Assigning an Aadhaar number to 1.2 billion Indians may turn out to be the smaller challenge
After a spectacular victory in the state assembly elections in May this year, prominent leaders of the ruling Congress party in Karnataka were gung-ho about pulling off a similarly stunning performance in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. Congressmen intoned the code “21-22”, indicating the number of Lok Sabha seats the party would comfortably seal, amongst a total 28 in Karnataka.
Six months later, the ruling party is going through a reality check. Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has done little to impress. At least half-a-dozen schemes that his government wanted to push through, such as the anti-superstition bill, have had to be pulled back. Dissidents have repeatedly targeted the chief minister for ignoring long-time party loyalists and, instead, creating and favouring a clique — those like him who entered the party relatively recently, as well as a set of younger partymen. Given all this and the pervading political mood, the same Congressmen have already modified their code to “15-16” with an additional “if” caveat — “if the party chooses the right candidates”.
For these and other reasons, the victory of the party’s probable Bangalore South candidate Nandan Nilekani is looking less like a “done deal”. Nilekani, whose name recently figured in rumours as a probable prime ministerial candidate of the Congress even before he can rightfully suffix “MP” to it, might well find that assigning an Aadhaar number to 1.2 billion Indians might be less of an exertion than winning the votes of a small fraction of those Indians in Bangalore to bag the Lok Sabha seat.
Nilekani, co-founder and former corporate executive of technology services firm Infosys and then Aadhaar chief with cabinet-level ranking in New Delhi for the past five years, has had a flying career so far. A Lok Sabha triumph from the prestigious Bangalore South parliamentary seat would be a befitting high in his life graph. If victorious and backed by a winning party, even bigger career spikes could follow.
In Karnataka, the Congress is just gathering its district-level leaders together to finalise the names of candidates who will contest the 2014 general elections. In some constituencies, the selection is pretty straightforward as the sitting MP will contest for another term. In others, several candidates are fighting tooth-and-nail to bag the nomination. In Bangalore South, a parliamentary constituency that the Congress has not won in four