Nandan Nileknai had successfully led one of the biggest IT companies in India and taken it to higher level of performance. His opinions were respected by whole of the business world. Thomas Friedman got the idea for writing his book ‘The World is Flat’ while talking to him. Nandan’s wife Rohini has earned a good name in well targeted philanthropy. His investments in start-ups have been doing well. He is the man behind ‘Aadhar’ card. He was the chief of a national level Govt. organization before joining politics. There was no looking back and no challenge looked big for him.
When many were expecting he would change the face of politics in India for good, he lost the first election he fought and he has already announced leaving politics.
What do you think went wrong?
Well, if UPA had won the elections, Nandan would have become a Cabinet Minister or held some powerful position in some Govt. organization and would have changed the things for good. But that was not in his destiny.
First thing to note is, it appears like his timing for joining politics was not good. There was pro-Modi and anti-Congress wave during the last parliament elections. The results which gave a majority win for NDA confirmed that.
On a second note, it takes time to establish oneself as a politician. Nandan was well known in business circles and his credentials were great. But how will that matter with voters? They would be more comfortable with a person who is more approachable than a person admired by learned fellows. All the voters knew Nandan was rich and he is not into politics to earn money. But how many times he was seen on the streets solving petty issues and taking the Dias in the local events establishing himself as one of their own? He was hardly active in such matters given his busy schedules in his earlier roles. If you think party workers would have helped him to bridge that gap, think again. The party workers at the root level are loyal to their local party leaders. How many such local leaders were supported by Nandan in the previous ward or assembly elections? When his efforts are not visible, it is safe to assume that Nandan might have remained unapproachable for party workers too, forget the voters. Next let us look at the opponent Nandan had to fight with, which was Anant Kumar of BJP party. Anant Kumar is a seasoned politician. He had won in Bangalore South constituency already and had established his candidature well. His background in RSS had made him a good orator. He knew how to play the caste card well. He had supported the local leaders during all political and party matters. Adding to his advantages, Modi wave was in favor of his party. So his win against first-timer Nandan was not a great surprise.
Lastly, wins and losses are part of politician’s life. But he has to remain loyal to that profession for future success. Look at JD(S) party, no matter they win or lose, they are in politics. Despite his personal wins in elections, it took BS Yediyurappa many decades for his party to gain power. It takes really long time to establish oneself as a politician and some luck to get into a position of power. But if person leaves the profession in between, it becomes difficult to come back as voters will begin to question the motive.
Now that Nandan has taken a decision to leave politics, he might have well thought about it before coming to the conclusion. His colleague at Infosys, V Balakrishna too fought the election and accepted defeat. Nandan would have won the election someday if he had remained in politics and worked on his shortfalls. But it is his personal decision to stay away from active politics. That is not really a motivator for those with entrepreneurial background planning to get into politics.
The platform for politics in India is not yet flat.