Nandan Nilekani to join Congress, ready to contest Lok Sabha polls, shroud still over constituency

Written by PTI | Bangalore | Updated: Jan 11 2014, 03:40am hrs
Nandan NilekaniNandan Nilekani (AP)
Ending speculation about his foray into politics, billionaire Infosys Ltd co-founder and head of Aadhar programme Nandan Nilekani on Friday said he would join the Congress and was ready to contest the Lok Sabha polls.

Certainly. I believe I should do something on the political front. If Congress gives me a ticket, I will contest (the Lok Sabha elections this year), he told reporters, making public his stand on the issue for the first time. Nandan Nilekani, who is the Chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India, said talks are going on about the constituency from which he should be contesting. He added that he would join Congress, which has been very supportive to him and his ideas. The Congress is likely to field Nandan Nilekani from Bangalore South, a middle-class centric constituency, known for its antipathy towards Congress since the late 1970s, from where BJP general secretary Ananth Kumar has won five times. Nilekani said ordinary citizens should join politics and he would like to be part of this movement. In India the biggest change can be brought about through politics and I want to be there, he said. The country needs more good people from all fields including the corporate world, he said, adding politics is an instrument of change.

Nandan Nilekani had recently met KPCC chief G Parameshwara, who said the IT czar had shown interest in contesting from Bangalore South on a party ticket.

Rules stipulated that ticket seekers should serve in the party for three years but it could be relaxed by the party high command, Parameshwara had said.

Asked about the participatory democracy being practised by the Aam Aadmi Party, whose dream debut in Delhi Assembly polls is making waves in politics, Nandan Nilekani said, "We need to make democracy interactive and participatory."

However, at the same time, Nilekani said he did not believe that issues such as Kashmir should be discussed through an SMS poll.

After demitting office as Infosys CEO in 2007, Nilekani had taken charge as head of the Unique Identification Authority of India, mandated to give a billion Indians an identity card, an ambitious flagship programme of the UPA.

Nandan Nilekani had been maintaining silence on reports about his political plans, which had gained more currency after the KPCC reportedly shortlisted his name among the three probable candidates for Bangalore south recently.

Nilekani was at the receiving end of a jibe from his former Infosys colleague Mohandas Pai, who said in an interview, "There is deep concern among citizens that we are getting a person imposed from above to be an MP, who has not done grassroots work, not been around, who a particular party is trying to parachute here to be a nominee and fight."

A stung Nandan Nilekani had reportedly said, quoting Indira Gandhi, "in politics, you need a thick skin".

Indian tech billionaire Nilekani plans to run for election

(Reuters) Nandan Nilekani, the technology entrepreneur and co-founder of Infosys who was tapped by India's government to run an ambitious identity-recognition programme, said he wants to contest elections on a ticket for the ruling Congress party.

Professionals have traditionally kept away from Indian politics, seen as corrupt and dominated by political dynasties that have promoted their own people rather than outsiders.

But that has been changing over the past year, with new political parties launched, the most popular of which is the anti-corruption Aam Aadmi Party, or the Common Man's Party, which was recently elected to govern Delhi.

"Right now I'm just looking at entering into the fray and making a difference," Nilekani told a news conference.

"Yes, if I'm given a ticket, yes I will contest," he said.

The Congress party is trailing in opinion polls, losing a clutch of state elections last month due to voter anger over inflation and a raft of corruption scandals.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, its likely prime ministerial candidate, is trying to shore up the party's fortunes by bringing in new faces.

Nilekani is a self-made billionaire - Forbes pegs his net worth as $1.3 billion, making him the 50th-richest Indian. He is a graduate from the elite Indian Institute of Technology and made his money in technology and wrote the best-selling book "Imagining India".

In 2010, Nilekani set up the unique identity (UID) project, which by scanning people's irises and fingerprints, hopes to bring India's 1.2 billion population within the reach of government.