August 6, 2012
Would FTI join Swaraj Party if Arvind Kejriwal agrees to support liberty (with accountability)?
Shailesh Saraf has asked a very good question.
IF one can get IAC/Arvind to agree to the principle of liberty with accountability, then is it likely that you/FTI will consider being a part of the ‘Swaraj’ party?
or are there other issues also that need agreement first? (like contesting elections only when confident of forming govt., etc?
This is not a hypothetical question.
Shailesh, who works in Hong Kong as Vice President of Morgan Stanley, is one of IAC's most prominent supporters. Shailesh and I have held a long conversation over the phone a few months ago, and I respect his professional credentials and experience. I invited him to join FTI if he is willing to contest elections. I'm glad he visits this blog and keeps in touch. Recently, I have requested Shailesh to make contact with Arvind Kejriwal and (even as he sends my commendation on Arvind's decision to join politics) suggest to him to consider alternative views.
Now, my answer to Shailesh
Shailesh, it is very hard to take someone from point A on the political spectrum of thought to point B. Much depends on whether the person who is placed at point A is willing to conduct a discussion.
With due respect, I don't see Arvind committing to liberty that easily. Nor should he do that.
You don't commit to liberty as an after thought. Arvind needs to understand what liberty implies.
Understanding liberty a journey which will take him through a number of readings and discussions, including with people like Gurcharan Das.
When I met Gurcharan Das in February (he is writing a book, India Grows at Night), we had a long discussion re: IAC, and he was keen to meet Arvind. I wrote to Arvind that he should meet Gurcharan. I don't know whether he did.
Arvind has, to the best of my knowledge, not yet interacted with people who promote liberty. He has not been associated with the Centre for Civil Society, Liberty Institute, or my 14-1/2 years of work mainly in the political space. He has not been engaging with people like Swamy Aiyar, Ashok Desai, Pramit Pal Choudhury, S.V. Raju, Deepak Lal, or Jadgish Bhagwati (not that I know all these people well, but I've gone out of my way to engage with them and learn from them).
An intellectual journey takes time. It can't be rushed.
When Gandhi came to India from South Africa, Gokhle asked him to spend the first year travelling across India to understand it better. In the case of Arvind, he needs to spend one year in discussion with people. He should discuss with everyone, but particularly with those with whom he has never engaged before. He should discuss with the likes of Gurcharan, Parth, Barun, Swamy, Ashok, Pramit Pal – all located in India. And with people like Deepak Lal, Jagdish Bhagwati, and even me (if I can put myself into such an eminent list) – among those outside. I'm happy to spend many hours with him over the coming months discussing things.
After he engages in such discourse, Arvind arrive at his own views. I can't pre-determine them, nor say what he will say or do. He may well choose the path of liberty. Or the path of statism. I can't say in advance.
But it will be foolhardy (and unacceptable!) for him to commit to liberty without understanding what it means.
But what if he finally does agree with the concept?
Well, that's clearly going to be only the first step. Then are the many details. FTI has been working on most of these details. But there are others, such as the nature of the political group, its sources of funding, its internal functioning, etc. etc. In discussing these details, he must assemble and engage with 1000s of those who will actually contest elections, and get detailed agreements.
Then, and only then, should actual political action be undertaken (e.g. political party/ contesting elections).
If Arvind doesn't undertake these preparatory steps, please assure him that he will fail. Big time. He may well lose his own deposit in 2014. If he announces a "party" or (worse!) a "manifesto" without such preparation, he will not even be remain a cipher in India's history. Even his past contributions will disappear.
But he should not fail. I don't want any bright young (and honest) man who wishes to join politics to fail.
Let him, therefore, spend one year in discussion.
I trust you agree that a political movement is quite different from a one-cause civil society battle. It must be done well on pain of total failure.