Nandan Nilekani: From meritocracy to reservation politics!

Nandan Nilekani, while heading Infosys, never had second thoughts on recruiting people other than those who secured the highest grade. However, he is now all for reservations and wooing 'poor' voters

Many people are surprised at the rapid conversion of Nandan Nilekani, the former head honcho of Infosys into a 'typical' political leader of the Congress party. His remarks over the weekend about reservation in the private sector left many people wondering as to why this was not implemented when he was heading Infosys, the country's second largest IT company.


Speaking with reporters at Bangalore Press Club, Nilekani said that reservations in private sector are necessary. “In India, certain sections of the society because of historical reasons were handicapped and thus require a leg up through reservations. Even at Infosys we tried encouraging people of all backgrounds," Nilekani was quoted as saying in a report from


Even in his book, ‘Imagining India’, Nilekani had advocated a 'marks subsidy' for backward classes (page 302, Extra Marks in Exams). The question, however, is what stopped Nilekani from implementing this when he was heading the country's second top IT services company. Interestingly, even today, Infosys employs only people who have scored high(est) grade in first attempt and there is no reservation policy. It is proud to be a merit-based organisation


Reacting indirectly on Nilekani's views about reservation in private sector, TV Mohandas Pai, former chief financial officer and head of human resources, tweeted: "selling his soul for power; made his money in the company wedded to meritocracy."


What Nilekani has spoken is all his party bosses are trying to use as an election gimmick to woo voters. According to a report from Economic Times, Congress, which goes into the general elections facing a major anti-incumbency wave, is desperate to woo its traditional vote base of dalits and scheduled tribes that has been weaned away by parties such as BSP and BJP.


"In the recent assembly elections, Congress has won only six of the 91 reserved seats for scheduled castes, down from 38 seats in 2008. The party hopes the slew of promises in education, employment and quality of life for these groups will help it win back some of their support. A major cornerstone of this approach would be reservation in private sector jobs, a move that was proposed in the 2004 and 2009 manifestos but could not be pushed by UPA," the report says.


According to media reports, Congress is trying to include a proposal to legislate job reservations for scheduled class and scheduled tribes (SC/STs) in private companies with investments worth Rs100 crore or employing 1,000 people. It also wants to introduce reservation in private schools for class I admissions, free post-matriculate education and a Rs25,000 voucher for every graduate.


Nilekani, who till last week was chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and had been enforcing the Aadhaar number based on biometrics on Indians. On Thursday, he resigned as chief of UIDAI and jumped into 'active' politics on Sunday as Congress candidate from south Bengaluru constituency.


While the Supreme Court has ruled that the unique identification (UID) number or Aadhaar is not mandatory to avail essential services from the government, it was Nilekani who was making sure that it is made mandatory by using governmental clout with oil companies and banks. This is because, he was either heading or part of every committee or group that was turning the 'voluntary' Aadhaar number into mandatory one. (Nandan Nilekani is part of every committee and group that is making Aadhaar mandatory )

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    Gaurav Juneja

    4 years ago

    Its a well known fact that team runs at the pace of its slowest team member, same is applicable for a Nation. If you put weakest section of the society on the top , Nation will fall. as happened once with the Greece ,they were the strongest culture once and now the weakest in Europe , not able to sustain themselves even with the huge aids and favours


    4 years ago

    Reservation has only slowed and at times stopped the Growth of this country, knowing this , politicians want to further hinder the growth by allowing reservations in private sector!! Govt. will fall , people will fight and kill each other , their will only be chaos and destruction - mark it, bad to worst times are ahead.


    6 years ago


    Narayanaswami Natarajan

    6 years ago

    It just shows what a deadly virus politics is. The transformation of Nandan as a politician had already begun a couple of years back. he had decided to maintain opacity ( No RTI or Parliamentary disclosures) regarding the financial contracts doled out to private players for thousands of crores to dubious Foreign companies and Indians. Obviously he had cooperated with the manipulators of the Government. . FIRs have been registered against some Indian contractors. Next he gave a certificate of character to ruling politicians. Now he has turned totally local and parochial as if he is fighting a municipal election, forgetting he is standing for Lok Sabha where national priorities have to be furthered. He wants to bat for Bengaluru and its wards! He wants reservations in the private sector based on caste and religion.One only hopes he will be be rejected by the electorate. Otherwise being the richest bidder he may realize his ambitions and it will be bode well for the country.

    Satish Bhopale

    7 years ago

    I pray, he should loose election. AADHAAR is a big burden on Indian economy. He made all the efforts to make profit to Congress govt by introducing this NIRADHAAR scheme. He will not win from Bangalre. Even No man from Busines win the election, if he win he will apply his power to grow his business. During Nandan Nilekani removed more employees from Infosys. He will not allow to make changes in poor labor low of India


    7 years ago

    People should come out and vote out the parties which speak of reservation in corporate sector. That's the only solace left after our children secure 99.99% in school exams. Don't let the politicians snatch away this!

    Politicians: pls invest to elevate "lower" caste people through right to education bill and not through reservations.


    7 years ago

    Is that what Lessons Nandan got from from IIT?

    Surprising really? No.... the environment is made so deeply corrupt, Politicos want to maintain these levels of Sub-casts, Poovery so low that like last 65 years they can rule another 65 decades! Issues systematically brought up before and are closed immediately after elections.
    Why do we need this hippocratic Democracy following Leaders?

    ...& even Nandan has to follow?

    M Muralidharan

    7 years ago

    Disgusting face of Nandan ...


    B Ramesh Adiga

    In Reply to M Muralidharan 6 years ago

    . . . Hopefully, he may not enter parliament.

    Mahesh Kumar Tennati

    7 years ago

    Mr. Pai's comment is spot on. No doubt there is a need for reservation, but there should be level playing field for all and merit should be the only criteria for jobs/education/promotion etc. Reservation my means of financial assistance should be adopted rather than killing talent.

    Rule by ordinance: No other parliamentary democracy, except India, has it

    The Parliament could have passed some of the pending Bills, including the Grievances Redress Bill and the Whistle-blowers Bill. However, the self-flagellation and ego of the Congress combined with antics of the Opposition turned everything topsy-turvy

    There was recently a frantic race among Congressmen how to persuade the President of India to issue a couple of ordinances because the young master, Rahul Gandhi, desired it. It is a different matter that none of the proposed laws were opposed by the Opposition. Had the House managers done their homework, Parliament could have passed some of the pending Bills, including the Grievances Redress Bill and the Whistle-blowers Bill. The self-flagellation and ego of the Congress combined with antics of the Opposition turned everything topsy-turvy. The Telangana Bill, with both major political parties indulging in political manoeuvring, was passed by voice vote, embellished by a peppery spray and a shameless failure of live TV coverage of the proceedings of the House (one does not yet know the villain - the government has not held an inquiry).

    And pray, how come Rahul is so insistent on the ordinance route when, in the matter of disqualification of convicted legislators, he had publicly shamed the Prime Minister and his government by tearing the ordinance!

    Can the President accept an ordinance when both Houses are not going to meet before the general election in May 2014 and there is going to be a new Lok Sabha? It would amount to shredding the Constitution, if the President were to approve the ordinances, which in law were never deliberated by the members of the Lok Sabha. Are the newly elected Lok Sabha members expected to initiate their work with old Bills? I have not much objection to the broad contours of the Bills - I myself have been a public signatory to a statement demanding that before the dissolution of the Lok Sabha, the Bills on public grievances and whistle blowers be passed. But somehow it did not happen. With time having run out, democracies cannot resort to devious methods.

    I am aghast at the drama of ordinances for all these weeks in the Press. If the government was genuinely keen on having these Bills passed, what stopped it from extending the session by a few days? Unless the ruling party was manoeuvring to acclaim Rahul Gandhi as the sole Mr Clean of India, in the melodramatic repetition of the 1940 movie of Hollywood decades back, namely “Mr Smith Goes to Washington” and the more recent Bollywood version equally well-crafted and starring Amitabh Bachchan, “Main Azad Hoon” — I fail to understand why his followers did not insist on extending the session for a couple of days to pass these Bills, which certainly would have received no opposition. Of course, if the real intent was to seek a mileage, then unfortunately the move has backfired.

    Even if the President had been persuaded to issue the ordinances, these would have had no validity or life and the new Lok Sabha would have to pass them afresh. Was this fuss worth even a penny?

    A vibrant democracy is not governed by ordinances. This provision is an anathema to a democratic Republic. I feel that the ordinance issuing power is an anachronism dating back to the colonial Acts of 1919 and 1935 and it should be deleted from the Constitution. No other parliamentary democracy has such an undemocratic provision.

    The Supreme Court has firmly held in the Wadhwa’s case (1987) that the power conferred on the Governor to issue ordinances is in the nature of an emergency power for taking immediate action when the legislature is not in session. The primary law-making action under the Constitution is with the legislature and not the executive. The power to promulgate an ordinance is essentially a power to be used to meet an extraordinary situation and it cannot be allowed to be “perverted to serve political ends” (emphasis supplied). “It is contrary to all democratic norms that the executive should have the power to serve political ends”.

    A similar provision empowers the President under Article 123 of the Constitution. This is a hangover from the colonial period but then we have retained gleefully many remnants of the British law like sedition, applicability of which is causing havoc in the lives of young activists, especially those belonging to minorities. This power of issuing an ordinance has no place in a democratic country.

    Consider the ground rules of the situation. The general election is to be held in a couple of months. On a conservative estimate, a minimum of half the existing members of the Lok Sabha are going to be defeated. Should these rejected politicians forestall the right of the new members either to accept or modify radically the said legislation? It was unseemly for the government to start stray winds of gossip and news items indirectly to gauge the reaction of the President if the ordinances were sent to him.

    We have the answer. Democratic norms and conventions in the country have at last been reiterated eloquently by the quiet, dignified and steadfast stand of President Pranab Mukherjee in refusing to give consent to the ordinances, notwithstanding the frantic legal erudition of P Chidambaram. The President was not moved by the almost tearful lament of Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid, saying how the rejection has come in the way of Rahul Gandhi’s vision. Khurshid should not take it to heart because the coming general election will give all the opportunity to Rahul Gandhi to test his vision. Now that the question of ordinances is over, I hope Rahul and his seasoned advisers will remember the old admonition: “Be you ever so high, the law is above you”.

    (The writer is a former Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court)

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    6 years ago

    Excellent Article. The Ministers have Become so Headstrong feeling that they can do anything as they Fancy.The way AP Reorganisation Bill was Passed by Loksabha is most Disgusting . Moosevani Voting ,Keeping in Dark all Indians , is Most Inappropriate.All Ministers are only in Hurry to Execute Madame's Orders ,somehow.Parliament Speaker has not even Broadcasted the Proceedings Later.Even in Rajya Sabha the Chairman has only asked BJP if it Supports the Bill and on Confirmation He mentally Concluded that Bill is Passed.Even when all Opposition Parties Insisted on Voting on a Point,he did not allow, but looked at Govt. Benches and THeir Point is Negated telling the Conclusion of Moosevani Voting.
    Moosvani Voting System is worth Dropping for Important Bills in Parliaments and Assemblies , as Indian's Can not make out whether YESses are More OR Nos are more in Numbers.
    Radical Changes are Required, to maintain Democracy Decorum.

    Kejriwal says media 'sold out' to Narendra Modi

    Kicking off a fresh controversy, AAP leader Kejriwal alleged that 'heavy amounts' have been paid to promote Narendra Modi

    Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Arvind Kejriwal has accused the 'whole' media of being 'sold out' to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s prime ministerial candidate and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi. Kejriwal also threatened to send media people to jail after an inquiry into the issue if AAP comes to power.


    “The whole media is sold out this time, it is a big conspiracy, a huge political controversy. If our government comes to power, then we will set up an inquiry into this. And along with the media people, all will be sent to jail,” he said, hitting out at the media for focusing on his security deployment.


    Kicking off a fresh controversy, Kejriwal alleged that 'heavy amounts' have been paid to promote BJP’s prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi.


    But he later denied having made the accusations against the media after his remarks came under attack from the Congress, BJP and CPI.


    “Since the last one year, we have been told that Modi is here, Modi is there. Since one year, Modi has also been saying that. Even some TV channels have been saying that ‘Ram Rajya’ has come and corruption has vanished....Why did they do it? Because money has been paid to TV channels. Heavy amounts have been paid to promote Modi,” Kejriwal alleged in a video aired by a TV channel.


    “Around 800 farmers have committed suicide in Gujarat in the past 10 years, but none of the channels showed it,” he alleged and added that farmers have sold their land to a company for just “one rupee but even this has not been shown by any channel”.


    However, as the video went viral, the AAP leader denied making the remarks.


    “I didn’t say that. I didn’t say anything. How can I be upset with you (media),” he said.

  • User 



    7 years ago

    Those who are watching the different channel on TV News can confirm the validity of the accusation.Sad to say it is street
    fight against each other including
    anchor. .News are far away from reality insome of electronic media.Sad for democracy

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