Nagar, Neb Sarai and Mehrauli in south Delhi, Nabi Karim and Chandni Chowk in the old city and Seelampur and Geeta Colony in east Delhi.
According to Additional Commissioner of Police Ravindra Yadav, bookies and punters in the capital are under surveillance and the police are waiting for them to make a move.
"We are alert and are keeping a tab on their activities. If anyone is found indulging in betting activity, action would be taken," Yadav told IANS.
In addition, some police teams are also on the lookout for bookies and punters residing in the national capital region.
"There are some people who operate from the NCR and we are monitoring them," said a police official who has arrested several bookies in the past.
"They don't call each other much and use code words when they speak on the phone," he added.
(Alok Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)