Can Ananth Kumar connect with the youth like Nandan Nilekani?

While the nation's focus is fixed on Delhi at the moment, thanks to the success of Arvind Kejriwal and his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), something interesting is developing down south, in Bangalore. The upcoming general election is likely to witness an interesting contest between IT czar Nandan Nilekani and five-time sitting MP Ananth Kumar in the prestigious Bangalore South constituency and both sides are doing their bits to improve the poll prospects.

Youth is a natural target, but who's better at it?

Both Nilekani and Kumar, for example, have targetted the youth, which is set to play a decisive role in the next Lok Sabha election. The constituency is an urban one and comprises upscale and poor localities with a sizeable youth population engaged in the Information Technology sectors, more so a reason for Nilekani and Kumar to woo the young voters.

But, how much successful can Ananth Kumar be in trying to challenge Nilekani's connection with the youth? The BJP leader, for example, has organised an inter-collegiate cricket tournament in Jayanagar in Bangalore and the tournament has been named as Ananth-Modi Trophy. The BJP leader has tried to make use of the name of Narendra Modi, the party's face for the next Lok Sabha polls, to reach out to the youth.

Nilekani himself connects to the youth while Ananth Kumar takes Modi's 'help'

There is a touch of desperation in the initiative of Kumar to woo the youth. May be the decreasing vote-share over the years has made him desperate (Ananth Kumar's vote share in the 1999 polls was 53 per cent which came down to 48.2 per cent in 2009). In the 2013 assembly elections, four of the eight of the Lok Sabha segments in Bangalore South went to the BJP, which is worse than the 5-3 result in favour of Kumar in the 2009 national polls.

What makes Nilekani, a fresher, more relevant?

But how does Nilekani, a newcomer, becomes so relevant in the scheme of things? His importance is explained by two factors. First, he is a man of great public reputation. V Balakrishnan, former CFO of Infosys and colleague of Nilekani, who recently joined the AAP, supported Nilekani's candidature saying ultimately it is the people with clean records who are wanted as MPs and MLAs. He said the country needs candidates like Nilekani to come to power and even added that if the latter contested the elections, he would canvas support for him. This is what makes the Nilekani story important.

Whether he has done anything for Bangalore at the grassroots level is secondary for he had never been in public administration. What is more important is that the 'changing India' of today is more eager to find its voice in people who are clean and have made significant contributions towards the society (Nilekani's contribution towards the branding of Bangalore can't be overlooked).

Secondly, the youth identifies it more with people like Nilekani. While the IT man can directly connect himself with a young audience, politicians like Ananth Kumar has to seek a 'support' of pro-youth leader like Narendra Modi to promote himself. This is a big difference between a reputed citizen willing to serve the people and an established politician losing his popular base.

Nilekani engages with youth to understand their problems

On Thursday, Nilekani engaged with young people at Dream A Dream, a social organisation in Bangalore where he understood the cause of the youngsters' disappointment with the 'system' and spoke about his vision about Bangalore (Read blog here). On Friday, he spoke to a young audience at Christ College (Read here) in the city also on how to take the city forward.

[Read: What Nandan Nilekani told the press in Bangalore]

Ananth Kumar thinks youth is only after fun?

Has Ananth Kumar engaged with the youth to understand their problems in a similar manner? His initiative for a cricket tournament in the name of Modi looks shallow in comparison with Nilekani's serious engagement with the youngsters, who are the future of the nation.

There is a method in whatever you do and at this point of time, Nilekani's style looks more effective.

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