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The entry of former Infosys executives Nandan Nilekani and V Balakrishnan into politics was touted as a gamechanger. But as election results trickled in on Friday, the technocrats found themselves swept away by an unstoppable Modi wave.
The battle for Bangalore South waged by Nandan Nilekani wasn’t the easiest to call, but the IT czar’s defeat margin of 2.29 lakh votes to BJP national general secretary HN Ananth Kumar turned out to be the surprise element. The contest saw the political rookie take on a five-term veteran with a tech-savvy campaign that drew a large number of volunteers from the city’s IT industry.
The scene at Nilekani's election war-room in Bangalore’s Jayanagar locality said it all on Friday afternoon, as team members trooped out, struck by disbelief at the margin of loss.
“We thought we had escaped any wave because the Bangalore election was held a month ago. But it was there,” said a member of Nilekani's campaign, which was focussed on local issues and projected the Infosys co-founder as the city’s voice in Delhi.
Nilekani polled 4,03,886 votes while Ananth Kumar, who won the seat for the sixth time since 1996, got 6,32,906. In the adjacent Bangalore Central constituency, Nilekani’s former Infosys colleague, V Balakrishnan, polled just 39,869 votes on an AAP ticket.
“This was a hard-fought campaign,” Nilekani said after conceding defeat. “We’ve been part of a historic democratic exercise. We saw the highest voter turnout in world history, with 55 crore people voting across the country. I am humbled to have been part of this extraordinary process. I respect the choice that the voters have made.”
The Bangalore South constituency is home to a large middle-class population that has benefitted from the IT boom and the Congress last won a Lok Sabha election there in 1989.
Nilekani, however, had polled more votes than the Congress candidate in the 2009 elections when Kumar’s victory margin was a mere 37,612 votes.
“This has traditionally been a BJP seat. Ananth Kumar skillfully made it a Modi versus Rahul Gandhi election,” said Sandeep Shastri, a political commentator and pro-vice chancellor of the Bangalore-based Jain University.
“It was also that the individual was right, but the platform was wrong,” he said.
“I may not have the opportunity to serve you as an MP, but my work for Bangalore continues,” said Nilekani, the richest candidate in the country with assets of nearly R7,700 crore.
“It is a Modi tsunami