JANUARY 27, 2004
Rivalries in India
The news that at least two cities of India's states are bidding for a Grand Prix is not really a surprise. India is a country with an extraordinarily complex social system with ethnic, religious, social and linguistic diversity and there are many complicated rivalries between the regions. Andhra Pradesh, the state which wants a race in Hyderabad, is about the same size as rival Maharashtra, which is campaigning for a race between Mumbai and Pune. Andhra Pradesh has a population of 75m while Maharashtra can claim 90m. However the population of Mumbai is probably twice that of Hyderabad, with around 15m people and it is the economic capital of India, while Hyderabad is trying to build up its image as a modern city with high technology skills.
Both cities seem to be willing to invest the kind of money that is needed for Formula 1. The chief minister of Andhra Pradesh Chandrababu Naidu says that his bid is well-advanced and that they are now close to a memorandum of understanding with Formula One Management. Contact is on an almost daily basis and Andhra Pradesh government officials are confident that F1 will end up in Hyderabad.
But Maharashtra must not be underestimated. The chief minister there, Sushil Kumar Shinde, says that there have been contacts between his administration and the Formula One group for some time and that the Maharashtra bid is also well-advanced and has the support of Sharad Pawar, an important national politician. This does not mean much as Pawar is in opposition to Atal Bihari Vajpayee's National Democratic Alliance government. There are elections due in April or May and the NDA seems to be well-placed to be re-elected with the Indian economy growing at around 8% a year; the economy doing well and moves towards a settlement in the recent dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir.
The Mumbai bid also has the support of the Motorsports Association of India, which is headed by Nazir Hoosein but once again this is not significant as MAI is not recognised by the Indian government and is in opposition to another organization known as the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of India. The MAI has more power at the FIA but this is not significant when it comes to negotiating Formula 1 race contracts. Hoosein is from Mumbai and hopes to make the city the centre of the sport in India with plans for a round of the World Rally Championship in the region in the future.
The rivalry is, of course, a godsend for Bernie Ecclestone and the FOM as they can now set the two parties against one another and push up the price of a race.
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