Nilekani, Ananth in Tight Race
The man who steered a mammoth programme to give a billion Indians an identity card is battling heavy odds in his bid to reinvent himself with his political foray as he faces a high-octane contest for the Bangalore South Lok Sabha seat in the April 17 polls.
Billionaire Infosys co-founder and face of UPA's marquee programme "Aadhar" Nandan Nilekani has turned what was initially perceived to be a "heavyweight versus newbie" fight into a hot contest too close to call.
Nilekani's opponent BJP's Ananth Kumar is a five-time MP who has his ears to the ground in the mostly middle and lower middle class dominated constituency that, barring in 1989, has been an inhospitable terrain to Congress since the late 1970s.
But the former IT honcho is no pushover, a fast learner that he is of the tricks of the trade, making the position not so cosy for a gregarious Kumar whose victory margins have been shrinking-- from 65,000 in 1999 to 37,000 in 2009.
In his different makeovers, 58-year old Nilekani, a Bombay IIT product, co-founded Infosys that became an icon of IT industry, was part of a task force on civic matters during S M Krishna's regime and headed UIDAI that brought him into public domain. Now, he has entered muddy waters of politics.
Bangalore South has eight assembly segments, with ruling Congress in the state and BJP holding four each.
True to its cosmopolitan nature, the constituency has considerable share of Brahmin, Vokkaliga and Muslim voters and a mix of upper and middle class voters. Both Kumar and Nilekani belong to Brahmin community.
"I am a unique candidate, not a unique identity candidate," Kumar says in a dig at Nilekani, who was the Chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) that oversaw "Aadhar" programme.