Chitradurga MP Janardana Swamy, who gave up a top Sun Microsystems job in the US to come back to India, wants the country to become so self-reliant that Americans will soon be coming here for a living
Walking to school from Kallihatti, a remote village in the sun-scorched district of Chitradurga, Janardana Swamy dreamed of impossible things.
His father, a school teacher, walked by his side, telling him inspiring stories. Neither had imagined the dimunitive boy would head a two-billion-dollar business one day.
Fighting all odds: Janardana Swamy
Janardana Swamy grew up as a bright student, and went on to study engineering. He did his master's at the prestigious Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore.
He was recognised as a brilliant worker, and soon after he started working, rose to the position of chief engineer at Sun Micro Systems in the US. But the fairytale didn't end there.
Earlier this year, he put in his papers and returned to India. He contested elections from Chitradurga and won, much to the surprise of politicians who had written off his chances.
"I was the only son," recalled Janaradana Swamy. "My father took a transfer when I joined a school in a neighbouring village for the 5th standard, just so that he could walk with me to school."
His father then became his "friend, guide and philosopher."
The greatest moment in his professional life was when a circuit design process was patented in his name.
Millions of motherboards for Sun Microsystems were designed under him before he left the company and it was taken over by Oracle.
"When I was in the US, I kept thinking about India," he said. "The question haunting me was, can't we make India an America?"
When he met his idol and Infosys mentor N R Narayanamurthy, his perception of his destiny changed.
"Murthy said to me that he was growing old and young people like me should take up the cause and join parliament," he said.
At 41, Janardana Swamy is all enthusiasm about getting his first glimpse of parliament.
The techie-turned-politician has support among his classmates.
Sachidanada Kini, who studied with him, has posted on his blog, "I did my engineering with Janardana Swamy and have observed him for more than two decades. He has come up the hard way, with effort and determination. Every classmate and colleague of his would vouch for his character, honesty and commitment to his motherland."
Candidates like him, Kini says, are rare, almost non-existent.
"He used to ride to Davangere on my bicycle for many years. He lived in a hostel room, raised money to build hostels for poor students, and has always been an active volunteer both in India and in the US," said Jainendra, who studied engineering with him.
Janardana Swamy's political task is cut out. "I want to bring change to my home district," he said. The district is low on development even though S Nijalingappa, the longest-serving chief minister of Karnataka, hailed from here.
"Drinking water is the main problem," said Swamy. I will try to build a reservoir for each village so that we can harvest rainwater."
Many see echoes of the Swades story in Janardana Swamy. The hero of that film gives up a lucrative job to return to India and bring drinking water to his people.
The new MP hopes he can make Chitradurga a Bangalore by kickstarting economic activities. "We are going to have a branch of Indian Institute of Science at Chitradurga, and it may just be the much-needed trigger for development," he said.
Tourism is another area he is optimistic about. The district boasts historic sites such as the Chitradurga Fort, celebrated in Kannada literature.
Undettered by Barack Obama's H1B visa threat and curbs on BPOs, Swamy said, "These developments are a blessing in disguise as they prompt us to be self-reliant. Why should we go to America for our living? Why can't we make them come here?"
Despite being a BJP leader, Swamy condemns cultural policing and is against. However, he advises the young to be restrained.
"Recklessness is not freedom. We must have social responsibility and that responsibility must be evident in our deeds and actions," were his wise words. He hoped his win would inspire young people to be active in politics.
Idealist Swamy fact file
Janardana Swamy (41) won from Chitradurga (SC reserved) on a BJP ticket.
Born: 4 June 1968
Father: Venkatappa, school teacher
Mother: Chinnadevi, housewife
Work: Chief engineer, Sun Microsystems, California
Milestone: Won patent for motherboard process
Loves: Kannada and English movies
Fave stars: Rajkumar and Clint Eastwood