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Cong's Nilekani may challenge Ananth Kumar in LS polls

By Vicky Nanjappa
December 18, 2013 12:45 IST
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It is almost official: Unique Identification Authority of India chairman and former Infosys CEO Nandan Nilekani will contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections from South Bangalore, the IT hub, against Bharatiya Janata Party veteran Ananth Kumar.

Going by the statement of Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee chief K Parameshwar, it appears as though Nilekani has given his stamp of approval to contest the elections.

“It is a good sign and we welcome people like Nilekani”, Parameshwar said after meeting the man himself at the Karnataka Bhavan in New Delhi.

Apart from contesting the elections from Bangalore South, there is also speculation that he may be considered as Congress’ prime ministerial candidate if party vice president Rahul Gandhi refuses the mantle. However, there is no official word on this.

So what is Bangalore saying about Nilekani? While there are a good number of people who are excited about his possible candidature, many others feel that making him a prime ministerial candidate would be bit too much for him to handle.

“He will become another Manmohan Singh,” a Bangalore resident feels.

If Nilekani is fielded then Bangalore South is his best bet. It is a high-profile constituency with a large educated class including several IT professionals. He is well-known in these circles and could give a very tough fight to Ananth Kumar, the most likely candidate from the BJP.

Kumar is a four time MP from the constituency and has it pretty much easy on all his outings. However, this time around there is a fear of anti-incumbency.

In Madhya Pradesh, Kumar had helped beat the anti-incumbency factor in Shivraj Singh Chouhan government by replacing over 20 BJP candidates. Moreover, a recent Facebook page under the title “Tejaswini Ananth Kumar for Bangalore South”, named after his wife, only added to the speculation that he could be replaced. However, within the Kumar camp people are certain that he would be the one fighting from Bangalore South.

Coming back to Nilekani, there are both pros and cons. He is well educated, respected, but can he provide good administration?

“Looking at Aam Aadmi Party’s performance, anything is possible as people are looking for a change”, says Arjun Bhat, software professional.

“However, the point is, will his party win at the Centre? There is a clamour to see Narendra Modi as the PM and this may well go against Nilekani,” Bhat adds.

Sandeep, a businessman from Bangalore South, feels that it will be a welcome change since they are not happy with the manner in which Ananth Kumar has functioned in his last term. His name being dragged into the Yeddyurappa ouster episode has not gone down too well.

Ask a small vendor in this constituency and he would ask, who is Nilekani? After being told about Nilkani, quick comes the reply: “He appears to be cut out for the rich only”.

Bangalore South has traditionally voted for the BJP. Even the last time Ananth Kumar managed to beat two very highly educated candidates, Captain Gopinath and Krishna Byre Gowda, from the seat.

This would be an acid test for the BJP, but the experts feel that the scales are titled in its favour. It would depend on how much the Modi factor would work.

Looking at the online crowd from Bangalore South it would be a clean sweep for the BJP. But then this is the same crowd which has all the time for the Internet but none to reach a polling booth.

For the Kumar to win this time, the voter turnout has to be exceptionally good, the experts feel.

Image: UIDAI chief Nandan Nilekani

Photograph: Reuters

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