BANGALORE: The billionaire co-founder of Infosys and the man behind UPA government’s ambitious Aadhar programme, Nandan Nilekani, is considering contesting the 2014 Lok Sabha elections from Bangalore South on a Congress ticket.
The Congress-led UPA, which is hoping the Aadhar card-based direct cash transfer scheme for social welfare programmes will be a hit with voters, is believed to be keen that the former software moghul contest. The Bangalore South seat is held by BJP general secretary H N Ananth Kumar, who has won five consecutive times from this middle-class constituency.
Nilekani did not respond to calls from TOI. However, on the sidelines of the Nasscom BPO Summit in Delhi, when asked about it, he said, “It’s speculative” and wouldn’t comment further on the matter.
But Congress sources confirmed there is some thinking on these lines. According to sources, Nilekani was sounded out by Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi a couple of months ago. With the task of setting up, launching and evangelizing the Aadhar cards over and it becoming a government programme, the question arose over Nilekani’s future. It was in that context that the idea of his entering the electoral fray arose.
With the election months away, Nilekani hasn’t yet made up his mind though he’s said to be seriously considering the option. He is said to want to enter politics by “doing it the right way”. There’s speculation that if UPA were to return to power, Nilekani will be in the cabinet.
“He might want to win on the street and gain political legitimacy,” said a source, pointing out to current junior human resources minister Shashi Tharoor’s case. A former UN diplomat, Tharoor, a first time entrant to politics, won handsomely from Tiruvanthapuram.
If Nilekani does contest, he will be the first business leader from India’s vaunted technology industry to do so and there has been no trend of lateral technocratic shift into government given a few exceptions like Sam Pitroda and Nilekani himself.
Nilekani, an IIT-Mumbai alumnus, stepped down as CEO of Infosys in 2007 to make way for fellow co-founder Kris Gopalakrishnan. The clearing of the table at Infosys, in retrospect, proved to be a fortuitous break for Nilekani as he was free to accept a government post when the offer came in 2009. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had initially offered Nilekani a place in the Planning Commission. But Nilekani chose the then obscure UIDAI which had the mandate to give a billion Indians an identity card