Saturday, March 5, 2011

137 - Nandan-ji's New ID by Bachi Karkaria - Times of India

Nandan-ji's New ID 
Bachi Karkaria,
29 July 2009, 10:13 PM IST

In Delhi last week, I found myself at a political party. Not the kind where leaders gather at its grimy office, but the kind where they banter in the host's snazzy 'den'. That night, the principal schmoozer and schmoozee was Nandan Nilekani. At first I gaped in disbelief. Isn't Infosys as far removed from Page Three as Sushma Swaraj is from Queenie Dhody? Then I remembered that Nandan N is not quite Narayana M.

Anyone who toured his book with such panache is clearly to the manner acculturated. The outbreak of celebrity authors now rivals that of H1N1 cases, and if Tom Friedman has become the J Lo of the thinking classes, then Nandan too must be as socially sultry as Nandita. Yes Ms Das was also at that Delhi party and gave due face-time to the feted Mr Nilekani, though he was clearly outclassed by Shashi Tharoor, that global pro of the political, literary and Saint Emilion circuits.

'Nandan Rising' has been endorsed by all the Grand Anointers, from Bill Gates to Fareed Zakaria; only Oprah is missing. But Nilekani starred at that Delhi party not because of his 'Imagining India', but because of his ID-ing of  India. He's the new kid on the North & South Blocks, equal to a fully-furnished mantri-ji.

In fact, he's more. The Unique Identification Authority of India is a smartphone compared to the clunky conventional ministries. It's the UPA 0.2's new status symbol. Forget the official eyewash about duplicates, fraud and illegal Bangladeshis. The real agenda is brand positioning. Ration cards are so Garibi Hatao, biometric cards are so Global Banao.

Nilekani may be to Sonia what Pitroda was to Rajiv, but he better look sharp. He is the flavour of the week but he can speedily end up as the dish of the day. At first faltering, New Delhi's piranhas will eat him alive. He has plunged into perilous waters; the assigned task is not easy. No, i'm not worried about his ability to tag India's eye-goggling numbers with a UID. With his skills he can sort and label the aam janata like a basket of totapuris. It's some of the complex khaas lot who will make our Nandan lose his glossy job and curls.

Let me explain. There has been a virtual epidemic of Very Important Identities suddenly undergoing strange mutations. Two days ago, Anil Ambani declared that Murli Deora had changed from being India's petro min and turned into Mukesh's pet min. Last week, even the PM was seen to be infected. Learning to speak for himself turned out to be as contentious as being a ventriloquist's dummy, and now he has to start using the voice of the Congress party. So what UID will Mr Nandan-ji assign to both these gentlemen, assuming that VVIPs are not exempt from biometric frisking?

Or take Mayawati. Since her duplicates are springing up like well-wisher ads, our man might mistakenly assign her UID to a statue. Didi is so one-track that Nilekani is in no danger of dealing with colliding UIDs in her case. But her political rivals in West Bengal have displayed such conflicting identities in recent times that it will definitely stump even the man from the home state of the duplicitous Deve Gowda.

Everywhere, everyone could easily be someone other than what s/he appears to be. The innocuous guy with the bomb in his tiffin-box, the corporate head honcho who smiles as he kills, the socialite mistress of the Judas airkiss. How then will the talented Mr Nilekani arrive at the authentic bio-signature of these people with such multi-tasking identities?

There is only one solution. Put the whole lot through 'Sach ka Samna'.