December 22, 2015
I’ve been offline for a few days. Back online now, albeit with relatively limited connectivity. I’m copying my FB post here.
The first thing I’ve noted from my emails is that Sharad Joshi has passed away during this period. This is a great loss to India.
I last spoke with Sharad Joshi over the phone in mid-2014, and after significant hectoring finally persuaded him to send a delegate to the liberal political conference FTI had convened in July 2014.
Joshi and I have a long history now – I have known him since around 1999 when I returned to India from USA. He wanted me to be his PS and Deputy Secretary in Delhi while he chaired an agricultural task force in the rank of Cabinet Minister under the Vajpayee government. Unfortunately, that was not to be.
Later, between 2003 and mid-2005 we were in regular contact over email, and spent many days together in January 2004 at IPI’s 5-day workshop-cum-seminar.
Persuaded by his leadership at the workshop, I joined his party (Swatantra Bharat Party) as life member in January 2004. The IPI event and follow-up publicity it generated contributed, I understand, to his getting a NDA nomination for a Maharashtra Rajya Sabha seat later that year. Unfortunately, by mid-2005 I was forced to conclude that he could not lead the liberals of India and – much to my regret – left his party (and my citizenship of India).
Having revived my political work in 2007-08 with FTI, I had many further discussions with Sharad Joshi over the phone and email. One particular long discussion I had with him in late 2012 (or early 2013) when I first engaged with Ramdev who had committed me a broadly liberal party that would fight socialism. He was very sceptical about Ramdev (and Ramdev had an equally sceptical opinion about him). In the end, he proved to be right about Ramdev who turned out to be a man without integrity. I kept Sharad Joshi in the loop regularly with key progress regarding the new party.
Till late-2014/early-2015 I had hoped that we could work together; but that’s where his great flaw – failure to communicate – came into the picture once again. He was either not willing or physically incapable (being by then very sick) of endorsing (in-principle) the SKC agenda, some of which is almost taken verbatim from Swatantra Bharat Party’s manifesto. It can be stated that the SKC agenda is a hugely refined and improved version of Sharad Joshi’s own vision for India. I recall his contempt (for instance) of the MS Swaminathan report.
But without such in-principle agreement, there was no hope of working together.
Had Sharad Joshi been a better communicator and more willing to discuss any issues he had, he could had been the beacon that the Indian liberals have been looking for since the passing away of Rajaji.
But that was not to be.
But while I have lost all hope with the likes of Ramdev and JP of LokSatta, I never lost hope with Sharad Joshi till the very end of his life.
I had only recently requested Sanjay Sonawani to keep engaging with Swatantra Bharat Party delegates in Maharashtra, to keep looking for common ground.
I believe that there is some merit in the Swarna Bharat and Swatantra Bharat parties merging at this stage – a proposal I had been canvassing with Sharad Joshi for quite some time now. The modalities could have been considered, and can still be considered.
India has lost one of its greatest sons since independence. We must mourn that loss. I may have more to write in the coming days, time permitting.
But this must also be taken as an opportunity for the “rural” liberals and the “urban” liberals (a false dichotomy that Sharad Joshi created in his mind which, I believe, lay at the core of his disconnect from the group of liberals he had connected with in 2004) to come together as a single unit.
I’m cc.ing Shyam Ashtekar, Manvendra Kachole. I’m happy to convene a meeting of key leaders of both parties in the coming months. Only when the real liberals of India learn to discuss and to work with each other, can India get the liberal revolution that it desperately needs. Our goals for India are the same, but I find it impossible to explain why Swatantra Bharat Party is so silent, so inscrutable.
There is reference in this article to the pivotal 2004 liberal workshop I convened – which agreed to accept Sharad Joshi as leader. Joshi did many good things after that, but for some inexplicable reason, he fell short of expectations. Just what exactly was missing in his leadership, I could never understand. He just wouldn’t communicate. Maybe he didn’t trust others – particularly those from urban areas. I don’t know. I’ll never know. If he had trusted and communicated better, things might have been so much different.