PHALODI: Come election season, Rajasthan has something more to offer than the usual fare of Forts and palaces. The town of Phalodi, about 150 km from Jodhpur, becomes the nerve centre of electoral betting.
Although the state has two other betting centres — Bikaner and Sikar — Phalodi is the most prominent.
With the Assembly elections in the state turning the corner, Phalodi’s market is bustling. Starting off at 10 am, the centre runs till one in the night.
Amit Dhaddha, 40, a shop owner, said he spends at least 3-4 hours in the market every day. “I get all the information about the political scenario here. From Phalodi, Prakash Changani is expected to get the ticket for Congress. He is bound to win from the area. I have placed a bet of Rs10,000 on him at a 1:5 ratio, which means, if I win, I will get Rs 50,000,” he said.
The market is predicting a victory for the Congress. It had predicted a full majority for the BJP in the 2013 Assembly polls and had given the saffron party 130-140 seats. Its assessment of the win was correct but the party got 163 seats.
In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, however, it made a near-perfect prediction of 270-275 seats for the BJP. “The one who puts the money is called ‘lagaiwal’ and the other is called the ‘khaiwal’,” explained Kailash Vyas, one of the market’s bookies. “People here bet from Rs 200 to Rs 5-10 lakh. Those living outside, place bets over the phone,” he added.
There are about 25-30 bookies. Each one makes Rs 3 in commission every Rs 100 made. Ramdayal Bohra, a local historian and astrologer, said betting was a mainstay of the town. “The people in the market have their own network. They contact people from different districts about which candidate and party are in a stronger position. ... Currently, the BJP is slated to win a maximum of 60- 70 odd seats compared and the Congress 110-120,” he said.
He explained the town’s association betting. “Betting was done from the times of the royals. From when the rains would come to whether the river would flow behind the castle or not, any topic was good enough for people to put their bets on. People would throw their slippers in the air and would bet on which side the slipper would fall,” he said.