“Who are the IT guys backing?”
That is the kind of question anybody who equates Bangalore with IT and IT alone asks.
Nobody asks who the garment guys are backing although they are far more in number than the IT guys.
On one level, the question “Who are the IT guys are backing?” is based on a presupposition. And a vague assumption that the more literate IT guy is somehow more politically aware and therefore more demanding of his politics than the guy who works in, say, BEL or BEML.
Is there any evidence of that?
On another level, it is revealing of the exaggerated role IT has come to occupy in our public discourse. America is going to the polls in six months, but has anybody seen a story on whether Microsoft is backing Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama?
Tapping into the IT consciousness of Bangalore has, in other words, become a lazy media’s first response of sneaking their preferred names and brands into the copy under the mistaken assumption that what is good for IT is good for the city.
And by extension for the state.
That can’t be completely true, can it?
Therefore the answer to the question “Who are the IT guys backing?” is not simple.
The IT community is obviously not a homogeneous whole. It is not as if all the companies and all their personnel, Indian or foreign, big or small, all have the same thoughts, same wants, and the same political leanings.
IT in Bangalore is not just Infosys and Wipro, IBM and Intel. There are at least other 2,000 other IT companies besides them.
The other reason why an answer is difficult is that many of those who work in the IT industry, in fact most of those who work in the ITES and BPO sector, are not all registered voters in Karnataka, having come from various states.
So when somebody asks you who the IT guys are backing, you wonder if the IT set like Lingayats and Vokkaligas and Kurubas is now being seen by the outside world like another caste, with its own demands, with its own leaders, with its own preferred party.
Imagine, an IT mutt somewhere in Electronic City, and a bearded IT swamiji with bluetooth and BlackBerry instructing his devotees with a raised eyebrow or a wink to vote for this or that party or politician.
But these facts do not stop the media from trying to feel the pulse of the IT industry.
All through this election campaign, there have been odd newspaper reports of how the RSS has opened its own IT shakha and so on. But this is more propaganda than reality.
What is the likelihood, for example, that some team leader would be going around instructing his team to vote for a certain party?
Is this kind of activity allowed after the hoo-ha that broke out after the Sasken guy wrote that allegedly offensive poem on Kannada? And if the IT guys are really smart, would they be listening to some pumped-up bozo telling them which button to click on the electronic voting machine.
In asking who the IT guys are back, we make the fundamental mistake of thinking that IT workers are professionals first before they are citizens.
The truth though is that despite their fat paycheques, they have pretty similar needs as most of the rest of us. Wider roads, greener parks, easy to walk footpaths etc.
Maybe some of them would throw in wi-fi, hassle-free airports, and gated communities.
Still, they use the same water supply, drainage facilities, and garbage removal as normal human beings. So IT guys who are eligible to vote will therefore make his or her choice the same old-fashioned way.
Maybe he will just send an extra email or type Google in his browser before he does so because he has the bandwidth.
Somehow though one suspects that when people ask who the IT guys are backing, they are really asking not about the thousands of foot soldiers but of their generals, the IT chiefs.
What they are really asking is, “Who are the IT companies giving money to?”
On the face of it, though, the squeaky-clean IT chiefs say they do not pay and will never pay. Since most of the big ones are listed companies, an expense of this nature even if it is listed under “education” as Enron did, will get reflected in the annual results.
But you would be really naive to believe that, wouldn’t you.
Despite all the liberalisation, globalisation and privatisation, and the single windows and udyog mitras and all that claptrap, the government still plays the critical role of provider.
Smart IT chiefs recognise that there is valuable land to be gobbled up, STPI licenses to be renewed, tax concessions to be got, etc. So they use their smarts to stay on the right side of the right politicians and massage their egos.
A key indicator of who the IT guys are backing is to be seen in the pages of your newspaper.
Quite clearly it is not JDS and Deve Gowda, especially not after the humble farmer outlined in his manifesto a promise to reserve jobs in IT companies for Kannadigas.
So, of the main parties, it is a toss-up between the Congress and the BJP, with the former having a distinct edge in this area because of the S.M. Krishna experience or at least the perception of the S.M. Krishna experience.
But with no guarantee that Krishna will become CM again, even if the Congrss wins, will the IT guys back the Congress?
On the other hand, the BJP likes to paint itself as the laissez-faire party that wants fewer controls, lower taxes, etc. So, will the IT chiefs plump for BJP after the Atal Behari Vajpayee experience? But what is the guarantee that the BJP will come to power at the Centre?
All very confusing, you see.
The buzz in Bangalore is that a former IT guy is collecting dough for the BSP.
But if the IT companies are so smart, if their CEOs and CFOs and chiefs are so smart, why would they wait all this while to cosy up to their politician or party of choice?
And then again, if they are so smart, they would just spread their favour like the Khodays apparently did a long time ago, and keep everybody happy. So regardless of who wins, it is a win-win for all.