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Narayana Murthy comes out of retirement for public duty

June 13, 2018 06:39 AM


Narayana Murthy comes out of retirement for public duty
Karnataka chief minister picks Infosys co-founder to head the state planning board
| Rajashekara S
TWEETS @MumbaiMirror

It seems Infosys co-founder NR Narayana Murthy was not meant for a quiet, retired life. Not even a year has passed since his very public spat with former CEO Vishal Sikka over the goings-on at Infosys and the ‘Indian Bill Gates’ is back – this time as head of Karnataka Planning Board. NRN, as he is popularly called, has already retired twice from Infosys – in 2011 and then again in October 2014. Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy informed Mirror about his decision to appoint Murthy (and this is why he met him at his Jayanagar home on June 6) and said that this will boost the government’s image and attract investors.

The state planning board is a constitutional body and the chief minister is its chairman; some of the functions of the state planning board include assessing resources and formulating plans for overall development of the state, besides monitoring progress of plan implementation.

The CM told Mirror that he also intends to bring on board prominent experts from various sectors as members to restore the board’s credibility.

The announcement comes close on the heels of the Narendra Modi government announcing lateral entry of professionals; it recently opened up 10 departments for induction of experts at the level of Joint Secretary, a post reserved for officers of the Central Services.

Murthy would be the first technocrat to head the planning board in the State and the first professional in the last 18 years.

Late DM Nanjudappa, an economist, was the last specialist to head the planning body (1993-2000). In fact, Nanjundappa was one of the first lateral entries into the State government and served as secretary (planning) in the late 1980s.

Of late, the appointments are being made on political considerations. Former union minister CM Ibrahim was appointed as deputy chairman of the board in the previous government. He did not chair a single meeting and hardly attended his office in Vidhana Soudha. The government too did not appoint any other board member.

Prior to Ibrahim, Legislative Council Chairman DH Shankaramurthy and former chief secretary A Ravindra, who joined the BJP after retirement, were heading the board.

Although Kumaraswamy said that Murthy had accepted the responsibility, the latter did not respond to messages for a confirmation.

Why Murthy?

Kumaraswamy believes that appointing Murthy as deputy chairman would send a signal that the government is keen to use his expertise. Besides that, Murthy will become a stakeholder in the state’s growth as he would be holding a position in the government and would not just be an advisor as in his previous stint.

He was the chairman of the Bengaluru International Airport Ltd (2000-2005). He quit the position under controversial circumstances after former prime minister and JD(S) supremo HD Deve Gowda questioned his contribution towards development of the airport after the technocrat questioned the commitment of Congress-JD(S) coalition government towards tech companies.

Both Gowda and Murthy have buried their differences and have been on good terms for the last few years. In fact, Kumaraswamy had several meetings with Murthy prior to the Assembly polls.

The government is even thinking of upgrading the status of the deputy planning board chairman from the present State Minister rank to that of a Cabinet rank for Murthy.

Kumaraswamy said he had ordered the scrapping of the Bengaluru Vision Group (BVG) set up in 2016 by the previous government for preparing a blueprint for Bengaluru’s overall development as there was no substantial contribution from it.

The group included Murthy, Wipro chairman Azim Premji, Biocon chief Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Flipkart founder Sachin Bansal among others.

Namma Bengaluru Foundation had questioned the formation of the group before the Karnataka High Court saying it was illegal and only the Metropolitan Planning Committee (MPC) was constitutionally valid.

Kumaraswamy said that in place of the BVG, he is planning to put together an exclusive task force for Bengaluru, with prominent citizens and experts from various groups. The task force is likely to be headed by Kumaraswamy.

Kumaraswamy said that Murthy’s expertise and experience would also be utilised for improving Bengaluru’s crumbling infrastructure. Murthy was very vocal about the IT capital’s creaking infrastructure when the Dharam Singh-led Congress-JD(S) government was in power (from 2004-2006). He had told authorities that the only way to solve Bengaluru’s traffic problems was to build “stacks of road” – which resulted in the Electronics City expressway.

Another prominent Bengalurean, who served as chief gardener of Mindtree and is presently its non-executive chairman, was appointed as head of the Odisha Skill Development Authority. He too has been given a Cabinet rank and directly reports to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. Bagchi, from Patnagarh in Balangir district of Odisha, is working towards improving technical education, skilling and entrepreneurship in the state.

Given Murthy’s track record – he cofounded Infosys in 1981 with just $250 borrowed from his wife Sudha Murthy; today, it has a market capitalisation of over $37 billion – Karnataka could strike it rich

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