November 27, 2010
Lok Satta must press the “Pause” button and re-think its strategy
Some correspondence (in which I was not involved) re: JP of Lok Satta took place recently, I was cc.d in.
One of the correspondents raised these issues:
"Many people I know have contributed funds & other kind of support to JP but he never gets back after he gets the support?? Or whatever assistance people offer him does not respond back??I have also seen that JP has a similar coterie like todays politicians so In that case It will be very difficult for JP to arouse the councious of the Nation untill he becomes a mass leader more important when he is not from Hindi Heartland??Any way I wish him success in this endevour??Pl get response from him on my comment directly if possible??"
One of the senior leaders of Lok Satta then responded thus:
We never had any difficulty in reaching to JP and did not find any VIP culture, Infact we have been fully empowered in our area of LSP's work that need is also limited. Whenever we wanted we could reach him in a reasonable time. If he was not immediately available he reached us back. The man I found is genuine, down to earth and with great vision and a mission. I am now working with Lok Satta for more than seven years. Many (thousands in AP) of my other colleagues are working closely with him for over now 14 years. Most of them are silent workers, working only with a view to contribute and not for recognition there fore away from public glare.
Of-course there could be isolated cases to the contrary because once you know some one is not contributing OR adding value and drags the energy and gets in to only debates (That is the case with most of intellectuals today – In Amrtaya Sen's words – Argumentative Indian), one needs to decide priorities as one has limited time, energy and resources and the mission requires focus. What Lok Satta stands is well documented and available to all on website and published documents. But my own experience is that even well learned people do not go through that and gets in to debate and demand personal attention. If one reads through, the debate can be meaningful, well structured and require limited time. One other thing these people require is that attention from JP and not from any one else in party. If they discuss with others, then discussion with JP could be that much limited. It is more a times management issue for JP rather then an ego/VIP culture as they perceive,
As regards to mass appeal of JP. JP is the only person, who worked for 12 years as NGO with people, converted in to a political party in 2006. He established LSP units not in every districts of AP but also in every Taluka that too with a very limited budget (i.e. enrolled volunteers). He was elected LSP President (in open party elections, supervised by an independent electoral authority) by more than 80,000 LSP members (His two opponents got 10,000 and 4,000 votes respectively. After losing his opponents are working as Vice President and Mahila Satta leaders respectively.
He recently got elected as MLA by a margin that of more than 17,000 votes. LSP spent in his constituency only Rs 4,00,000/. (His all opponents got united, spent corers with only one mandate to not allow him to go to assembly). He only campaigned in his constituency for about 3/4 days as most of time he was campaigning across the state. As some says "Proof of pudding is in eating". Nothing can be a better proof of JPs mass appeal though currently limited to AP. Of-course that is to be further polished and that is happening with every day passing.
Question is what are we doing to change the "NATURE OF POLITICS IN THE COUNTRY, unless we believe that nature of politics is NOT the route cause of all of our problem including implementation of laws in their true letter and spirits??
We need to ponder this question deeply inside and see what and how can we contribute in this mission.
I believe JP's commitment to reform of governance is unquestioned. And his integrity. But I also believe that the impression has gained ground that his is a one-man show, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding.
The fact that JP shows no interest in associating with other like-minded people (at least that has been the experience of some people I know), nor in debating his policies – some of which are clearly not in the best interest of India – brings him out as a recluse. That also leads to the feeling amongst at least some people that LS is just like any other political party – driven by the "high command".
In this day and age of the internet, there is no reason why Lok Satta should function in this way. Many interactive methods of communication exist, and should be used. It is also crucial for LS to make sure that it is distinguished from JP – who should be seen as merely one of its many leaders (assuming it has other serious leaders on par with JP).
It is not enough for LS leaders to say that they find JP approachable. They may well have found him approachable, but I haven't found him as approachable as he should be even though I know him personally for many years. Emails to him don't get responded, commitments made on the phone don't get acted (he had committed to sending a delegate to the Freedom Team during a phone conversation I had with him before the 2009 parliamentary elections – that didn't happen). When he meets people his focus has been only on raising funds. He believes that his constraint is money. I believe his constraint is leaders.
Big difference between these two things No wonder money doesn't come, either.
LS is deeply constrained by its narrow strategies and does not appear (no matter how many times I look at it) – in its current form and shape – to be the solution that India needs.
High quality leaders are not likely to try to work for a party seemingly driven by one person (or a few). It is pointless also, as a strategy, to win one MLA seat (or even a handful). Lok Satta seems to have very feeble ambitions.
I have often suggested that if JP is serious (and I'm no longer sure if he is) that reforms in India must occur in his lifetime, then he must PAUSE Lok Satta and start afresh, focusing on finding leaders and on building a consensus on policy. Then there are issues regarding governance of the political formation that need to be resolved. Without all this homework (that can take 2-3 years), LS is destined to play a feeble and "also-ran" role in the Indian political landscape.
It would unfortunately be a great opportunity for reform once more squandered – by poor strategic implementation and lack of understanding of how to involve everyone who should be involved.
And so, despite commendable efforts of LS so far, it has reached a dead end. It needs to totally refresh its strategy.
I remain hopeful that JP (and LS more generally) will learn from his experience and focus FIRST on finding leaders and building a national organisation that people WANT to join.
Please note that this is not about being an argumentative Indian. Certain arguments are crucial before a consensus is reached. People must be persuaded that they aren't joining one more typical run-of-the mill political formation. Currently all signs are that it is a typical formation, driven by just one person. That is untenable. I suggest that JP and ALL his leaders immediately start associating with the Freedom Team of India AS EQUALS, willing to debate and finalise all unresolved questions before a political movement is launched – a movement that will (then) succeed.
By the way, I have similar feelings about many other formations, as well – too many to enumerate. Each of these entities is jumping the gun. You can't begin the race for reform with one or two players who rush ahead. It is not going to work. Have the patience to engage everyone who should be involved.