For the first time since betting on elections started, bookies have not yet opened rates for the ensuing Maharashtra assembly polls , having faced pressure from a few major politicians, say sources.
Bookies said they were planning to open rates with the onset of Navratri, but after the two major alliances operating in the state broke, some powerful national-level politicians forced them to refrain from offering bets on election results.
Sources among bookies said that the Maharashtra elections would have witnessed betting worth around Rs. 20,000 crore. “Betting on Mumbai’s 36 seats alone would have witnessed business worth around Rs. 10,000 crore,” said a bookie.
Bookies said that they had been on the verge of opening rates when the orders came from above. “The rates would have been opened in Delhi by a few top bookies,” a bookie said, on condition of anonymity. “However, with the two major alliances in trouble, we started getting feelers, asking us to avoid opening the rates,” he added.
He added that once official announcements came in about the two alliances breaking, bookies were asked by some key politicians, mostly from one party, to not open the rates.
“With the alliances broken, a single party getting majority is extremely difficult. The rates would have shown the parties in a weak position, which some members of a particular party were objecting to,” the bookie said. He added that these members wanted bookies either to manipulate rates in their party’s favour, or avoid opening the rates altogether.
After the decision was taken to not open rates, the big bookies switched off their mobile phones. “Had they not, they would constantly be getting inquiries from smaller bookies about the rates and the reasons for not opening the same,” the bookie said.
The bookies also said that the Assembly election would see a close fight between candidates, with several parties contesting separately. “The margins this time would be very slim,” said a bookie.