It was a rare scene on the streets of J P Nagar, where the educated, young, middle and upper class citizens took to the streets batting for a politician. Yes – a politician officially this day onwards – as Nandan Nilekani was inducted to Congress officially on March 9.
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Dressed in white T-shirt and holding banners that said ‘We are together with Nandan,’ many of Nandan Nilekani’s colleagues, software engineers, youth, men and women from various walks of life walked from Lalbagh East gate to Hemachandra Sagar Memorial Hall near Ashok Pillar in Jayanagar 1st Block. This was a “walk for better and wealthy Bengaluru.”
Nilekani’s wife Rohini Nilekani, Chairperson of Arghyam, in spite her fractured wrist, was seen walking with a group of people. “This is our first experience in politics. We are excited and stressed as well. But, if people like us do not enter politics, we won’t be able change India… I am so proud to that Nandan has decided to step in politics,” she said.
When the crowd reached Ranga Shankara, Nilekani stepped in, attired in a simple, cotton blue-white striped kurta and white pants and a smile on his face, thanking people for their support.
The crowd was directed to the Dayananda Sagar Memorial Hall where chairs and refreshments waited. Nilekani stood at the entrance of the hall, to welcome his supporters. He shook hands with everyone – small or big, bowed to the elders who congratulated and wished him luck for the elections.
After the crowd settled down, Nilekani walked into the hall. The crowd clapped and whistled, volunteers raised the slogan, “Vote for Nandan!” at his every step.
Soon they were joined by Arundhati Nag, veteran South Indian film and theatre artiste and Prakash Padukone, former Indian Badminton player and winner of Padma Shri award.
‘Aadhaar has beaten WhatsApp!’
Nilekani started his speech amid cheers from the crowd. “I have three experiences that I will make use now, my experience as co-founder of Infosys, where I have been able to create lakhs of jobs. Second is my experience in urban governance in Bangalore Agenda Task Force and third, implementation of Aadhaar which as of now has registered 60 crore people,” he stated.
In his speech, he compared WhatsApp to Aadhaar. “Everybody says WhatsApp, which was sold to Facebook for 19 million dollars, is the fastest growing application in the world with 450 million users in 5 years. I would say, Aadhaar beats it as it has got 600 million people registered in 4 ½ years,” he said.
Apart from creating better infrastructure for the city, Nilekani aspires to create opportunities for the young aspirants. Citing an example, he mentioned about a housemaid who works at three households in order to send her child to a private school. Her daughter aspires to be a doctor. “I see this everywhere… there is this huge wave of aspiration in the country with the largest young people in the world. I think it is the duty of the people in power to create opportunity for these aspirants, which requires a whole new kind of politics,” he added.
He said, “I really want to strive for the next two years in making efforts to make Bangalore a better city with better infrastructure, safe city for women and house of opportunities to the new people who come to Bangalore.”
When Citizen Matters asked him about the core issues of his constituency and what solutions he had, he said, “There are a lot of things to improve in infrastructure, but water is a big challenge. I have initiated a page called Ideas for Bengaluru, all the suggestions that are put up here will be taken into consideration and a systematic solution will be drawn for our urban problems.”
Young brigade behind the campaign
The words that lingered throughout the event were “change”, “educated” and “Better Bangalore”. Kavitha Chittiappa, a social worker who spends time with special kids echoes the sentiment in the air: “It’s time for the educated and people with clean background to enter politics. If we want to bring a change in the governance, we need to participate in it to bring change.”
P Murali, an IIT-ian and resident of Ulsoor, adds: “We want someone from an educated background, and someone who can stick to his words. We need lot of changes in Bangalore. He has shown his determination by starting Infosys and implementing Aadhaar, so I look forward to him winning.”
People seemed to have been influenced by the perseverance of Nilekani. “Nandan has the ability to stand like a mountain against any government or party that stopped him from implementing his idea. He has the capability to persuade and convince the various agencies in the system to serve us better,” a techie was saying.
There were many young faces that ran up and down handling the crowd. Meeta Karanth is one such volunteer that kept her successful career aside for some time to support Nilekani is Meeta Karanth. She says: “He has always been an inspirational personality for me. He built a huge company from scratch. I have always heard about him, heard in person when he came to address our building association. I realised he is genuine, honest and has achieved a lot, we need a performer like him.”
While his colleagues from Infosys say that he is approachable, Prathap Menon, Infosys employee says: “He is clean, capable and approachable. I have worked with him closely, I know that whatever he will say, he will do it.”
Co-incidentally, the walkathon of 1.2 km from Lalbagh to Rangashankara turned out to be Nilekani’s first public function after he was declared as a Congress candidate. He was inducted formally into Indian National Congress later in the day, in the presence of Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee office-bearers and Congress leaders from Karnataka.
The usual media-shy Nandan Nilekani didn’t want to talk to media much – however he promised an interview to Citizen Matters – so keep your fingers crossed!