At Parliment
Sign in

At Parliment

*From an INFOSCION to a POLITICION - Nandan's Chronicles - 2*

Continuing my tryst with capturing the life and times of Nandan Nilekani in
his new avatar as a Cabinet Minister, here is what he had penned after his
first day in the Parliament. The last entry stopped when the House was just
about to begin. Let's see what happened thereafter..

The House was in pin drop silence. I was brimming with anticipation and
excitement!!!! Manmohan had informed me that my introduction was one of the
important points of the agenda. I hoped that I will be able to make my
speech properly. After so many interviews and conferences, I was nervous
today!!!! After the Speaker indicated that the proceedings of the House
could begin, Manmohan formally introduced me to the entire House. He
mentioned that as the head of the Unique Identification Authority of India,
I was responsible to ensure that each and every Indian had a digital smart
card as a proof of his existence.

Manmohan spoke about why I was selected and also some references to the
various projects executed by me in Infosys were mentioned. The House
listened with rapt attention. I was asked to say a few words and I did
exactly the same!!! I thanked the Government of India for having given me
this opportunity and I assured the House that I would strive to successfully
deliver this project. The Speaker then formally inducted me into the House
and before the proceedings could move any forward, there was a small
commotion on the other side of the hall.

It was Minister of Textiles who had a comment to make before the next point
on the agenda. He made a request that I should be attired in a more austere
way instead of a flashy suit. It did not go well with the image of a
minister who should live to serve the common man and should be less
ostentatious in his habits. I stood up to reply. I offered my apologies to
the Honourable Minister and assured that I shall be in a more acceptable
dress next time. I felt that he was right. We also used to have corporate
dress code in Infosys. So it's here as well!!!!

I sat down and felt somebody nudging me. I turned around and to my surprise;
it was the former Indian skipper and one of my favourite batsman Mohd.
Azharuddin. I remembered that he had recently won the elections. I smiled at
him and mentioned to him that I used to like his game very much, shaking his
hand. No Rolex, I noticed. Azhar told me that he would "fix" me an
appointment with an Italian designer who had designed his dapper Kurta suit.
An Italian designer in Milan doing Kurtas!!!!! I made a note of this and
reminded myself to give this example to Friedman for his next book," The
World Markets are flattened".

Since there was no doubt about the "Fixational" capacities of Azhar, I told
him to give me the details and I would consider. The proceedings of the
House went on with numerous bills being debated and passed as I sat as a
passive audience waiting for my project's turn to come up. After the lunch
break, it was the moment for me!!!!


I was at sea. My laptop did not have any reserve power. I went to Manmohan
and apprised him of the situation. I was sweating. He calmly replied that
this would not be a cause of concern. I was flummoxed!!!! The Speaker asked
me to explain to the House on what were my plans for the Unique Identity
Project. I replied that I have a plan prepared for 30-60-90-120 days'
milestones and I have presentation to make for which I need a power socket,
a projector and a screen. I had no idea what was going to happen after this.

The next couple of minutes were a complete jolt for me. I was completely in
a tizzy. Let me just summarize what happened. A Joint Cabinet Secretary
Committee was set up to judge the feasibility of my request. The Under
Secretaries for the Ministries of Power, IT and Broadcasting will prepare a
Viability Report after scrutinizing National Security threats to my request.
This was because the power socket comes under Power, laptop comes under IT
and projector comes under Broadcasting. I have also been told to reconsider
my timelines of 30-60-90 days and start thinking in terms of years.
Probably, they are right. I did not have the foresight in this matter.

The summary of the issue is that I need to come up with a more inclusive,
democratic, comprehensive long term plan for this project to be executed
over the next five years. I have also been given a presentation slot 3
months from now (by which the issues related to the power cord etc will also
be resolved). I am filled with mixed reactions. I was planning for a quick
resolution; the management wants a strategic solution. I come out of the
House and text Murthy.

"You won't believe it but these guys work just like us. I am on a NATIONAL
BENCH for the next three months!!!!!!!!"