Nandan Nilekani (58),head of the Unique Identity project,is likely to join Congress and contest the 2014 Lok Sabha election as part of a party strategy to counter Narendra Modi with a line-up of credible candidates. Those who know him well said he was considering the prospect seriously. Asked if he was joining Congress,Nilekani said: Possibly.
If he does contest the election,Nilekani would become the first Indian to make the turnabout from a successful corporate big wheel to an important government functionary to a politician. His industry colleagues doubted his lasting power but Nilekani deftly manoeuvred himself through the labyrinth of Delhi politics and has endeared himself to politicians and chief ministers across parties.
He has been approached as Congress desperately needs accomplished candidates to boost its image and attract the huge number of first-time urban voters. Fielding Nilekani will send the right signal not just to Bangalore but all of urban India, a Congress leader said.
He certainly has the standing,having co-founded Infosys and spearheaded the gamechanging technology initiative to provide biometric identities to billion-plus Indians. When he was CEO of Infosys in the 1990s,he headed Bangalore Agenda Task Force to improve infrastructure of the city with the state government. In 2009,the billionaire quit the Infosys board to head the UID scheme.
Nilekani does not figure on a short list of candidates for the three Lok Sabha constituencies in Bangalore being prepared by the Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) but has been discussed at the party high command level,insiders said.
The state list for Bangalore North,South and Central constituencies does not feature Nilekani. But he is in a different category that is the high commands prerogative, sources in Karnataka Congress said.
The candidature of Nilekani was definitely on the table for the Bangalore South seat that has a large number of IT workers and had been discussed at the highest level,if not in the state,they said.
Among the reasons Nilekani is being considered is that he does not need introduction,he is urban and fulfills caste combination requirements,the sources said.