'Net' gain for Nilekani in battle against BJP, AAP

  • Sudipto Mondal, Hindustan Times, Bangalore
  • |
  • Updated: Apr 14, 2014 10:15 IST

Infosys co-founder and head of Aadhar programme Nandan Nilekani addresses a student gathering in Bangalore. (AFP photo)

Not too long ago, the web-based style of campaigning of Together With Nandan (TWN) in Bangalore South was ridiculed for being disconnected from the grassroots, elitist even. But with the polling day approaching, nobody seems to be laughing anymore at the 1,500-strong TWN volunteers group, many of who are corporate employees on a sabbatical.

They appear to have achieved the target that was set for them – enroll as many new voters as possible from the urban, educated, English-speaking class. Their logic: this segment would be naturally attracted to the suave, sophisticated Nandan Nilekani.

Nilekani’s young volunteers are said to have employed the same methods that the BJP and its supporters in the Sangh have become masters in – booth level management. “But we don’t just sit around and spam people’s inboxes. Our volunteers have actually knocked on at least 500,000 doors asking people to enroll,” says a TWN volunteer.

The Election Commission’s stats show there are 2.14 lakh new voters in Bangalore South.

As a result, there are nearly 20 lakh registered voters in the constituency, making it one of the largest in Karnataka. Volunteers of TWN, Youth Congress and NSUI claim that they have helped at least one lakh people enter the poll muster. ABVP, RSS and BJP volunteers claim to have enrolled more.

Both camps, however, agree that the new voters are overwhelmingly from the upper strata – Nilekani’s target group. But this is the segment responsible for the stereotype that Bangalore South’s residents are ‘too posh to push the button’. Only 47% of the voters here turned up at polling booths in the 2013 assembly elections.

If all these first-timers vote with the same enthusiasm that they enrolled on the electoral list, Bangalore South might spring a few surprises. And the party that helped enroll the maximum voters will benefit most from this unprecedented surge in voter interest.

Dismissing these calculations, Nina Nayak of the AAP believes that the spike in voter interest is a result of the prolonged struggle against corruption launched by India Against Corruption.

Strangely, despite the number of their leaders the anti-corruption movement consumed, supporters of BJP’s five-time Bangalore South MP Ananth Kumar also believe that the voter surge was caused by IAC. “This anti-corruption mood will only help us,” says Kumar’s principal strategist Narayan Gambhir.

But a Congress campaign manager says, “Both Nilekani and AAP enjoy huge support within the IT fraternity. The BJP hopes to benefit from a split in this vote base.”

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