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Category Archive: Politics

Brief report on the second 5-day workshop on the Indian liberal political strategy

I've been extremely tied down in meeting people (including grassroots leaders) over the past few days, but have found some time, now,  to provide a brief update on the 5-day liberal workshop that I convened from 26 to 30 July 2014. You can download the slides from here. The slides were not used at the workshop, being intended as background material.

Day 1: It was decided that Navbhafrat and Swatantra Bharat were not yet ready to consider discussions regarding a possible merger. However, it was decided that Swarna Bharat Party should be activated and over the next six months to one year, a decision could be taken based on the progress made by the three parties. Representatives from Navbharat and Swatantra left either on the first day or on the second day. There was, however, a high level of goodwill between the team, and I am confident that over the next few months, a competitive process (market-based) to detefrmine the most viable liberal party will be found, thereby creating a platform which all liberals can decide to merge into – in due course.

Prior to the workshop I was quite happy to burn the registration papers of Swarna Bharat Party if we had agreed on a common agenda, constitution and code of conduct. I have decided to recommend that SBP bootstrap itself into existence (PAN number/ bank account, etc.). India will now get YET ANOTHER liberal party in India, but I hope this additional administrative cost and burden on the liberals will not be wasted.

Day 2: I had invited a small group of liberal leaders (some not quite liberal – having been involved in AAP) to the workshop. This group was generally compatible with liberal ideas, albeit in a round-about way. Their leader Rajendra Paladugu (a medical doctor) is a good man but extremely aggressive, unable to listen to anyone, always interrupting others. He took around 60 per cent of the "talk-time" on the second day. I was particularly put off by his false statements about me. He alleged that I've written somewhere: "I know everything". Period. These were the precise words he used. This was a deal breaker as far as I'm concerned. I'm one person who knows that I know very little – a small part of human knowledge. I have always insisted that everything I propose is subject to further discussion/ improvement. How can anyone be liberal and yet insist that he/she is the repository of all knowledge?

He also said that I have said, or written: "The free market destroys all evils". Clearly he has not bothered to read the extensive section on regulation in Breaking Free of Nehru, nor the section on regulation in the Sone Ki Chidiya agenda (he clearly said that he had not read the agenda). He also railed against the word liberty and liberal.

I was extremely unwell, as well, being on anti-biotics for a very bad case of laryngitis.

I switched off and as the day progressed, it became clear that members of Rajendra Paladugu's group are quite good, but he himself has some serious work to do if he wishes to be part of any liberal effort.

In particular, I've asked him to:

(a) prove his allegation about what I've written (the specific sequence of three words: "I know everything." Period.). He should feel free to publish any email in which I say so. This falsehood is a permanent deal breaker. I do not tolerate or live with liars; and

(b) take a number of courses in active listening. If he continues to take 60 per cent of the "talk time" in meetings where 20-25 people are present (most people – including members of his team – got no time to speak), interrupts everyone, and radically distorts what someone says or implies (when I told him about what a Muslim MP had said to me, he totally distorted the essence of what I had reported – and started speaking against Muslims in general – this happened during an evening prior to the workshop), he can't possibly be part of any liberal leadership.

Nevertheless, it was decided that FTI would progress discussions with Rajendra Paladugu's team to work out whether there is any common ground. I'm happy for FTI members to discuss further with Rajendra and his team.

Rajendra, however, did NOT take my feedback to him seriously. After the workshop when I reported the summary outcomes to members, Rajendra wrote back: "Sanjeev, can you remove my name from this group , FTI and all other groups that you chair or are part of." First of all, Rajendra is NOT an FTI member, so removing his name from FTI doesn't arise. But I've removed him from the liberal workshop group. From this follow-up response of Rajendra, I do not think Rajendra will do either (a) or (b).

I'm extremely forgiving if people have learnt their lesson/s and apologise. In this case, if Rajendra can't find the statement (a) that he has alleged I've written, he should publicly apologise to me – through a mechanism as widely read as this blog. And, further, he should demonstrate evidence of active listening. At that stage, I'd be most happy to engage further with him.

The second day was an unhappy one for most participants. Anyway, no one is indispensable to India, and we have decided to activate SBP.

Days 3 – 5

Given the under-achievement of the first two days, these were extremely productive days. I was particularly impressed with Rakesh Agarwal who is going to lead the Delhi effort of SBP. We discussed:

- SKC agenda and ways to improve it

- Documents that will be generated to support the agenda

- Customised Delhi agenda (we discussed around 11-12 key issues, with focus on justice.

- SBP constitution – will be revised and re-submitted to ECI. Some elements of the constitution would not apply till a future date (I'll draft a resolution to that effect).

- Code of Conduct for the party will be based on the FTI code of conduct.

- We decided to have a FLAT STRUCTURE, with all members of the executive to be called Senior Leaders. All of them will be entirely equal. Only for specific purposes will a particular individual be selected (purely on merit) to represent the party for a particular task.

- We decided to spend the next five years in prachar – i.e. explaining the liberal message to India.

- We agreed that if a better name can be found, we'll consider renaming the Swarna Bharat Party.

GUESTS

We had a number of guests at the workshop, like Gurcharan Das, Ashok Desai, Sant Gopal Das, and Varun Arya – for short periods of time. Some BJP and AAP leaders also came by to observe/ listen.

Varun pointed out the qualities we must have in order for him to support this work. These qualities match, entirely, the qualities, I have always had in mind for such work – which form the basis of the Freedom Team of India. We will aim to inculcate and embed these qualities in SBP.

SUMMARY

India's suffering must continue for some more time, till the liberals can get their act together. This effort (that we kept going till late evening on each day, including the 5th day), demonstrates the urgency and seriousness of the situation. The liberals must not delay a merger.

Despite my disappointment at not achieving the optimal outcome, I will now set my mind to help make SBP a model liberal party.

1) Swarna Bharat Party will have no public-facing office-bearers.

2) SBP will ALWAYS be open and welcoming to all liberals.

3) SBP will build a culture of total transparency and internal meritocracy which should – in due course – attract the best talent in India.

4) SBP will aim to build institutions that can survive forever.

MY ROLE

This was a make-or-break workshop for me. At the end of the  five days, I still see a ray of hope despite my disappointment. That's why I'm not shutting down my efforts.

Disappointment has been my constant companion since 1998 when I first decided on the political option for reform of India's governance. Indian liberals have always shied from the challenge of reforming India's governance and continue to shy from working together. I have decided to live with disappointment for some more time. Hopefully, by then, the liberals will see sense and come together.

There were some young people on the table, for whose sake I believe I must put in some more work. They deserve a chance to show they mean business.

Let me reiterate: we can NEVER reform India's governance if we continue to operate multiple political parties. This is a no brainer.

On a personal note, it is now too late for me to resume Indian citizenship. Despite my repeated offers to India since 1998, India was never ready for change. The last remaining window of opportunity has passed.

Given my commitment to support the people I met at the workshop I will support SBP and FTI for some more years. But only if they show an ability to work together and systematically.

When Indian liberals do – finally – merge into a SINGLE liberal party that (in my view) is designed to survive forever, I will revert to the pursuit of science, painting and nature.

Join me in supporting Swarna Bharat Party. If you are interested, please write to me at sabhlok@gmail.com. We have much work to do, to build systems which allow the party to grow over the coming century.

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If Hindutva = Liberty, then I’m its greatest fan, else I’m its GREATEST enemy.

The USA was founded on the concept of LIBERTY, the idea that every American could lead his or her life as he chooses in the pursuit of happiness. 

Regardless of what ill-informed barbaric people from India often say, the USA is NOT a Christian country. Never was. 

Its foundation is in John Locke, whose signature idea is tolerance. Locke is best considered a kind of agnostic and was a close friend of Isaac Newton, a pantheist.

Every sect, as far as reason will help them, make use of it gladly; and where it fails them, they cry out, “It is a matter of faith, and above reason.” - John Locke, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1690)

Although Locke's natural law refers to God, he insisted on the separation of the Church and the State. 

It was Locke's idea that influenced Jefferson, and therefore created USA as the world's first nation committed only to PRINCIPLES – of liberty, tolerance and equality.

It is because USA is committed to liberty in its Constitution that even Obama the socialist is unable to destroy it entirely. If the USA will survive as a great nation it will do so because of Locke and Jefferson. And LIBERTY.

Unlike this idea of liberty, the idea of Hindutva is fraught. It claims that there is something different about Indians – their "Hindutva". This idea takes inspiration not from Locke and Jefferson but from Hitler's racist idea of a German (Aryan) identity. 

Hindutva is a FUNDAMENTALLY ILLIBERAL IDEA. Reading Savarkar, Golwalkar and others who founded this idea makes it clear that they were not looking for liberty but for RACIST AGGRANDISEMENT.

Hindutva is a collectivist idea, a group idea, an idea also based on religion – the so-called "Hinduism". I use the term "so-called" because it Hindutva has NOTHING to do with Hinduism as I know it (and yes, I do know a bit about the religion into which I was born). Hindutva is a shallow racist and hateful idea that makes use of mythologies (such as Ramayana) not to promote good behaviour and good character, but because that's the way for its promoters to gain political power. Hindutva has NO basis in either the history or philosophies of India. 

No matter how one looks at this idea, it is DANGEROUS AND HARMFUL.

Let's oppose Hindutva and BJP tooth and nail.

Let's insist on liberty for all Indians in India – regardless of their beliefs (if any), gender (if any) or language/ colour/ other superficial distinction/s.

Hindutva, I'm your GREATEST ENEMY. This dangerous and vicious idea must LEAVE my motherland. Let's revert India to the state of liberty when it was genuinely a great place to live.

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To regain the respect of the world, Islam must do what Christianity did: separate the state and religion

Despite many failings, the original Islam had plenty of good things going for it. It was a reforming religion which got rid of distinctions between rich and poor, low caste and high.

As a result of the higher levels of civislisation brought to the world through Islam, both mathematics and science received a significant boost during the middle ages, a time when Christianity had worked hard to destroy all remnants of civilisation in the West.

But today Islam is on the back foot. It is rare (very rare!) to find any non-Muslim who respects Islam.

And why?

Because it is the POLITICAL leaders of Islam and those who kill in the name of Islam who have brought it to its knees.

MY COMMENT FROM FB today [link]

How does the common man distinguish between one variety of Islam and another? That's the problem.

In a country like India, driven by a constitution that should (but doesn't always) separate religion from government, there is some chance that good Islam will be seen. But in "Islam states" there is almost zero probability of seeing good Islam.

Islam should do what Christianity did: after centuries of fighting and killing, Christianity accepted that the state and religion must be separate.

Only by following a liberal constitution in which the government enforces the rule of law (not Sharia law) and has nothing to do with religion, can Islam regain the respect of the vast majority of the people in the world. Today, because of Saudi Islam, Irani Islam, Taliban Islam, Pakistani Islam, etc. the world no longer respects Islam.

Wherever Islam has become political and runs governments, it becomes evil.

The kingdom of God and the kingdom on earth must be kept separate. Unless this happens, the only places where good Islam will be seen will be countries like USA, Australia, India – where the government is supposed to uniformly impose the rule of law, and keep religions separate from governance.

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I wager Rs.1 lakh that India will remain a GARBAGE DUMP after five years of Modi

Extracts from FB:

My post

My comment on a blogger's comment

FB friend responses

SH Sir, it's really tragic that the crowd is so dis-connected due to the deeply cosmopolitan inflow. As a reason no soul feels a belongingness to the soil. Ministers & bureaucrats are busy into real estate business a big time, given the huge flow of dollars from a small class of IT sector who believe no world exists beyond them. Above all people are the "most tolerant" of anything that comes up. Meri biwi, mere bacche, mera ghar.. no further thinking along. National sense is absent in totality, with response to anything as – "Why should I..!?" Let the city pay for it self centric greed. And yes, 10 astrologers are giving their darshan daily in all regional channels providing "aashwasan" to all problems of life..!!

Loknath Rao Pune is 100 % same story. Spilling of garbage all over the streets seems to be an intentional act of vandalism. It is done on purpose.. may be frustration or just plain arrogance of pathetically paid people who report in to no one. This country has still not understood that garbage collection and city management is not a mere "safaai" work obligation but needs the same efforts that are put in by large corporations to plan, produce and sell goods and services. We need to shut down these municipal corporations and corporators org structure that exists now. Its a sham.

SH-ji, you are right in that most inhabitants of these cities behave like tourists, temporary workers waiting for their next big chance somewhere in the Americas but these are not the people responsible for making this mess. Mere belonging ness does not keep the city clean. Movement of people from outside is integral to the economic activity that the state and city greatly benefit from. People are self-centric everywhere..even in New York city. The problem is the state and the city is completely unprepared for the REALITY that the cities cannot be kept clean with broomsticks and dumping trucks... the way it was done 40 years ago. The cleaning and management of the cities like Bangalore MUST be a few million dollars high tech industry that needs professional management at par with running the likes of Infosys… actually much more.

MY RESPONSE

Sanjeev Sabhlok The professionalism you refer to, Loknath, is DAILY business for local governments in the West. We have created impotent, hypocritical structures at every level in India. 

And BJP has NO CLUE ABOUT IT.

I am willing to WAGER Rs.1 lakh that India will remain a GARBAGE DUMP even after five years of Modi.

NOTE THAT – AS USUAL – MY WAGER IS ONLY WITH MODI. I DON'T CHALLENGE ANY MINION OF MODI. ONLY MODI. LET HIM TAKE MY CHALLENGE.

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