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Nilekani on seat recce

Bangalore, Jan. 21: Former IT czar Nandan Nilekani is edging closer to being nominated Congress candidate for the Bangalore South Lok Sabha seat despite intra-party objections to parachuting a non-member.

Believed to be a direct entry courtesy Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul, the 58-year-old chairperson of the Unique Identification Authority of India now looks certain to take on the sitting five-time BJP MP, Ananth Kumar.

Karnataka Congress sources confirmed today that Nilekani, a founding member of Infosys, would be nominated as the high command did not want to consider any one else for the seat.

“There are objections from several local leaders, including state ministers. But everyone has to follow what the high command wants,” said a senior leader who is in line to be nominated for one of Karnataka’s 28 seats.

“The Bangalore South seat has several candidates, at least a couple of them with the backing of strong local leaders. But none would get a chance if Nandan wants to contest,” he said.

State food and civil supplies minister Dinesh Gundu Rao, who has a considerable following in Bangalore, has even written to the party backing his candidate U.B. Venkatesh, a realtor. But senior leaders decried the move.

Although speculation about Nilekani’s intentions began after he looked up state Congress chief G. Parameshwar in December, he has of late been meeting district-level leaders and city corporators to seek support.

Nilekani took time off yesterday to go around the Bangalore South constituency and meet local leaders. Sources said he would apply for primary membership of the Congress and could even get inducted in Delhi.

Former IT minister B.K. Chandrashekar told The Telegraph today that Nilekani was a “man of great achievement and I have met him a few times (as a minister in S.M. Krishna’s cabinet).”

“Anybody would want to welcome people like him who would have ideas for something new in what they do,” he said.

However, he said his nomination could be a tricky issue as Nilekani was not even a primary member of the Congress. “I wish he had decided on this at least six months back. It’s a tricky situation as BJP and RSS have some hold here (Bangalore South constituency).”

Chandrashekar objected to Gundu Rao writing to the party high command for his candidate. “This amounts to bypassing protocol as he should have routed all communications through the state president.”

Gundu Rao could not be reached for comment.

Indications that Nilekani had begun charming party leaders emerged when the state Congress OBC wing president, M.V. Venugopal, said: “I’m sure Nandan Nilekani will give a tough fight to the BJP.”

All four MLAs from Bangalore South have extended support to Nilekani. “All of them will work hard for Nilekani,” said Venugopal.

Although state party president Parameshwar has remained silent on Nilekani’s entry, sources close to him said he didn’t have much of a choice. “He can only obey the high command. It’s something like Shashi Tharoor getting a direct entry via the high command in the Kerala capital last time,” he said.

Sources said Nilekani would head to Delhi after meeting more state leaders whose support was vital for him. As in his Infosys days, Nilekani stayed away from media glare.