Parties may prop up honchos, sportspersons to woo youth

The upcoming elections to state assemblies and Parliament may see fresh faces from the corporate sector, sportspersons and academics jostle for political space with kurta-clad leaders.

Names of professionals like Nandan Nilekani, Rajeev Gowda, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and Krishna Poonia are already being talked about for a possible role in electoral politics.

While Nilekani, a former CEO of Infosys and now Chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India, is testing the political waters for his chances as a Congress candidate from the Bangalore South Lok Sabha seat, Commonwealth Games gold-medallist athlete Poonia is being considered by the Congress as its nominee for the Sadulpur assembly seat in Rajasthan.

Rajeev Gowda, a professor at the Indian Institute of Management-Bangalore, articulates the Congress view on debates on news channels and is a regular at the party’s brainstorming sessions. Gowda is also being talked about as a possible candidate from Bangalore in the Lok Sabha election next year.

Rathore, a Colonel in the Indian Army, took voluntary retirement to join the Bharatiya Janata Party at a rally addressed by the party's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in Jaipur last week.
Political parties may have the middle-class voters, particularly youth in urban areas, in mind while tossing up fresh, non-controversial faces as alternatives to conventional politicians.

The participation of the urban youth in anti-corruption protests could be seen as an indication that it is disillusioned with such politicians.

However, Nilekani et al would not be the first to don the political hat. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself was a career bureaucrat before joining politics. Similarly, former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was a pilot with Indian Airlines. More recently, actor Ramya won the by-election to the Mandya Lok Sabha seat in Karnataka on a Congress ticket.

Prasun Banerjee, who won the by-election to the Howrah Parliamentary seat in west Bengal as a Trinamool Congress candidate, was an international footballer and a member of the Indian football team which reached the quarter finals of the 9th Asian Games in Delhi.

Ajay Kumar, a Lok Sabha member from Jamshedpur, had donned many hats—a medical doctor and an IPS officer with a stint in the corporate sector with Tata Sons and Apollo Group under his belt—before he joined politics.

Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Union ministers Jyotiraditya Scindia and Sachin Pilot gave up their corporate careers to join politics. Union minister Shashi Tharoor opted for the khadi kurta, a favourite with politicians, after a successful stint at the United Nations.

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