Nandan Nilekani had perhaps never visited as many temples on a single day as he did on Sri Ramanavami this year. The temple visits, in fact, threw the otherwise methodical campaign of Infosys co-founder and Bangalore South Congress candidate out of gear on Tuesday, as his supporters insisted on pit stops at various temples.
His visit to Sri Ramanjaneya temple in Banashakari around noon was the fifth for the day, said Naman Pugalia, a former Google employee and a key player in the campaign team, as Mr. Nilekani was presented yet another shawl with heavy zari work by the priest.
The temple premises had acquired a multi-cultural air, with supporters from the adjoining Muslim pockets joining in. Farzana from Guruguntepalya, who stood at the edge of the crowd, said she had been urging her neighbours to “vote for a party that brought Independence to the country.” Asked why she had not spoken to the man she was campaigning for, she retorted, “How can I when so many men are surrounding him?”
It was nearing 1 p.m. and the entourage was already behind schedule on visits to garment factories in Bommanahalli area, but there was no stopping a persistent Congress leader Gurappa Naidu from ensuring a 10-minute stop at Kailaseshwara temple near Kadirenahalli underpass.
When the priest brought ‘aarati’, Mr. Naidu made it a point to announce that the model code of conduct prevents the candidate from offering ‘dakshina’ and dropped a currency note into the tray himself.
It was around 2 p.m. by the time Mr. Nilekani finally reached Shahi Exports, one of the big garment exporters from the city, near Hulimavu, joined by Minister Ramalinga Reddy and party leader and businessman Kupendra Reddy.
While the two leaders accompanying him held forth on the Congress achievements to the 200-strong gathering of factory workers, Mr. Nilekani kept his speech in halting Kannada brief. Undeterred by the Supreme Court stay on making Aadhaar mandatory for welfare schemes, he talked about the UPA government’s flagship project he headed before plunging into the electoral fray.
He told the workers that he too, like them, worked for apparel companies when he was in the U.S. for about 10 years. “I know cutting and stitching like you do,” he said, and promised to turn Bangalore into a “city of opportunities.”
Meanwhile, a helper on the back bench said she was paid Rs. 5,000 and her house in Doddakammanahalli came at a rent of Rs. 3,000. “One can’t live on the streets because the rents are high,” she said, before complaining about how not even a pot of water comes free in the area.