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Will Nilekani take on Modi in Bengaluru?

September 19, 2013 14:22 IST

Image: Nandan Nilekani, co-founder of Infosys and the man behind Aadhar programme
Photographs: B Mathur/Reuters Vicky Nanjappa

The Congress has proposed the name of billionaire Nandan Nilekani, the co-founder of software giant Infosys, to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Bengaluru’s south constituency. But will his capabilities stand to the popularity of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi? Vicky Nanjappa finds out

Nandan Nilekani’s name may sound lucrative to the common observer, but many feel that it is an impossible task to beat Ananth Kumar of the Bharatiya Janata Party, who is expecting a sixth win from the prestigious Bengaluru South Lok Sabha constituency.

A majority of residents of this constituency say that their vote is not for Kumar. Voters say that if given a choice they would vote him out, but then that would mean they are not voting for the party’s prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi.

In fact, Kumar would have lost in the recently-held elections if it wasn’t for Modi.

Kumar was on a very weak footing during the 2009 Lok Sabha elections too. It was only thanks to former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa and the splitting of the IT sector votes independent candidate and Air Deccan founder Captain C Y Gopinath that helped him beat former state minister Krishna Byre Gowda of the Congress, who was an impressive candidate.

The south constituency has always been an advantageous constituency for the BJP. It has a negligible minority population, and most of the city’s well-educated and the IT population lives here.


It would be a cakewalk for Kumar in south Bengaluru

Image: BJP's candidate from south Bengaluru, Ananth Kumar has won five consequetive times from this constituency

Even during the recent assembly elections, the BJP put up its best show in the constituencies falling under Bengaluru South, despite there being such an anti-BJP wave across the state.

It will not be easy for Kumar to win from this constituency all by himself: development-wise, none of the voters in this constituency are happy.

But it is not a constituency wise battle, and going by Modi’s popularity amid the educated and business class in this area, it would be a cakewalk for Kumar.

Going around this part of town, one gets the impression that there is a lot of disappointment with Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh whose silence and the manner in which corruption has been handled have not gone down too well with anyone.

The Congress may field Nilekani from this constituency but a lot would depend on who they announce as their prime ministerial candidate. If they announce the name of Dr Singh, then it would be a major problem for them, and if they don’t, then the BJP will go to town on this issue.

A majority are not happy with the candidature of Rahul Gandhi, the Congress’ vice president either. They find him too ‘immature’ and feel that his way of functioning is too confusing. The other drawback for Rahul is the name of the dynasty attached to him.


'It takes six months for the Aadhar card to reach us'

Image: An operator arranges the Unique Identification documents submitted by people
Photographs: Mansi Thapliyal/Reuters Vicky Nanjappa

The BJP workers in this constituency claim that Modi will help them win. There is a great deal of euphoria and several workers said that the vote will be for Modi, irrespective of who the BJP candidate is.

Nilekani is a known face in this constituency. This is mainly due to his associations with the Infosys and now the Aadhar project. His association with Infosys makes no difference to the voters since they feel that this was part of a private affair. But with the Unique Identification Project, there is a great deal of disappointment with him and many feel that he has not done the best of jobs in implementing the project.

Residents have complained of waiting for hours to get their registration done.

“Once the registration is done, it takes six months for the card to reach us,” said a resident.

People also feel that it is not right to call Nilekani a politician.

“He has technological knowledge no doubt, but then that is of no use for administration purposes,” said a resident. The business class says that Nilekani is impressive, but he is going to be able to do nothing for the business class.

“Modi on the other hand, has proven how good an administrator he is and he has been a ‘God’ to the business class. If we vote for Kumar, that means our vote goes to Modi because only he can help the business class,” says R Seshraghavachar, a businessman from this constituency.


'With Modi as the PM candidate, the hopes are back'

Image: Narendra Modi supporters at a rally

The voters of this constituency feel that it is not right for Nilekani to jump into the fray when he has ‘unfinished business’.

“His priority should not be to join politics; instead, he should focus on completing the UID project and ensure that the implementation across the country goes on smoothly,” says another resident.

Members of the Kumar camp who have always been on the side of senior BJP leader L K Advani however feel relieved that the name of Modi was announced.

“It makes our job much easier and the vote will be for Modi. The camp was worried since after winning five times in a row, the anti-incumbency factor was at a peak. This was an election many thought Kumar would lose, but now with Modi as the PM candidate, the hopes are back,” says a party worker.

Kumar’s followers will also not forget the last time Modi addressed a rally in this constituency this April: As Kumar began speaking, the crowd forced him to sit down and asked Modi to speak instead. But Modi intervened, and requested the crowd to let Kumar complete his speech.


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