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Former IT czars lose in tech city

Ananth Kumar at the counting centre. Bangalore News Photos

Bangalore, May 16: Techies fielded as potential game-changers had a forgettable day with former Infosys co-founders Nandan Nilekani and V. Balakrishnan losing badly in India’s IT city.

The Congress’s gamble of fielding ex-CEO Nandan Nilekani against five-time MP Ananth Kumar failed as he was no match for the BJP heavyweight in Bangalore South.

Former CFO V. Balakrishnan, an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) nominee, ended a dismal third in Bangalore Central, which re-elected the BJP’s P.C. Mohan.

The Congress, which had gone into the fight expecting anti-incumbency to work against Kumar, was in for a shock today when he pulled off his best-ever show in six elections and trounced Nilekani by 2.29 lakh votes.

However, Nilekani — who last worked as the head of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) that issues Aadhaar cards — mustered a credible 4.03 lakh votes in the traditional BJP stronghold against Kumar’s over 6 lakh votes. But in neighbouring Bangalore Central, the AAP’s Balakrishnan bagged only 39,869 votes.

Nilekani, initially reluctant to speak to the media at the counting centre, later conceded defeat and congratulated Kumar.

Despite Nilekani’s defeat, the Congress won nine of Karnataka’s 28 seats, an increase of three from 2009. The BJP topped with 17 but it was lower than its 2009 tally of 19.

The Janata Dal (Secular) bagged only two seats — against three in 2009 — one of them won by former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda in Hassan. Gowda’s son, former chief minister and Dal (Secular) president H.D. Kumaraswamy, lost from Chikkaballapur.

Back in Bangalore, Nilekani tried to put on a brave face. “I have no regrets. Of course, I am dissatisfied that I didn’t win. I had a very good experience, and great support from the party (the Congress) and the volunteers who worked for me. I will continue to contribute to Bangalore in a non-elected capacity,” said the honcho.

“I’m here to stay in politics and it’s not as if mine is a one-election story,” Nilekani added, before driving away with wife Rohini in the white Innova that had been virtually his home during the month-long campaign before the April 17 polls.

The AAP’s Balakrishnan seemed to take the loss in his stride. “I have gained immensely by participating in this election, especially when ‘change’ was the most prominent slogan all around.” He did not specify if he would continue in politics.

In a major setback to Congress chief minister P.C. Siddaramiah, his home turf Mysore was won by a BJP newcomer. A former journalist, Pratap Simha, defeated the Congress’s outgoing MP, A.H. Vishwanath, in the Mysore-Kodagu constituency by over 31,000 votes.

But the ruling Congress played down the blow. “We accept the verdict of the people of Karnataka, but our state government will complete its full term and serve the people,” state unit president G. Parameshwar said. He added that party leaders would take stock of the defeat. “We are sure to re-build our party as we have made several comebacks after setbacks.”

Dal (Secular) chief Kumaraswamy accepted his failure but reasoned it was “the people’s wish to have him in the state”. “The people don’t want me to go to Parliament but stay on in Karnataka and work for them,” said Kumaraswamy, who is already an MLA and likely to continue as one.

Kumaraswamy could only come third in a tight battle between Congress veteran Veerappa Moily and Bacche Gowda of the BJP in Chikkaballapur. Moily, the Union petroleum minister, won.

Four of six former chief ministers in the Lok Sabha fray won. These included Deve Gowda, Moily, B.S. Yeddyurappa and D.V. Sadananda Gowda, with the last two having headed BJP governments. Yeddyurappa and Sadananda Gowda pulled off landslides in Shimoga and Bangalore North respectively.

The two ex-chief ministers who lost were Kumaraswamy and the Congress’s Dharam Singh, trumped by a newbie, Bhagavath Khuba of the BJP.

Other major winners were outgoing railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge of the Congress in Gulbarga. He beat his BJP rival by 74,733 votes.

Among the prominent losers were former Union minister Janardhan Poojary, trounced by sitting BJP MP Nalin Kumar Kateel by 1.43 lakh votes in Mangalore.