The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bet buzz around Idol

Calcutta, Feb. 23: A discordant note has crept into the last lap of Indian Idol, the blockbuster talent scout spectacle on Sony TV, with a contestant pointing fingers at a betting circuit.

Voted out on the February 18 show, second runner-up Rahul Vaidya today told The Telegraph: 'I have heard that I lost because some bookmakers in Dubai had to make a lot of money.'

The allegation came a day before the curtain goes up on the final episodes of the Idol hunt that has narrowed down to Abhijeet Sawant and Amit Sana.

'Abhijeet was the favourite with odds of 5/2, Amit was the least favourite with 6/1 and my odds were 7/2,' Rahul said.

It means anyone who bet Rs 100 on Abhijeet has gained Rs 250 on his victory in the last round. The second favourite was Rahul, and if he had won, those who put Rs 100 would have got Rs 350.

But the least fancied by the bettors, Amit, pulled through, yielding Rs 600 to whoever banked on him. Such upsets usually help bookmakers make a killing because few are expected to bet on the least favourites.

'We are singers and all we can do is carry on. I can't really do anything about such a thing,' Rahul said.

Sony Entertainment Television, however, is playing down the betting angle. 'I really don't know,' said Tarun Katial, executive vice-president and business head of the channel. 'Every Thursday, within the stipulated two-and-a-half hours, we receive anything between 30 and 40 lakh SMS votes. It's quite impossible to manipulate those votes.'

Three judges preside over each episode but the winners are chosen by viewers through SMS votes. There is no limit on the number of votes that can be sent from one number.

Referring to Rahul's allegation, Katial added: 'When you lose, you have your different reasons for it. I also feel very bad for him, but he will still make it big.' Rahul has signed a Rs 20-lakh contract with Sony and the winner will bag a Rs 1-crore deal.

Sources said the betting circle ' from informal gatherings to organised efforts ' has been busy ever since the hunt for the 'voice of the nation' entered the final countdown.

'This works very different from, say, a cricket betting syndicate and is almost impossible to trace,' says a veteran 'player'. 'But the result can only be swayed if a particularly large interest group is out to rig it through the SMS route.'

Judge Anu Malik said betting is a bad word. 'Throughout all these episodes, the public has been very emotional with the choices. But that doesn't mean we question the integrity of the country. I think it is a very true show. I also wanted people like Rahul and Prajakta (Shukray) to stay there till the end, but they failed on those particular days.'

The two remaining contenders are embarking on a tour across the country to 'connect with more people'. 'The two will come to Calcutta on Sunday,' said a spokesperson for the channel.

On Thursday, Abhijeet and Amit will sing three songs each with Kajol as the celebrity guest. This time, viewers can vote for nine days till the March 5 grand finale.


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