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'Indian elections will never be the same again'

April 02, 2014 09:46 IST

'Nandan and I are grateful and humbled'

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Rohini Nilekani

'No matter the deep polarisation as evidenced in different media, there is a deeply ingrained culture of tolerance and openness. This is exactly the idea of India we are fighting for in this election.'

Rohini Nilekani, whose husband Nandan Nilekani -- co-founder, Infosys, and former Chairman, Unique Identity Authority of India -- is contesting the Lok Sabha election from the Bangalore South constituency on a Congress Party ticket, on her experiences on the campaign trail.

Along with the Together With Nandan team members, I have been going door to door across many, many streets of South Bengaluru for the past several weeks.

Only three weeks to go now.

The experience has been both exhilarating and humbling.

The energy and commitment of the volunteers plus their conviction about the importance of sending Nandan to Parliament leaves both Nandan and me grateful and humbled.

I have seen men and women give up their jobs or their assignments; put aside their family needs, including hovering over their children at exam time; they have braved scorching heat and occasional unfriendly resident but they have not been deterred.

They are also clearly enjoying the process and we are all making new friends.

There is much laughter and camaraderie. Overall, the mood is remarkably optimistic.

They know we are going to win this one.

Rohini Nilekani -- then Rohini Soman -- met Nandan Nilekani at a quiz in the early 1980s. A former journalist (Bombay magazine), she is now a distinguished philanthrophist whose organisations Arghyam works on water issues, and the Akshara Foundation and Pratham Books which work with children and education. Rohini is also the author of Uncommon Ground: Dialogues with Business and Social Leaders and a novel, Stillborn.

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Image: Nandan Nilekan with his 'most passionate volunteer' and his strength, Rohini Nilekani.
Photographs: Nandan Nilekan's Facebook page

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'Indian elections will never be the same again'

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Rohini Nilekani

They know it is because we have a great candidate, but they also know it is because they themselves have become part of the change they seek.

They are helping to shift the needle of politics in India.

Indian elections will never be the same again.

A whole class of people who would perhaps have been diffident to step out and campaign are now willing to be seen and heard, for a good cause.

This will create a whole new movement, to bring in fresh and clean candidates, and in their wake, thousands of people who will campaign for them. Exciting times ahead.

On another note, what is equally humbling is the reaction of the citizens when we meet them at the doors of their homes.

For the most part, they are open, welcoming, trusting and willing to listen.

This really tells us something about our culture as a society.

Thank God we have so far preserved this mutual trust, and a friendly curiosity.

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Image: "Bengaluru desperately needs a change and the change is you," Shanta, a local resident, told Nandan Nilekani.
Photographs: Nandan Nilekan's Facebook page
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'We can differ, but we must respect differences'

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Rohini Nilekani

Even those who are clearly committed to another party or candidate are, for the most part, polite.

I fervently hope this never changes.

This cuts to the core of a civilised democracy.

We can differ, but we must respect differences.

Our experience in the door-to-door campaign tells us very clearly that, no matter the deep polarisation as evidenced in different media, there is a deeply ingrained culture of tolerance and openness.

All of us in the team take much strength from this. This is exactly the idea of India we are fighting for in this election.

What is exhilarating is the grassroots democratic process that we are witnessing in this campaign.

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Image: Rohini has been campaigning for her husband in spite of her fractured hand/
Photographs: Nandan Nilekan's Facebook page
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'People absolutely want a change for the better'

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Rohini Nilekani

Citizens are alert and they intend to vote, though sometimes they need help with the registration and verification.

And they absolutely want a change for the better -- both in their own lives and in the country's politics.

Outside people's homes, often with young children looking on, we have discussions; we get invited constantly for tea; we are told past experiences of voting; people share their expectations of politicians, as also their frustrations.

It is an eye-opener for us all.

How much diversity there is in the city; how much people struggle on a day to day basis; we all know these things, but to witness them directly is quite something else.

I am sure each one of us is learning and re-learning, our minds are a kaleidoscope of shifting impressions that will settle down to a pattern of new conviction.

I think we are all now in an irreversible process of participation in our polity. This can only be good news.


Image: "It's nice to see that for a change politicians in our country are taking their job seriously. I never thought I would be able to speak to you at all!" Anirudh, a teenager, told Nandan at Brahmins Coffee Bar.
Photographs: Nandan Nilekan's Facebook page
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