This constituency is my home: Nandan Nilekani

This constituency is my home: Nandan Nilekani

Uber rich Nandan Nilekani, the co-founder of Infosys and UIDAI Chairman, is now donning a new role. He wants to be a neta. He is working overtime to project himself as a common man and trying to be one among the people of Bangalore South LS constituency from where he is going to contest as the Congress nominee.

Of course, the Congress party not yet announced that he would be the candidate. And, Nilekani too has not formally joined the party. But he must have got green signal to go ahead with campaigning. Without claiming to be the Congress party nominee, he is going around the constituency to meet people, mostly members of residents’ associations. He has been visiting colleges to interact with students.

The Congress party leaders and workers are yet to openly identify themselves with Nilekani. But without depending much on the party, he has been carrying out his rounds in the constituency. In an interview with P M Raghunandan of Deccan Herald, Nilekani had this to share...

What prompted you to take the plunge into politics and why only the Congress party?

I have been working in the public sector for some time now. Over the years I have come to believe that finally, if you want to have lasting positive impact, if you want to implement lasting change, it has to be through politics. It is the biggest lever we have.

One of the reasons I chose this party is that the Congress-led government, over the last five years, gave me the space and the opportunity to get a lot of things done. I was, as a result, able to fulfil the promise we made to the people five years ago: that by 2014, 60 crore people would have the Aadhaar number.

Today, we have created the Aadhaar platform, which is now a powerful anti-corruption tool, and which also gives voice to crores of Indians who had no identification. The second, equally important reason I chose this party is my belief that we need a party that represents the interests of us all. Not some of us. All of us.

We need a party that represents the people in our farms, our factories, and our offices. A party that represents the small shop owner, the pavement dweller, the office goer, the large businessman. A party that represents the people who clean our streets, and those who drive on them. Who represents the middle class as well as the poor. Every caste, every community. A party that makes no exceptions. It is this value that made this country, and it is this value that will sustain it.

Why the Congress has decided to field you as the candidate for Bangalore South?

If the Congress party gives me an opportunity to contest from Bangalore South, I will do it.

What should be the method to the select candidates?

I think what’s happening with the primaries is very exciting. For the first time in Indian history, a national party will choose 15 of its candidates for the Lok Sabha Elections 2014 through a completely transparent and democratic process. Any eligible citizen who satisfies certain clearly laid-down criteria can become a primary candidate. I think this is a bold step, of the sort that Indian democracy needs. There can be no one, perfect method for candidate selection.

If Bangalore North has to select its candidate through internal elections, why not the South?

The party has selected 15 constituencies for the primaries. Bangalore South is not in that set.

Why are you particular about contesting from Bangalore South constituency which is considered the BJP bastion?

This constituency is my home. I have lived and worked here for most of my life. The other reason is that I believe this constituency faces urgent concerns - over the years, I have spoken to many people in the constituency and they are hungry for a change, ready for an effective leader.

There was opposition from a section of local leaders in the constituency against your candidature. Their main fear was that you are not easily accessible. What do you have to say about it?

I am in touch with the constituency, regularly meeting people and hearing their concerns. People are telling me about their concerns - about educating their children, about getting a better job, about better roads and water connections.

Why should people vote you to LS? What are your strengths which the sitting MP is lacking?

I think people are ready for a fresh and honest face for the MP of Bangalore South. Someone who has a track record of being effective and delivering on the promises.

BJP MP Ananth Kumar has won five times in a row this seat? Why should he be defeated this time?

I do not want to comment on this.

The UPA-I and UPA-II are riddled with a number of scams and facing criticism for misgovernance. What is your take on it?

I think the issues of governance we face are systemic. They are present with every party, every government, and we need a systemic approach for solving them, something that will guarantee accountability and service delivery.

The BJP has been claiming that there is a Modi wave, and it is trying to woo educated youth. What do you have to say?

Our constituency needs people who will represent them effectively in Delhi. For that, we have to think carefully about who our MP will be. And I believe the youth, like all of us, want representatives who represent not just some of us, but all of us.

Your former colleague Mohan Das Pai had recently questioned your contribution to Bangalore. Comment.

My contributions to Bangalore are well-documented, and can easily be verified.  Besides my work on BATF from 1999-2004, where we helped develop Bangalores parks and gardens, better bus stops, and Nirmala toilets, my wife Rohini and I have also spent over Rs 300 crore on causes like education, the environment, and on healthcare.

There is a lot of confusion about UID project. Why there is delay in distribution of Aadhaar numbers?

We are generating 250 Aadhaar numbers every minute - that is four Aadhaar numbers every second. And we are meeting our target of 60 crore Aadhaar numbers distributed before time. There may be occasional delays because of verification in some cases. We value both accuracy and speed.

UID project was once considered as a game changer for UPA-II. But, surprisingly, the Centre has recently put the Aadhaar-based Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) project on hold. Why?

The government has been very supportive of the Aadhaar project. And the Aadhaar number is a powerful anti-corruption platform. But such programmes have to be implemented while making sure that people aren't excluded, so I am in favour of gradual, comprehensive implementation.

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