26th March 2017
11th March 2017
I’ve been in touch with Prodyut Bora of LDP over the past year (the party’s website is currently down – has the party shut down?).
Produyt has a problem with freedom. He thinks there is a thing called “excesses” of “unregulated capitalism”. He is smitten by the Scandinavian model.
After a long (but broken, due to poor telephone connectivity in the North East) conversation over phone in mid-2016, I wrote to him about the pros and cons of the scandinavian model on 24 July 2016. There was no response.
A few months ago Prodyut contacted me to try to merge our efforts. I suggested once again to him that we can only work together (even merge) if we agree on ideology. That meant agreeing in principle to the SBP manifesto. He needed to get on board with the principles of liberty. His current model is skewed towards “social welfare”, an undefined and potentially dangerous term. There is a very slippery slope here, which can move him quickly into extremes of socialism.
I invite him to read the following note by Mises: Middle of the Road Policy leads to Socialism [Available here].
It now appears someone called Durlov Baruah thinks that LDP is a liberal party. It is not!!
@lifeisbetter Thanks but LDP is not a liberal party. It is social liberal and is essentially socialist. Do compare the manifestos.
— Swarna Bharat Party (@SwarnaBharatIN) March 11, 2017
Let me elaborate by using LDP’s own ideological document that was (till the other day) published on its website [copy is now on my server]. My comments are in blue.
Liberal Democratic Party: Our Ideology
The ideology of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) is a combination of social & economic liberalism, and social democracy, customised to our local context.
Classical liberalism talks of an ideal world [Sanjeev: since when did Adam Smith or Locke or Jefferson or anyone else EVER talk about an ideal world?] in which man is free, acts rationally [Sanjeev: there is no presumption in liberalism about “rationality”] and optimises his personal gains—and in doing so achieves social harmony. [Sanjeev: liberalism is not about “social harmony” but about the right of each human to pursue his/her interests in peace so long as he/she doesn’t harm others].
This is operable in an ideal world but we all know that we live in an unequal, irrational world where strife is more the norm than exception. So how do we balance, for example, the excesses of unregulated capitalism, with the need to give every individual an honest shot at life, such that nobody is left behind? [Sanjeev: This is PRECISELY how all anti-liberty arguments – all of them bogus – start off; by making false claims and undermining liberty. They don’t tell us how politicians – who will presumably “fix” the “problem” are more rational or “ideal” than the rest of us]
The answer is: by combining the positive attributes of a liberal mindset with the compassionate sentiments of a social democratic heart. [Sanjeev: This is 100 per cent socialist – “compassionate sentiments!!” – first of all who has stopped anyone from being compassionate? What Prodyut is building is a strong case for state intervention and theft – of taxes]
The origins of social democracy can be traced to the various workers’ parties that rose in Europe in the mid-19th century. [Sanjeev: Now Prodyut admits that his ideological basis is in Fabian socialism – also linked strongly to socialist labour parties.] A couple of decades later, as trade unions began to be legalised, the idea that working class people could improve their lot through democratic participation began to gain ground.
This ideological path, however, split into two towards the turn of the century, when socialists argued that a revolution was a necessary precondition to a classless society, and social democrats responded that change was desirable in incremental small steps through peaceful constitutional means. [Sanjeev: that’s PRECISELY FABIAN SOCIALISM]
Social democracy that talked of justice for the labouring class took strong roots in Scandinavia and then spread to the American continent and the rest of the world. [Sanjeev: Now, of course, Prodyut is quite out of his depth, and we could potentialy leave him here, but I’ll do a bit more reading]
the idea that social equity was possible—and desirable—only within a liberal democratic-capitalist framework took shape only with the rise of the British economist John Maynard Keynes with what came to be called Keynesianism. … This Keynesian dictum then has been the challenge for all liberal democratic parties around the world: how do you combine economic efficiency with social justice, without in any way encroaching upon individual liberty? And this remains a challenge for us at LDP as well. [Sanjeev: Here Prodyut effectively admits to being a Keynesian. What further proof of the socialist ideology of LDP can possibly be needed?]
[Note: I’ve not gone into the question of governance reforms which is yet another thing that requires detailed analysis of incentives and an understanding of human behaviour]
Finally, once again, let me make clear my proposition: that India needs a liberal party, and that the only liberal agenda today exists in India in the form of SBP’s manifesto.
We can definitely improve SBP’s manifesto. But it is critical to adopt the manifesto as the first in trying to work together for reform.
26th February 2017
I’m delighted to inform you that Gurcharan Das, author of India Unbound and many other wonderful books, joined Swarna Bharat Party on 24 February 2017.
At the same time, he has provided a thought-provoking comment on this, here: Why classic liberals don’t win elections, and populists do – in today’s Times of India.
Gurcharan Das’s support for political liberalism (ever since I first met him in 2000) has remained undiminished, despite his increasingly pessimistic view about the challenges that liberalism faces. For instance, he supported two of my previous attempts (through Sharad Joshi’s Swatantra Bharat Party in 2004 and the still-born Liberal Party of India in 2005) and is now directly participating for the third time in this new attempt. As he notes, “Sanjeev Sabhlok formed Swarna Bharat, a genuine liberal political party in 2013.”
Despite his having joined the party, the best use of Gurcharan’s time is to write books for India and the world. I don’t expect him to put his time on actively promoting this party. I think it is enough that he has sent a strong signal to India and the world today – that SBP is India’s genuine liberal party. Now it is up to the country to act. I thank him for sending out this strong signal.
Liberty has never came on a platter. It has always required a lot of hard work from each generation.I have no illusions about the challenges ahead. However, I remain optimistic about liberalism’s future. In particular, it is for the first time in India’s history that we are actually attempting to build a genuinely liberal party in India. This is not a “social liberal” effort. It is a full-on liberal party. This is about equality of opportunity and a small but strong government, not about equality or big government and the welfare state.
I find SBP to be largely an educational project at this stage. So vast is the knowledge gap in India about the merits of liberalism that the first few years – even decades – of SBP’s work will be mostly about educating the country – through the electoral process (not through think tanks). Education is hard work but without such work we cannot oust the stranglehold of identity politics and socialism from India.
Liberty has steadily progressed across the world over hundreds of years. In my manuscript Discovery of Freedom I trace this history of this advance. More people understand liberty today and are willing to respect entrepreneurs than was the case in the past. While short disruptions to the march of liberty are, of course, possible, it is hard to visualise the prospect of elongated periods of diminution in liberty across the world.
Principles of liberalism have now become the backbone of public policy across the world, largely through the work of economists (mainstream economics is the most powerful offshoot of classical liberalism, the erroneous deviations of Marx and Keynes from its principles notwithstanding).
Both parties in Australia are fundamentally liberal now, Indeed, it was the Labor Party of Australia that led the charge on deregulation and free trade in the late 1980s and 1970s. Today, I advise a Labor Party operated State Government in Victoria on economic issues and can assure you that my advice is based on unfiltered and undiluted liberalism. Australia’s Liberal Party is also largely envisioned in the same classical liberal vein. There is local politics that occasionally dilutes the final policies chosen by politicians, but that’s unavoidable in democracy. Unlike the anarcho-capitalists, I’m not fussed if we don’t achieve perfect liberty. 80 per cent is good enough.
Similarly, the USA is foundationally liberal and no one (least of all Trump, who can expect to be repeatedly stymied by the Senate and the courts if he deviates too far from the straight and narrow) can bring its levels of liberty down anywhere close to the level seen in socialist India.
And the UK has re-asserted its commitment to liberty by rejecting the increasingly statist EU. The UK Labour has moved far away from its socialist roots with Tony Blair, and unless Corbyn becomes PM – a highly unlikely event – the British Labour Party will remain largely classical liberal in key areas.
It is only India that remains deplorably unfree. Modi’s watch has seen it decline even further. This is a matter of great shame to all of us.
I don’t see any prospect of India becoming remotely free without a liberal party leading the way. Yes, a liberal party will necessarily face a more trying and difficult journey in identity-politics ridden India, but if we put our shoulder to this task, India will surely respond. What we have to offer India is so good and so attractive, only total fools will reject it. Let’s at least show our wares to the nation. Let’s set up our shop and let the people choose.
I welcome Gurcharan to SBP and request everyone who’s not yet joined the party to visit http://swarnabharat.in/r
(Btw, here’s the link to my Open Letter to Gurcharan which prompted his TOI article today: http://www.sabhlokcity.
Gurcharan argues that some so-called “liberals” choose to use “stealth”, But in my view, it is fundamentally immoral and also strategically inappropriate to use “stealth” to promote liberalism. Liberalism is so good it must never be allowed to be sullied by corrupt socialist ideas. Parties like BJP/Cong/AAP should not be supported on any pretext. To anyone who believes that BJP or Modi can do even remotely bring liberty and good governance to India, I say this to you: Avoid short cuts, for they always end up becoming long cuts.
I’d be happy if SBP candidates even start contesting elections, leave alone winning them. The first step is to enter the ring. To date, Indian liberals have not even entered the ring. Even if SBP candidates come LAST in the next five elections, that would not worry me, for it would be a step in the right direction.
Give this effort around 10-20 years before you start seeing real results. I have given it 19 years and we are still at the beginning. If you had joined me in 1998, we’d have been on the cusp of forming national government by now. But the good thing is that this is no longer a one man show. We have over 250 members now, all of whom share the same vision for India. We on SBP are trying to do this properly, and well. Something worth doing is worth doing well.
Join me in doing this well. Be moral. Be good. Be honest. Don’t support the corrupt – for in doing so you end up destroying both your soul and your reputation. History is unforgiving. If you’ve mistakenly supported parties like BJP/ Congress/ AAP in the past, you can still make amends. It is not too late to join. The political liberal effort in India has just begun.
Let’s put in a lifetime of work on this project and then review where it takes us.
I also request you to forward this email to as many people you know – so they can review whether they want to continue to support (as Gurcharan says) “criminals, corrupt populists, and members of political dynasties” OR “upright, independent, reform-minded liberals”.
The choice is yours. Ours. I made my choice in 2000 to not support this corrupt system and so I choose to resign from the IAS. Are you ready to change the system?
19th February 2017
(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
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 India: An 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.
ADDENDUM 25 FEBRUARY 2017
Gurcharan had first made the case for a liberal party in 2002, here.
17th January 2017
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.