In the Rajiv Gandhi era, Sam Pitroda was the country's top technocrat. Rahul Gandhi has now given him a caste identity - Vishwakarma, a member of the other backward castes.
From Rajiv's mission technology to Rahul's mission UP has been a long journey for Satyanarayan Gangaram
Pitroda, 70, advisor to the prime minister. The Orissa-born technocrat had never flaunted his caste. But now, for the Congress, he is the "proud son of a carpenter".
Sam Pitroda, advisor to Prime Minister on Public Information, Infrastructure and Innovations, during the 'FICCI Higher Education Summit 2011' in New Delhi. PTI Photo/Atul Yadav
The conversion occurred at a rally in Kanpur Dehat last December, when the AICC general secretary introduced Pitroda as "Vishwakarma-Barahi". Gandhi said Pitroda, a carpenter by caste, was the one who brought mobile phones during the Rajiv era.
The message was clear: the man who shaped India's telecommunication policy was the "most forward face" of the "most backward" - and a poll plank for the Congress.
Asked why he was being projected as the face of backward castes, Pitroda said, "I am a carpenter's son. This is an unchangeable truth. All that Rahul Gandhi did was to mention it."
In Kanpur, where Pitroda released the party's vision 2020 document, he also interacted with leaders of the Vishwakarma community.
"My caste is forgotten when my name is mentioned. People see me as a technocrat," Pitroda said. "This happened because I have redefined myself. I want to tell the marginalised segment to grab the opportunities and redefine itself. This is how we can take UP forward."
Would he campaign for the party? "Yes, but in my spare time," Pitroda said.
(With inputs from Haider Naqvi in Kanpur)