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Open Letter to Gurcharan Das: Please clarify your position regarding BJP and India’s only liberal party, SBP

(A bit of background first.)

Yesterday I expressed some frustration with Indians who purportedly want liberty but have sworn to abjure the political process (or worse – to lick the boots of socialist parties and foreign agencies to fund their fake liberal efforts).

Liberty is is a political concept. To imagine that liberty is about think-tanks or writing articles/ books reflects a gross misunderstanding about the concept of liberty. There is no way to ensure liberty but to be in the political fray. It is about directly connecting with the people in their daily lives.

Till Swarna Bharat Party was launched in June 2013, India never had a genuine liberal party. But now there is such a party. At this point, in early 2017, I have a clear position on this: if you don’t join or directly support SBP, you are illiberal – since you are effectively supporting the opponents of SBP, the enemies of liberty.

Many of the “liberals” who engaged with me over the past around 20 years were fundamentally pseudo-liberal. For instance, most of those who participated in the 2004 five-day workshop I had organised went on to support – and I count meeting corrupt socialist party leaders to seek funds as support, as well – hardcore socialist Congress or BJP. 

Some of them even made a song and dance about the need of a liberal party (e.g. Parth’s 2002 article) but did next to nothing about it – and in fact have actively kept away from any such work for well over a decade. Many of those who (much later) joined the Freedom Team of India, swearing to fight for liberty politically, likewise turned out to be limp liberals (those who do not engage in politics) or worse – direct supporters of BJP or AAP.

There is one liberal, however, whose position was unambiguous in the past but has probably become a bit unclear over the past few years: Gurcharan Das, whom I hold in the highest esteem. I’m writing this open letter to him with a request to clarify his position.

Why open, why not in private? I think some matters need to be deliberated publicly, and this is one of them.

OPEN LETTER TO GURCHARAN DAS

Dear Gurcharan

As you are aware, in 2013, after a series of implausible events, a group of liberals formed the Swarna Bharat Party. Prompting this was the December 2012 agreement with Ramdev to form a party under the logo of sone ki chidiya and the ideology and manifesto whose drafting I had led since 1998. Implausible as it sounds now, the agreement was that this party would be driven by me and the liberals. I would also lead the team of trainers of the party – we would coach the candidates of the party in liberalism and ethical leadership.

This agreement to form the new party continued well into April 2013 when I led a 4-day national reform summit at Patanjali in the big hall where Ramdev holds his public sessions and talks. Ramdev’s team put out many videos about me on his TV channels during late 2012, well into 2013. I also shared the platform with him on major events whenever we were together, such as at Jantar Mantar in December 2012 to protest the killing of Nirbhaya.

It was only when the day that had been scheduled for the launch of the party came closer that Ramdev backed out. Last year I came to know that Ramdev had been threatened with severe consequences by Ram Jethmalani. Ramdev backed out because he is dishonest to the core. His empire is made out of straw with significant violations of the law and he has amassed significant amounts of black money. Had Ramdev been honest, he could never have been blackmailed by BJP.

Now, you became personally aware about my work to have a liberal party established in India -from around 2000, when we first met. I had started this work in February 1998.

Till mid-2013 I had no doubt about your commitment to having such a liberal party for India. For instance, you joined Sharad Joshi’s Swatantra Bharat Party as national executive member in 2004 as part of my efforts in 2003 and 2004. You also helped raise funds (around Rs. 4-5 lakhs, including from your friends) for the Swatantra Bharat Party.

When Swatantra Bharat Party didn’t work out I proposed the Liberal Party of India in mid-2005. You were one of the first charter members. Nothing came out of that effort, however, which died a premature death within a few months.

Later, in 2007-08 you asked Indians to read the book that I had written (started in early 2005 to support Swatantra Bharat Party), Breaking Free of Nehru, in which I explain how a liberal party could be formed if we are able to find sufficient leaders.

I’m grateful to your support for my limited efforts since you came to know about me.

Your personal search for a liberal party continued, regardless of various failed attempts by liberals. For instance, in 2012 you published India Grows at Night in which you made a strong case for a liberal party for India. You wrote:

I advocate the setting up of a secular, liberal political party in India.  Now that the middle class is growing rapidly and none of the existing parties addresses its needs; the timing is also right as the nation’s centre of gravity has shifted to the right. Such a party is needed to transform India into a strong, liberal state.

In 27 January 2013, a few weeks after I had personally briefed you about my work with Ramdev and the decision to form a liberal party, you wrote this in Times of IndiaAn aspiring young India needs a new liberal party. In particular, you wrote:

A young aspiring, secular India needs a new liberal party of the 21st century which trusts markets rather than officials for economic outcomes, and relentlessly focuses on the reform of the institutions of governance. Only thus, will the country begin to move away from crony capitalism and towards rules-based capitalism. It may not win votes quickly but it will bring governance reform to centre stage and gradually prove to voters that open markets and rules-based government are the only civilized ways to lift living standards and achieve shared prosperity.

On 1 June 2013, we launched Swarna Bharat Party without the participation of Ramdev. This has turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as Ramdev would have weighed heavily on the party given his association with black money and corruption.

On 16 June 2014, the Election Commission registered Swarna Bharat Party. Although we are obliged to swear allegiance to socialism due to legal requirements that derive from the Indian Constitution, we have the most liberal manifesto possible. It is comparable to other high quality manifestos from across the world.

In a 4-day meeting held in Delhi in July 2014 (which you also attended briefly, but by then you had started supporting Modi) I made clear to participants that we had the option to scrap SBP and merge with any other sensible alternative. However, the assembled group decided that SBP must go ahead. No other party (Navbharat, Swatantra Bharat, Lok Satta or another nascent effort called Bharatam) came even close to SBP in terms of its objectives, approach, and sophistication of the manifesto.

On 26 January 2016, SBP launched its new website and added a payment gateway in April 2016. We actively started working on the ground since late 2015 and have by now made incremental progress in various parts of India. Swarna Bharat Party is now a seriously growing liberal party. We are actively considering contesting a few parliamentary seats in 2019.

I am writing all this to remind you about your support for my work and your commitment to a liberal party for India – till around 2013-14.

But somewhere during that period you deviated from the straight and narrow – since Modi came on the scene. You have been extremely solicitous about Modi, and have effectively exonerated him of his many crimes and the destruction of the law and order machinery in Gujarat. You have personally met him on numerous occasions.

But actually, there has been no change to anything substantive in India over the past 70 years, and definitely not with the advent of Modi.

Objective data suggest that liberty in India has gone backwards since Modi came on the scene (see this). And the reckless manner in which demonetisation was implemented has laid bare the plans and livelihoods of millions of people. I personally know of a number of persons whose businesses have suffered grievously from the ill-thought out consequences of this policy.

My question for you at this stage is this: what makes you think that Modi will do anything liberal when BJP’s manifesto and all antecedents of Modi and BJP directly contradict such an expectation? Further, have you now formed a clear view that BJP will suffice for India and that no liberal party is needed now or in the future?

Between 2004 and 2017 nothing has really changed in terms of the logic for a liberal party. Modi’s presence has not changed anything, as nearly three years of dismal performance attest.

I know you believe that political action is about what it’s practicable, or as you say, “politics is the art of the possible”. And I have no doubt that politics is the art of the possible. But I also believe that what is possible is determined by human action and is not something given to us in stone.

I do not accept the reality of India and am determined to participate in a process to change it. I am determined to make a new future for India possible. Politics may well be the art of the possible, but leadership is about making a new future possible. No progress has ever taken place without leaders who make new things happen.

As a liberal, I am foundationally – by the logic of liberalism – a leader, not a follower. I think for myself and, in particular, I do not believe in following failure. As Einstein said, “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. India can’t keep doing socialism and expect different results. I do not accept even an iota of the socialist ideology. BJP and Modi are arch socialists and I have nothing to do with them. I am determined to change the Nehruvian demand for socialism in India.

Since February 1998 I have acted upon my belief that India needs a liberal party. I have been supporting people like Anil Sharma (whom you referred to me) in their similar quest. When I came to the view that India needs a liberal party I did not know anything about any antecedent efforts or anyone in India who had ever thought on similar lines. I decided what I needed to do and started working on it. That’s what leaders do, they don’t wait to act on matters that are of essential importance to them. I also resigned my job in the IAS so I could create the freedom and space to pursue the political option.

What I now find intriguing is why, since 2014, you have chosen to repose so much faith in the BJP and Modi. You should have known that these organisations have a foundational DNA that is illiberal. The RSS is not going to become something different no matter what you may otherwise wish. Regardless of whether Modi had a hand in the massacre of hundreds of innocents in 2002, Modi was a member of this illiberal outfit and is a Hindutva fanatic to the core. On top of that, his manifesto and policies continue to be as socialistic as that of his predecessors.

I therefore invite you to clarify your position publicly. And if you are still a liberal and believe India needs a liberal party, I invite you to join Swarna Bharat Party and “put your money where your mouth is” (please note that this is not a request for any money – although that is something that all parties need in order to grow; this is a request for you to join the party – it costs a mere Rs.100 to become a life member).

I believe you need to choose and make publicly clear where you stand. India now has a real and functional liberal party, howsoever small. No doubt should remain in anyone’s mind about which side you are on – given that SBP is no longer a thought bubble but a party with real roots on the ground.

If you join SBP, it will send a strong signal to everyone in India (and the world) that India cannot succeed with Modi/BJP. Today, a lot of people across the world are confused. They think Modi can change India. He can’t – that’s something that’s been crystal clear to me since the very beginning. If I had thought that BJP had the capacity to change India, I’d have joined it in 2000 itself and never left India. I was very close to (the late) Ashok Saikia, a right hand man of Vajpayee, and could have easily obtained a key role in BJP decades ago – if I had wanted such a role. But BJP is not – and was never – the answer for India.

As a thought leader, you can clarify these matters to the world.

The position you take on this will also become your legacy.

With regards

Sanjeev

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Hobbes was right. Pre-state societies had 100 times higher murder rates than modern societies.

As I’ve elaborated in DOF with a lot of evidence, “a team of Spanish researchers pretty much settled the debate. Hobbes was right: man is inherently bad, but civilisation can make us less so.” [Source]

Not for nothing do I call Hobbes the founder of liberty (along with Locke). The man was the first truly scientific political philosopher. He was a political scientist.

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Addressing a concern regarding state funding of elections

Someone wrote to me about a few things, including a view that he doesn’t support state funding of elections. My response:

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Thanks for this. Much I can agree with, but your opposition to state funding of elections is ill-founded.

Without it (in the manner described in BFN) there is absolutely no chance of any honesty in India’s governance.

People like me (presumably among those you may be willing to pay for) am not able to afford to even go to Switzerland to promote basic concepts. No one is out there to pay for good people, Gurcharan. If I was corrupt, I’d have been a hugely well funded man by now. All the big industrialists are busy funding mega-corrupt Congress and BJP. The liberal party has received virtually no funding to date.

With great difficulty, I’m assembling a competent team of people, but these are all middle class people and can never contest elections on their own funds.

State funding is the only incentive-compatible solution. Please re-read the section in BFN. The terrible situation is that most people in India don’t even bother to understand it. For instance the Law Commission in 2015 published the most atrocious report on this subject: http://www.sabhlokcity.com/2016/11/the-ultra-bogus-report-by-law-commission-2015-on-electoral-reforms/

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Make no a mistake: Modi is 100 per cent responsible (as PM) for ALL corruption in India

There are just too many ignorant Indians who neither understand liberty nor the basics of governance.

All incentives for corruption in the Indian system of governance arise from the centre. SBP’s manifesto, its executive summary, its press releases, make clear that the current system (with the IAS, the electoral system as currently designed, the current Constitution, etc.) is 100 per cent responsible for India’s hopeless mess.

Once these incentives for corruption are changed, corruption will disappear almost overnight from India (within 3 years).

All these things need to be changed from the centre. The PM is directly and squarely responsible for ALL corruption in India. Period. There is never any question about that.

Modi controls the centre today (earlier it was MMS, etc.).

Today Modi is 100 per cent responsible for ALL corruption in India, since he is not interested in changing the system.

When he became PM I wagered that he will TOTALLY AND COMPREHENSIVELY FAIL in eradicating corruption.

Today, corruption is so rampant across India it boggles the mind. It has INCREASED, not decreased. The life of the common man is more pathetic than ever before.

And it will ever be thus – till the system is changed.

Sadly, there are a lot of Modi devotees (bhakts) who pretend to be “liberals”. Sorry, people, you are the CAUSE of India’s problem. Your TOTAL ignorance about India’s governance incentives is costing India very dearly. You never speak out once about system reform. You make silly noises that “Modi is doing everything he can” or “Modi is very popular”.

What nonsense! The man is both corrupt and ignorant, and you are so easily taken in by these corrupt socialists!

I won’t name anyone here, since such “pretend liberals” are just too many and too confused. They are not liberals at all. They are 100 per cent socialist in their basic approach to incentives.

ADDENDUM

DON’T FORGET TO READ THE RESPONSES OF FOOLS TO THIS POST:

The flood of fools in India – some illustrations.

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There is absolutely no scope for prior consent in a liberal political party

In 1998 I started a draft article, called “From Economics to Action“. I never got to review/ finalise this article due to many reasons. But the key question remains: how does one get from the theory of liberty (economics) to actual liberty. This is something for which there is no manual, no guide, not even preliminary thoughts on how it can or should be done.

Over the past 18+ years I have done many things and learnt a few things in this direction. One day I may finally finish that article.

But this one can say: it is no trivial task to bring liberty to any country. The task of bringing liberty to the a country like India involves – at a minimum – the following skills:

  • high level of knowledge of the principles and policies of liberty, and of liberal governance. This basically means having an open mind to innovations from across the world; it means having a research bent of mind. The liberal has an mind that is constantly open to new learnings. Most “liberals” do not understand the basics of governance; they have an extremely shallow level of knowledge and do not pay attention to detailed incentives of the democratic/ bureaucratic system. Their policies amount to hand waving, and are essentially worthless for ensuring real change.
  • high level of communication skills. This involves the ability to write/ speak and otherwise explain ideas to the general public, including to the experts. The range of messaging is quite vast and diverse; but there needs to be high level of proficiency in these skills, if an liberal political movement is to take root.
  • high level of management skill and attention to detail. This is a key requirement which involves the ability to creating various organisations and ensuring they are compliant with relevant laws. It involves attention to the detail of how funds are managed, audits/ tax compliance, etc., and how website/ social media is managed, etc.
  • high level of respect for others. This involves complete trust in others unless they prove to be untrustworthy. This also involves the commitment to building democratic processes and institutions, but being careful not to disable individual enterprise in this process.
  • working towards a long term goal – of building the kind of DNA that will grow the organism (e.g. a liberal party) into a viable outfit for the future. This involves building systems that will foster innovation and initiative at all levels, even as everyone is held to account for their actions. It involves finding and building leaders.

The package of skills needed to start and run a political liberal movement does not exist in any single individual. So the key skill involved is the capacity to find and bring together people with the relevant skills, so the organisation, as a whole, has the relevant skill set and capability.

ROLE OF NATIONAL EXECUTIVE OF A LIBERAL PARTY

In this post I will raise a few points regarding building the DNA of a sustainable liberal political party.

A  party usually will have a representative body at the top, a National Executive (NE). The role of the NE is to oversight the development and growth of the party. Its job is to ensure that overall systems are in place.

It, however, has no business in the day-to-day affairs and actions of the party or its members. It is like the Board of Directors of a company, that meets periodically to agree to the broad principles, but after that the company acts. It doesn’t revert to the Board for advice. There is no micro-management by the Board. There can be no micro-management by an NE.

For instance, the NE must retain total control over the party’s ideology and manifesto. It must set systems in place for the selection/ election of office bearers. It must have a system to investigate disciplinary matters where any member acts in violation of the ideology and manifesto.

But it can have no role in prior approval of political actions taken by any individual member.

In any event, we are talking about a party of liberty, not a “high command” where everything is micro-managed.

The way of liberty is to fully empower all members to act. Members should not be held back with a leash, even on a matter that potentially violates the party’s manifesto. NE members can raise any concerns or provide advice, but they cannot pre-approve (“licence”) any action. They have no preventative role, only a punitive role should an action violate the party’s constitution or manifesto.

The NE are not puppet masters, and individual members are not puppets. They are free citizens who must be free at all times to act according to their best understanding of a particular situation.

Liberty involves experiments. It involves taking risks. No one knows what will happen when someone takes an action. Even the best laid plans of people can be laid waste; and totally unexpected success can be achieved from unplanned and random action. This is the nature of the world. We can never know in advance about the results from any action.

NE members cannot be a control freak who want zero risk. They cannot start imagining consequences and risks and block action. They are not Gods. They do not know the future.

The liberal party’s constitution must allow total freedom of voting to its parliamentary members except on a few critical bills.

This freedom must seep into every part of the party’s operational DNA. No one is required to seek any prior “approval” to act. By all means people should feel free to discuss their idea and seek improvements/ inputs. But EVERY individual member must be respected and treated like an adult.

Each action is an experiment. Let there be an infinity of experiments – each of these consistent with the party’s ideology and manifesto. Let there be freedom in the party that claims to bring freedom to the people.

Freedom also implies accountability. Therefore, every member should be accountable for his/her actions. But there is absolutely no scope in a free society for PRIOR CONSENT from any “wise” people.

Only through internal freedom can members of a liberal political party understand freedom and bring freedom to the people. If they become control freaks then the party will never grow.

Growth is ALWAYS related to the level of liberty.

Of course, if any FINANCIAL implication arises, there is a need for prior consent. But for saying something or doing something that doesn’t involve taking money from the party’s kitty, there is absolutely no need for prior consent.

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