Yet, there is a serious difference between Pitroda and Nilekani. Pitroda, known for his characteristic bureaucrat-bashing, has roped in a slim and sophisticated non-bureaucrat team with the only exception of 1990 batch IAS Kalpana Awasthi. Ms Awasthi is his OSD at the rank of a joint secretary in Government of India. Nilekani on his part has heavily banked on IAS and other Group A service officers to make his UID mission a success like his Infosys innings. Nilekani’s key lieutenant, Ram Sewak Sharma is a 1978 batch Jharkhand cadre IAS, and even his private secretary MS Srikar is a 1999 batch Karnataka cadre IAS. Not just that, all deputy director generals posted across the country are from IAS or other Group A services.
In contrast, Pitroda’s associates are Cambridge-educated Sukhman Randhawa who interned at BBC and the Penguin Group in London, and Mitakshara Kumari who had graduated from UK's University of Sussex and worked with European Union at Brussels. The other associates include Rahul Nayar who did his M.Phil in technology policy at Cambridge, and Vikas Bagri who was a part of initiating a rural BPO.
The comparison would not have been necessary if Nilekani had continued a smooth, seamless journey at UID. But if the problems and negative publicity that Nilekani’s UID mission has earned in the last few months are any indicators, his IAS managers have not done a very good job. The Parliamentary standing committee virtually junked Nilekani’s new bill. The home ministry has repeatedly raised objections to UID entering into its turf, and none other than Planning Commission which houses UIDAI is asking Nilekani “not to change track and stick to his original mandate”.
Now, the talk of the corridor is: why the hell Nilekani’s managers, read IAS, have failed to do the basics of inter-ministerial co-ordination? What’s more, some of his managers who got attracted to him because of the challenge and glamour associated with the project, are now looking at exit routes. Some of them reportedly want to move to not-so-glamorous and small ministries.But here is the danger. Nilekani’s failure means end of the road for the government to woo any more high-performing corporate honchos.