‘Dear Nandan Nilekani: quit Infosys, start a party’

Off and on there has been speculation on N.R. Narayana Murthy‘s political ambitions. In April this year, the Straits Times of Singapore reported that he was planning to revive the Swatantra Party, though it was officially denied that he was planning to either join politics or to start a party. But there can be little doubt that the Infosys chief mentor harboured serious presidential hopes till the row over the national anthem extinguished them.

Nevertheless, that hasn’t stopped the middleclass masses from thirsting for corporate chieftains to get their hands dirty in the cesspool of politics. Predicated on the belief that the country can be run like a company, business leaders with their youthful image, iconic status, demonstrated record and bottomline focus, are suspected to possess the magic broom that can sweep India clean of the cobwebs that have constricted its spring.

Somehow, also, there is an impractical belief that one clean, capable, charismatic figure at the top is enough to set right things in every nook and cranny of our 30 States.

S.K. SHAMA SUNDARA, editor of thatskannada, has penned an open letter to Nandan Nilekani, in which he exhorts the Infosys co-founder to quit the company and take the plunge in politics, but not on the larger, national stage that his boss has been aiming, but on a smaller canvas, his home-state, Karnataka.

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My dear Nandan

It’s been while since we met. So let me first-up congratulate you and your team for the success that you have helped your company achieve in the flat world, through your intellect, innovation and business values—and the consequent recognition that you have all brought our City and our country.

I know you don’t have too much time, Nandan, let me cut to the chase.

I am writing to you to request you to step foot in politics—not national politics, but State politics; the politics of your State and mine: Karnataka. This may sound vague and funny, sudden even, but believe me, I broach this issue with you after long and considered thought, and after talking to several like-minded friends.

As a Kannadiga yourself, I don’t have to enlighten you on the current state of our State. It is a veritable shambles. Corrupt, communal and casteist politicians, and violent thugs, rowdies and goondas, who cannot appreciate or handle the fame and wealth that has flown into the State, thanks to the sweat and toil of hard-working professionals, are squabbling for the spoils.

The bad news is Karnataka politics has sunk so low in the national esteem it can go down no further. The good news is, from this point on, the only way is up, which is why I believe that this is the right time to usher in and administer a new and radically different brand of politics.

And this is where you, Nandan, as a decent boy from Dharwad, can come in as the modern-day messiah.

Why do I think you are the answer?

1. Because the youth of the State, need a good leader they can look up to and identify with, and I recognize that leadership in you.

2. Because you have been the product of a good value system, at home and in your company, and are in no need of making your pile, which is what our politics has become.

3. Because with your vision, hard work, determination and dedication you have made the world aware of the existence of a country like India.

Karnataka is currently under President’s Rule, and I hear this situation may well continue until April next year. We, the people of Karnataka, could not have asked for a better opportunity provided by this interregnum, to go in for a course-correction and set right the situation.

Which is why, I and several of my friends believe someone like you should float a political party.

# We believe that somebody like you at the helm you will be the right motivation for ordinary, middle-class, educated people like us, who have been detached and divorced from the dreadful politics of the recent past, to get interested in the polity. There are thousands who are keeping quiet and swallowing the shame as there is no person with strong values to lead the masses.

# We believe that somebody like you will remove the stain of dirty money that has become the curse of our politics. The reason our system has become corrupt is because our elections cost big money. And that is because it takes a lot of money to motivate innocent, ignorant people to vote for unwanted characters. With your image, there will be no need of that.

# We believe that with your record of creating a top-notch company from scratch and taking it to far corners of the globe, the people are already aware of your abilities. They know you are not in it for money, that you are in it for the good of the people and the State, and that you will be able to provide the stable governance that the State desperately needs.

# We believe that with television available in every part of Karnataka, we can carry your message into every home and heart effectively. This is the only way I can think of, going forward, if we want to reinstall the value system in our youngsters, who are already running away to other countries in search of a better life and surprisingly better values.

I know that the word “politics” can be scary. It can be dark, dirty, dangerous. But if Al Gore could show that even a politician can turn around and create awareness of environmental issues, I am positive that a good business entrepreneur like you can step into politics and lead the way for change in Karnataka.

There is no need to be scared. What can happen at worst? We may lose the elections, but at least we will have the satisfaction of having tried and failed, instead of being a silent party to the crime—the daylight robbery that is taking place of our values, wealth, heritage, image, reputation, and future.

I request you to bid goodbye to Infosys, pass on the IT keys to the boys and girls you have so brilliantly inspired and nurtured, and join us for a social reorientation in our mother land, Karnataka.

The time is opportune for a new project, Nandan.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

S.K. Shama Sundara

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Photograph: Karnataka Photo News

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Also read: Why Narayana Murthy will make a poor president

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