I am personally very thrilled to read that Nandan Nilekani may get into mainstream politics and I do believe that he has everything in him to be a very successful political leader. His ability to bring convergence to divergent views on any particular issue is what makes him a very successful leader. At Infosys, after NRN, he was one leader who connected very well with almost every stakeholder and was looked upon as a role model not only by employees, but even by customers. Above all, his ability to articulate his ideas and vision is what made me and lot of others connect with him at Infosys, the void that was not filled at Infosys until NRN came back recently. Like Thomas Friedman said, Nandan's ability to grasp complex issues and paint the big picture in simple language makes him a very effective leader.
The skeptics who argued that just because you have been a successful business leader does not mean that you can become a successful political leader have got a reply to some extent as Nandan has been able to overcome the political hurdles that he faced as Chairman of UIDAI. Skeptics don't realize that there is enough politics across the board in large corporations that business leaders have to navigate through! So, that gives enough experience of politics to start with and also brings that added value of being results oriented.... :-)
Then there are skeptics who say that Dr. Manmohan Singh has been a failure because he was not a mainstream political leader and so Technocrats cannot be Political Leaders. I have a lot of respect for Dr. Manmohan Singh because he gave India the second freedom in 1991 which allowed every Indian the freedom to not only dream big but also realize their dreams. Having said that, I do believe that Dr. Manmohan Singh has let the middle class down during the second term of UPA. The political system of India paralyzed him and did not allow him to function - not that I am blaming anyone else, Dr. Singh should have taken personal accountability and stepped down instead of staying there paralyzed. Dr. Singh also lacked the ability to communicate with citizens who had voted for UPA just because he was the projected Prime Minister candidate. If he had been an effective communicator, the entire nation would have rallied behind him to make him successful.
Having said that, coming back to Nandan, I believe that there is difference between a Technocrat and a Business Leader. Nandan is often referred to as a Technocrat, and since he is a technology leader he is a Technocrat, but more importantly he is a Business Leader who has earned respect globally. This quality is what has made him successful as UIDAI Chairman and I believe will continue to make him successful as a political leader. Also, he is great at ideation, articulation of those ideas, bringing consensus around those ideas, execution, measuring results and continuous improvement based on results....
Nandan has set an example for citizens and middle class in particular to be part of the nation building and change process. However, in our country we still need a model where young leaders can look at politics as a genuine career option. Right now, I believe that only two categories of youth / young leaders look at politics as a career option - (a) people who have earned or inherited enough to not worry about family's lifestyle and a monthly pay cheque and (b) unemployed, uneducated youth who have nothing else to do join and so they politics to make some quick (and dirty) money.
Can we create a model where one can go and interview for a job in a political party, negotiate salary, benefits, severance etc? If we are able to create that model, we will see more middle class participation in mainstream nation building process. Otherwise, it gets limited to expressing frustration on Facebook, nice drawing room conversations, writing blogs, maybe attending a rally when time permits and feel good about it....
Can we create a model where switching to a government job for a period of time and coming back to corporate world is a seamless process? There is so much talent in our country that can be tapped to boost governance and bring some new ideas but there is just no model to tap that talent.
Can people who are passionate about Narendra Modi take a career break, join his campaign to make him successful and come back to their careers after the elections are over? There is just no model for that as most in middle class need that monthly pay cheque to keep them going. Will this campaign experience get counted as valuable experience when they come back to corporate? Political leaders of India need to create such models to speed up the nation building process and tap national talent for that.
Of course, by doing our day jobs, all of us are in some way or the other contributing to nation building but we do need more seamless integration of political process with our society for a common middle class Indian to participate and make a difference.
Would love to hear your views on this topic....