N R Narayana Murthy, founder-chairman and chief mentor of Infosys Technologies, is an optimist. The visionary business leader believes that there are “excellent people” in all political parties and in politics. In an interview to CNN-IBN’s H R Venkatesh, Murthy said citizens can bring about decency and competence in politics by organizing themselves and creating pressure. “Casting of the ballot is the first step in making sure that our democracy is a success,” he said.
H R Venkatesh: You say in your book, A Better India, A Better World, that for governance you need three pieces of an interlocking puzzle to come together. One is a population with values, a leader that espouses these values and an elite which works to ensure that there is equality in every footing.
We are in the midst of election season. Do you see any political leader who actually espouses these values?
N R Narayana Murthy: I think in each party we have excellent people. Let me give you one piece of data. For all the ills that we talk about our society our political leaders elected two of the finest people to become our Prime Ministers in the last 10 years. Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee and Mr Manmohan Singh--people of the highest class by global standards. So do I think we have decent people.
H R Venkatesh: There has been massive pressure from all sides for the youth to go out there and vote. Do you see the responsibility of the people, the youth particularly, to end with the casting of the ballot?
N R Narayana Murthy: Casting of the ballot is the first step in making sure that our democracy is a success. But we have to make sure that we make a good job of it. That is why I am on the advisory board of Jaago Re, which is an excellent initiative. Similarly at Infosys, we have had the Electronic City Association arrange a panel discussion amongst all the four major candidates of Bangalore South constituency.
I think we need more and more of it and I have no doubt at all that once we create this peer pressure people will step up to the plate and we will get to the critical mass of decency and level of honesty.
We have to devolve power to the city councils--the corporations and all that. Citizens of urban centres are demanding greater and greater accountability. They have encouraged Independents to stand for elections. Citizens, by organizing themselves, and by putting pressure on our leaders I do believe that we will get to a higher level of performance.
H R Venkatesh: You have gone on record, saying that being an Independent candidate is good but it is not enough and like-minded people should come together and form a party.
If like-minded people came to you for guidance would you help them in forming the party?
N R Narayana Murthy: This is probably not the right time to talk about it but certainly if there are people who are honest, decent and who have national aspiration and they all want to come together and organise themselves for future elections--based on their performance at the constituency level certainly I will be sympathetic.
H R Venkatesh: But for the moment you are ruling out your own entering into politics?
N R Narayana Murthy: Yeah, yeah. I don't think I should involve in politics. This country has a demographic where 70 percent of the people are below 35. I do believe that we have to give them opportunities. There always will be some exceptions. There will be excellent people who will be the exceptions but let them be the exceptions. Let majority of the parliamentarians, majority of legislators be English-speaking.
H R Venkatesh: In the run up to elections we have seen increasingly bitter campaign. We have had the likes of Varun Gandhi come out with hate speeches. What do you make of this?
N R Narayana Murthy: I would say I want to see in the future elections our candidates stand up for national issues. We have serious problems in primary education; we have serious problem in nutrition for poor children; we have serious problems in healthcare. I only wish that our candidates focus on these very important, urgent issues.
H R Venkatesh: The economy is in the downturn at this point of time. Your views.
N R Narayana Murthy: Certainly this economy will overcome this difficult period earlier than most of the economies. The good thing about India is that we have a good social support system in terms parents, brothers and sisters and they have to make sure that youngsters add value to the family in a significant way.
H R Venkatesh: Mr Murthy, thanks for speaking to CNN-IBN.