For a middle class that constantly rails against ‘dirty’ politics, what can be a better distraction than a candidate who is perceived as ‘squeaky clean’. Particularly at a time when political parties are keen to project development-friendly candidates who will march into Parliament and lead them. The latest entrant to this club is Nandan Nilekani, former Infosys man and current oarsman of the UPA’s controversial Aadhaar project.
According to a report in business daily Mint, Nilekani will get a Congress ticket from Bangalore South. Nilekani, of course, hasn’t even spoken about the possibility, leave alone confirm this “decision”. Even his party is yet to announce the lists of candidates in the fray. “The talk of Nilekani getting a ticket is speculation so far but the selection of candidates is constituency-specific,” says Prof Arul Mani, who teaches literature at Bangalore’s St Joseph’s College.
But something is clearly cooking. Nilekani has been displaying an intense ‘curiosity’ about politics over the last year or so. He has also been telling friends that his ‘work’ at pushing the Unique Identification Authority of India would be over in “seven-eight months”, which would conveniently be just around election time. Why, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, another fellow Bangalorean and a well-known businessperson, tweeted this as early as September 1: “Mandan (sic) Nilekani is the only untainted non-controversial with high credibility In the political world Maybe Nandan for PM?”
However, Bangalore South has a sizeable population of youth—half its people are under 35 and, considered “aspirational”. “People feel they can do more than kirana storekeeping or work in software firms. Bangalore South would consider Nilekani successful, a natural local leader, an inspiration,” says Prof Rajeev Gowda, who teaches public policy at IIM Bangalore and doubles as a Congress national spokesperson.
The ground for such hope has been laid by leaders such as Krishna Byre Gowda, foreign educated, farmer and NGO-man, who now holds independent charge as minister of state for agriculture. Though Byre Gowda narrowly lost Bangalore South in 2009, the mood for ‘cleanliness’ in politics may well tilt in Nilekani’s favour.
“Nilekani’s appeal cuts across sections in Bangalore. We would be happy to project him to urban Indians and others,” says Rajeev Gowda, himself in the running from Bangalore North.
Five long years after he quit IT giant Infosys and entered the Planning Commission, there is no denying Nilekani can constantly reinvent himself. He is actually going much farther than his former boss N.R. Narayana Murthy, who has returned to Infosys after a failed attempt at a higher calling (and office). Post-UIDAI—the scheme hasn’t been rolled out yet and few are sure if the ID card it will produce will, or will not, limit or enhance people’s access to basic services—Nilekani is certainly expected to resonate in locations where other IT professionals live and work.
True, he had to fight it out before the UIDAI was all but shelved. It’s equally true, says everyone that he won that round because of the political backing he has from the Congress first family. In reality, though, no one really knows if UID will work, or even if it should be around. Some would even say that’s a political achievement.
Edited to correct a quote wrongly attributed to Byre Gowda, when it was actually by Prof Rajeev Gowda, who's himself in the running from Bangalore North.
Thousands of crores of rupees spent on Aadhaar Card does not have to go waste. Government can prefix it with 'Nir'.
This is really interesting. Mr. Nilekani is supposed to voice his protest, as the Supreme Court has made the Aadhar card not essential, to the identity of the Indian, and hence he is joining politics. This seems to be just a false surmise, and an assumption that is erroneous.
What is more vitally interesting, is the idea that the card is important, but the fingerprints and the retina is what is the identity. The U. S. must be backing up records of the national database, about every third day, and upgrading security, and making ten backups of the same. The Aadhar card could be misunderstood in useage.
He is a man of ideas, accomplishment and proven ability. It is unfortunate that he is entering politics, that too as a Congress party man. UID is already in difficulties owing to the political slant that the Congress imparted to it with the Supreme Court clipping Government's wings on its intentions to allow a flood of illegal AADHAR allottees, convertible into votes. Unfortunately, Nilekani will also be affected by the fallout as his idea was sought to be misused by vested political interests. Now, with his own entry into the Congress, his image will take a further beating.
As @Arpan_Dixit wrote
With the current state of Indian economy, I don't need an "Aadhar Card." I need an "Udhaar Card."
Udhaar = loan.
The chase of so called "good people" to clean up our "dirty politics" will prove to be another chimera. The need is of good systems that work and can be enforced when needed. The need is for the voter to be engaged and be able to force accountability between elections as opposed to the present system of electing overlords and monarchs.
BTW, as usual most systems in India fail in the last mile - implementation and execution not ideas .... anyways ideas don't have to be unique there are plenty of good ones from all around the world ... we don't need to re-invent the wheel ... we aren't as unique as we make ourselves out to be. I have a SMS about my aadhar card from 2-3 months ago - no sign of it though in the post. Not that I care because I don't know what to do with it anyways. Hopefully, it will become like the social-security # in the US, in the meantime it helped desi IT companies with some lucrative contracts.
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