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It’s 7.30 am and one of the early birds at the Madurai Idly Shop, dressed in jeans and a kurta, is a man who till recently lived a process-driven work life. In these past couple of weeks, the six sigma has given way to a disruptive business model. A typical day for V Balakrishnan involves walking the streets of Bangalore, riding an open-top jeep, waiting outside technology parks and visiting slums—scenes that make his 20-odd years at Infosys look like something from a past life. It’s no less hectic, however, fighting an election as a candidate of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which the former Infosys board member once described as one of the most successful start-ups by an IIT-ian ever.
Bala, as he is better known in the Indian software industry circles, is sitting down to a breakfast of two idlis and an uddina vada with coconut chutney and sambar, having put in an hour on the campaign trail speaking to voters in a park adjoining Bangalore’s upmarket residential locality of Indiranagar. It’s his staple breakfast these days when he is usually out of the house at sun-up and not back before 9:30 pm.
“I knew it is going to be hectic, but I never thought it would be so hectic,” says the 48-year-old, whose small campaign party of AAP members have occupied a few tables at the restaurant. It’s a far cry from the large processions of party workers and supporters that trail behind politicians from other parties, including his former colleague Nandan Nilekani. He seems to be learning the hard way.
“I won’t call it the hard way. I think it is the right way to do it. All these years, elections were fought on three things: money power, muscle power and caste. The AAP is decimating all these things so I think this is the right way to fight elections,” says Bala. He has finished a cup of coffee and is ready to get back on the road. It’s a bus ride this time, and the band sporting Gandhi caps and brooms set out.
Bangalore Central, from where Bala is contesting Lok Sabha elections, spreads across the heart of the city and is a seat with a large population of minorities. He is up against PC Mohan, BJP’s sitting Member of Parliament, and Rizwan Arshad, a Congress youth wing leader. “If what happened in Delhi happens here, we will win,”