Nandan Nilekani: From meritocracy to reservation politics!
Moneylife Digital Team 18 March 2014

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 )

Gaurav Juneja
8 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
8 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.
Replied to Gaurav comment 2 years ago
Reservation doesn't have any impact on the growth of the country , as only 1% of employment has reservation 99% percent is merit based , reservation mostly applies in educational institutions that too government funded , reservation may impact if much of reservations are given in employment untill it doesn't and more over India is not the only country to have quotas many other countries have provided quotas for oppressed communities called affirmative actions and USA, china, russia, south africa Israel have it not just in india. But reservations are not good , as far here reservation doesn't impact any growth
10 years ago
Narayanaswami Natarajan
10 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
10 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
10 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.
10 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
10 years ago
Disgusting face of Nandan ...
B Ramesh Adiga
Replied to M Muralidharan comment 10 years ago
. . . Hopefully, he may not enter parliament.
Replied to B Ramesh Adiga comment 2 years ago
He again said that there is need of generating more jobs then reservation such that even sc/st don't need to ask reservation
Mahesh Kumar Tennati
10 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.
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