'People Looking for Candidates With Clean Image' - The New Indian Express

'People Looking for Candidates With Clean Image'

Published: 23rd February 2014 08:26 AM

Last Updated: 23rd February 2014 08:45 AM

The formality of joining the Congress and being nominated as the party’s candidate for the prestigious Bangalore South Lok Sabha constituency remains, but Nandan Nilekani is not wasting any time.

Nilekani, co-founder of Infosys and the brain behind Aadhaar ID cards, has been attending public contact programmes — RWA meetings, school graduations, voter awareness meetings and what have you — to bond with his potential constituents. Meanwhile, his campaign machine is ensuring that internet users don’t miss his message.

On a busy Saturday afternoon, Nilekani, the 58-year-old billionaire, took time out for an exclusive interview with The New Indian Express.

You have been meeting a lot of people. What has the response been like?

The response has been very good. In the last few weeks that I have been on the road, I sense people are looking for candidates with a clean image, who have performed in different areas, who can keep promises and create opportunities for others.

Why Congress?

I believe in the Congress ideology. India is a country of many religions, ethnic backgrounds and castes. It requires an inclusive and universal governance system. The Congress represents that ability to integrate everyone. Also, my father was a Nehruvian. Moreover, in the last five years, while working with the Congress-led government as the UIDAI chairman, they gave me many opportunities. I think this is where I should be.

But the Congress doesn’t have a clean image right now ...

I think the party is undergoing a positive change and I want to contribute to that.

According to the CEO, although Bangalore South has a large number of educated citizens, the number of registrations and the number of people turning up to vote is low - is this a concern?

No, I am confident that this time there will a good turnout. For starters, we have to ensure that people register to vote. 

People estimate that 10 crore new voters will join the system and I think new voters realise that the future of the country depends on them voting for the right person.

Something is happening in India, where young people are getting more enthused about politics and changing society.

You are the answer to many people whose excuse for not voting is “who do I vote for, they are all corrupt politicians”. Why did you decide to join politics?

I am doing it because I’ve really had many different experiences. Under the leadership of NRN (N R Narayana Murthy), we were able to start Infosys. We created a world class company, we created lakhs of jobs- that was a fulfilling experience for me. Giving a billion people an identity card is a complex task and being UIDAI chairman gave me a different kind of exposure.

Thanks to an invitation from S M Krishna, I got involved with the Bangalore Agenda Task Force (BATF) from 1999- 2004, where I could get into the nitty gritty of urban governance.

With these three experiences, I am now well-placed to contribute to a more public and mainstream programme.

How are you going to use social media in your campaigns?

Social media is an important part of any campaign. To bring any kind of change, we need to involve people. People should feel like they are part of the change.

Social media is one such platform where we are getting ideas.

Not just as a candidate, but even tomorrow as an MP, I want to make sure genuine concerns are addressed.

What are the issues?

Infrastructure is a major problem- traffic and roads. B Dayanand (Additional Commissioner of Police, Traffic) said the problem in Bangalore is that roads are growing at 0.1 per cent, population is growing at 10 per cent and vehicles are growing at 25 per cent.

Water is a huge issue. Bangalore is 3,000 ft above sea level. We cannot keep pumping water from Cauvery, we need to do something about our lakes. We have to recharge our groundwater.

Through Arghyam (run by his wife Rohini Nilekani), I have a lot of access to information about water and we are working on creating an agenda for it. Education is a big issue, especially for the poorer sections- making sure RTE is implemented and that there is good quality education for all. 

How do you propose to address this?

My whole attitude to this is to get everybody together and use technology - I’ve done that in all my jobs.

Because of my position, I can get funding - I can negotiate that with Delhi. Also, social media is a very lively system where people are able to connect to me.

On the one hand, we have challenges and on the other hand, we have lot of people who want to contribute. We need to create a way for these two to get together.

What have been the reactions from local Congress leaders?

It has been very good. I have received a lot of support and cooperation from MLAs Krishnappa and his son Priya Krishna who are helping me understand the dynamics on the ground... (Transport Minister) Ramalinga Reddy and Devaraj from Chikpet too.

The Chief Minister, Parameshwara (KPCC president) Dinesh Gundu Rao (Food and Civil Supplies Minister) and Krishna Byre Gowda (Agriculture Minister) have all been helpful.

Do you have a campaign strategy?

We do, but can’t reveal everything considering that some of the things we are doing are new and we want to ensure an element of surprise.

We are very fortunate to have the advantage of time. We can plan, strategise and do things.

How do you divide your time between Aadhaar and campaigning?

I have already proposed to step down from Aadhaar by the end of March. I am spending more time in Bangalore- winding down my time in Delhi and ramping up my presence here.

What do you think of your likely opponent H N Ananth Kumar?

I think Bangalore South is ready for a change and is looking for a fresh and competent candidate. That is the message I am getting from people.

And mine is a message of change, transformation, hope and aspiration.

Are there specific issues you are going to work on if you are elected?

Apart from getting funding for various infrastructure issues, I aim to create more opportunities. Today’s children are aspirational; parents have huge, non-linear ambitions for their children.

That’s happening in a country with a population of half-a-billion youngsters. The biggest challenge is how do we open up our system so that we can fulfil these ambitions. It requires a large-scale systematic change.

Are you looking forward to working with Rahul Gandhi?

I am. He is idealistic and committed to change and I am looking forward to working for that.

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