V Balakrishnan, former chief financial officer and board member of Infosys, is contesting from the Bangalore Central Lok Sabha constituency on an Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) ticket. In an interview with Bibhu Ranjan Mishra & Mahesh Kulkarni, Bala, as he is known in industry circles, shares his vision for the party. Edited excerpts:
How has your experience in politics been, compared to the corporate world?
It is very interesting but hectic. You meet a lot of people you don’t touch in your regular life. When you work in a corporate world, you have a defined set of stakeholders; you know your investors, customers and employees. But it is undefined in politics; every person might be a stakeholder.
Why did you choose AAP?
I wouldn’t have joined any other regular political party; that was never in my mind. But the AAP had a very good idea. It was about providing clean governance, removing corruption and creating an honest ecosystem in which honest enterprises could do business and flourish. I don’t think any of the mainstream political parties has the willpower to do all these.
You joined politics only recently. Why contest elections so soon?
I have no legacy to defend. I don’t need to defend the coal scam, the 2G spectrum scam, the mining scam or the land-grabbing scam. I come with a fresh mind and fresh thinking. I have worked in the corporate world and addressed a lot of similar issues. Somebody like me, who comes with a fresh idea, can change it. After all, politics is not rocket science; anybody can do it. Ultimately, what is required is good intention and honesty.
How do you react to the allegation ‘AAP is the Congress’s B-team’?
The good thing is the Congress says the AAP is the B-team of the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party), while the BJP says it’s the B-team of the Congress. The AAP is about an idea; it wants to change the current political system, which none of the mainstream parties will. Always remember, ‘First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you and, finally, you win’.
But it seems as if AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal isn’t countering the Congress in the same way as he is opposing the BJP. Why is he contesting against Narendra Modi, not Rahul Gandhi or Sonia Gandhi?
Today, this election is being projected as if there is a big Modi wave. Actually, it is an anti-Congress wave, not a Modi wave. So, when the election is projected like that, you have to challenge it. The AAP has fielded senior party leader Kumar Biswas against Rahul Gandhi.
Do you think the AAP’s move to form the government in Delhi with Congress support was the right decision?
In hindsight, you could say it was wrong. At that point of time, the AAP didn’t have a majority; it never asked any party for support. But the Congress voluntarily went to the Lieutenant Governor and gave a letter of support. Then, people said we were running away from governance. So, we were forced to govern. We wanted to do specific things but neither of the two parties allowed us. Thus, we said we would go back to the people.
What is your assessment of Bangalore Central and where do you think the incumbent MP has failed to deliver?
Most of the people I met don’t recall seeing him for a long time. Also, they want change; they are fed up with the corrupt system. The people want clean candidate, who can represent them in the Parliament effectively.
Why should people vote for you?
For two reasons; I am not steep into the legacy and vested interests. I come from outside with fresh thinking and fresh mind. The ability to solve problems for me is much easier than somebody who is too steep into the system.
Your ex-colleague Nandan Nilekani is also seeking elections in Bangalore South. You had earlier said you would campaign for him; how are you going to do that?
When I joined the party, I was just a member. That time when people asked me if I will campaign, I had stated 'yes’. But now I am also running for the elections. I don’t think I will have time to do that now. Second, we have an AAP candidate contesting in South also. So my support is always with the Aam Aadmi Party, but my best wishes are with Nandan because he is my ex-colleague.
You recently supported the Aadhaar programme? Was it an endorsement for Nilekani?
Technology is something you have to use to improve the delivery of services to the citizens. Without technology, there won’t be transparency in the system. So UIDAI may be a good project, but the implementation is not that good. The hallmark of the government in the last five years has been that good policies because of bad implementation have gone nowhere.
If you don’t win the election, are you prepared for a long game in politics?
We all choose our lives. I chose to become a politician for whatever reasons. It is a long game; I can’t run away in between. It is not like running away from one company to the other. It is a different ballgame. I took the risk.
AAP’s economic agenda is generally perceived as anti-corporate? With people like you joining AAP from the corporate world, do you support it?
If you look at AAP’s economic policy, which is in our website, and was elaborated by Arvind in his speech at CII conference recently. The essence of our economic policy is to create an ecosystem in the country where the people, irrespective of their economic and social background, can come, invest and do business in an honest manner. We need to speed the justice system because if somebody does not abide by the law, the punishment should be stricter and faster. Thirdly, we need to have stable economic policies. Besides, the government should not be in the business of doing business. It is the private sector which can create jobs and wealth.
Will AAP support UPA or NDA in the event of either of them falling sort of majority?
There is no point in supporting the current national parties. They all are faces of the same coin. So we will not support them.
But in case one of the national parties fall sort of majority and the country heads of reelection, will it not be a waste of public money?
That does not meant you have to choose a wrong government to run the country. What formation will happen and how will it happen, we will see when we cross the bridge.