photo - Daily Mail India

Modi’s Cabinet expansion: Rajeev Chandrasekhar has finger on the tech pulse

Three-time Rajya Sabha member and businessman Rajeev Chandrasekhar, 57, joined Narendra Modi’s council of ministers on Wednesday–an ambition he nursed for long and worked towards by pushing for policies and regulations in the areas of technology, including the Big Tech.

Chandrasekhar is among the earliest MPs to assess the power of social media and tech platforms and start a public debate about the need to regulate them. He has been a part of the joint parliamentary committee on Data Protection Bill, 2019. Five years ago, the RS member even flagged the emerging challenges of regulating crypto-currencies.

“I have served 15 years as an MP to the best of my abilities. I’m honoured that I have been chosen to be part of the PM’s team that is working to build a vibrant and prosperous India,” Chandrasekhar told ET after being sworn-in as a minister of state for skill development and entrepreneurship, and electronics and IT.

Karnataka’s Startup Vision Group chairman Prashanth Prakash said Chandrasekhar is well-versed on the policy side. “Rajeev comes with a great breadth of experience,” Prakash said, adding that he hoped that Chandrasekhar will have empathy for the IT industry and encourage entrepreneurship and innovation.

Son of an air commodore, Chandrasekhar earned his post graduate degree in computer science from the Illinois Institute of Technology, when the subject itself was new, and personal computers were a prized possession.

He was on the Intel 80486 design team, and later on the architecture team of the Pentium. He did his BE in electrical engineering at the Manipal Institute of Technology (MIT), the college Microsoft chairman and CEO Satya Nadella graduated from.

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His grounding as a technologist probably pitted Chandrasekhar against Aadhaar during the UPA II regime. In an interview with ET in March 2014, Chandrasekhar had said he was opposed to the UPA spending on programmes like Aadhaar without a debate. His concerns, he said later, had been addressed only after Modi became prime minister.

In 1994, after returning from the US, he founded

Mobile, taking the plunge into a sector that was still in its infancy. Over the next decade or so, he and several other ambitious entrepreneurs pushed for reforms. This led to the new telecom policy in 1999. And, his BPL Mobile brand was omnipresent in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Goa and Puducherry.

After selling his stake in BPL Mobile to Essar Group in 2005, he founded Jupiter Capital, an investment firm, in 2006. While his investments span aviation, technology, infrastructure and media, the RS member has, over the last few years, exited from the board positions of all his companies, leaving them to professionals to run. He devoted full time to the BJP, performing the roles of party’s national spokesperson, and defending issues such as Citizenship (amendment) Act and, most recently, helping with installing a BJP coalition regime in Puducherry.

The businessman-turned-politician often hogged the spotlight in Bengaluru with his Namma Bengaluru Foundation by raising his voice on lake encroachment and popular civic issues. He often backed court litigations on public causes.

Six years ago, he bought a DC3 Dakota plane from a collector in the UK and gifted it to the Indian Air Force (IAF), which had flown it extensively during the earlier wars, but did not have one for display purposes. Chandrasekhar’s father himself flew one while at the IAF. Since his gifting it in a flying condition, the ‘Parasurama’ is a regular feature at the Republic Day and other IAF Fly pasts.

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