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Category: Swarna Bharat Party

A program of action for the liberation of India

In a recent article, Gurcharan Das expressed pessimism about the future of political liberalism in India. There is no doubt that political liberalism faces significant challenges in India. But much of this is because (a) India has hardly had any liberals in the past seventy years, and (b) the few who have existed have not organised to take the message of liberty systematically to the people of India.

Converting ideas into action is always a challenge, particularly where persuading others is involved. And since every situation is different, one can’t expect to find a solution without attempting the challenge. It is all about learning by doing.

When, in February 1998, I took on the challenge of transforming India’s governance, I over-estimated the availability of liberal leaders and under-estimated the vast gulf in understanding between the liberals and the common man in India.

Nearly twenty years later, many experiments and attempts later, I am better placed to recognise the magnitude of the task at hand. The task can be summarised thus: (a) find and build thousands of liberal political leaders, and (b) undo the brainwashing of a billion people.

Not simple, but worth doing.

Why is it worth doing? I have my personal reasons why I want India to succeed. But even from the most abstract perspective, if Indians can achieve their highest potential, there will be a significant surge in the world’s productivity as a billion extra human brains get on to the task of innovation. Surely this is something worth aspiring for?

And if something is worth doing, it is worth doing well. Let’s do this properly and not take short cuts. In fact, the challenges involved in achieving this task cannot be circumvented. It is not as if one can join the socialists or Hindutvas and expect them to change colour and promote liberty.

We must not forget that our opponents did not get to their dominant position in India (and thereby have destroyed India) by accident but through sustained, albeit misguided, effort over tens of years. Many lifetimes were spent by our opponents in their mistaken attempts.

The challenge posed by our opponents, the enemies of liberty

The RSS (the ideological wing of BJP) took the idea of Hindutva to the people of India for decades before it started having an impact on electoral politics, first with the Jan Sangh, then the BJP.

Socialism got a head start in India through Nehru who had the advantage of being in a position of power for a very long time during which he brainwashed India (I’m not questioning his intentions here). As a result of his influence, he not only persuaded the vast majority of Indians about the “benefits” of socialism but created socialist institutions which have led to the ruinous consequences we see today. To undo the work of Nehru is not a trivial task.

One of the insidious consequences of Nehru’s work has been the destruction of the intellectual capital and capability of India. India has lost three generations of children who did not get even basic education, leave alone any education about liberty.

Further, whatever little education was imparted (by leftist teachers at all levels – in schools, colleges and universities) has led to a brainwashing so complete that the products of this education are incapable of even recognising reality, leave alone making informed choices.

I’m constantly amazed by the unique ability of these brainwashed Indians to deny the most obvious facts. For example, when I share with them information about the low levels of freedom in India in various international comparisons, and not just by one organisation but by a large number of independent organisations, most Indians refuse to even accept this information. And if the data do sink in, they come out with bogus defences, such as India is a very big country. As if that excuses the destruction of freedoms. Any country, regardless of size, will become badly messed up when it adopts collectivist ideologies.

It often feels that one is banging one’s head against a wall.

The ability to deny facts is characteristic of belief systems, where rational thought is consciously excluded. Socialism has become one such belief system which no amount of evidence can budge. This sorry state of affairs is an indictment of the socialist education system which did not teach Indians to think for themselves and understand basic facts.

Program of mass communication

We are born chained to our parent’s beliefs. Liberalism, like religion, socialism or Hindutva, is a learned concept. Liberty, unlike collectivist concepts, is the only idea that helps all humans and fosters innovation and prosperity. But it is not a natural idea. It has to be learned. Further, learning about liberty has much to do with reasoning, which is not the forte of most humans.

To date there has been no consistent and systematic effort in India’s history to show the people of India the benefits of liberty. We have had sporadic initiatives and sporadic writings by a few people like Gurcharan Das but this is insufficient.

We need a program of action to propagate the message of liberty in a systematic manner.

This has to be political, not through think tanks. All over the world political parties have promoted the idea of liberty. Other methods have neither worked nor can work. There is no prospect of India becoming even a remotely free without a liberal party leading the way. Yes, a liberal party’s journey will necessarily be difficult in identity-politics ridden India, but if we put our shoulder to this task, India will respond.

We need a program of mass communication at the grassroots level and in urban India, including in schools and colleges. Without such a mass communication program that (a) shows Indians how bad their situation is, and (b) how they can become so much better off, it will be impossible to fight off socialist and Hindutva indoctrination.

This mass communication program would need to use WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter. It would involve brochures and publicity material for grassroots dissemination, in addition to a range of videos. Material would include satire and jokes about socialism. A vast amount of material would need to be generated in order to undo the damage done to the minds of a billion Indians over the past 70 years.

The initial focus will need to be on written material since we do not have ready access to leaders on the ground who can reach out to the people. Slogans, short messages, jokes, flyers and brochures, all branded with the party’s name have to be released in the thousands. At the same time, a team of political leaders needs to be projected in the minds of the people.

Another critical task is to prepare the party’s manifestos for state government elections and for local elections across the country. These would be generic manifestos that would in due course be tailored to the local situation. Liberalism needs to be translated into specifics for the people, and each action properly explained. Manifestos are particularly important for ideological parties.

This task will need a combination of professionalism and voluntarism. There are those who can write well; they should do so. There are others who have limited time but can spare a bit of money. That money can be used to hire professional expertise in communication.

A minimum of two or three years of sustained effort is needed to start seeing even the minimal results. It takes a long time to change the minds of people. Over the course of time, the liberal party will get the capacity to win some seats and ultimately to even form government.

The content of the message

In order to change the mindset of the people they have to be systemically shown why India is in such a bad shape. The most important message will have to be the “why”. Why liberty? Why should Indians care about liberty?

The answer is that liberty benefits the people, their opportunities increase, their choices increase. It is through transactions and trades made in liberty that wealth increases. It is through liberty that people can achieve their potential.

People are not stupid. If you show them something that will benefit them, then there is no reason they would not be persuaded.

Conclusion

It is premature to be pessimistic when we have not even understood the task or designed a strategy to deal with it. We need to put in place a concerted programme of action to take the message to the people of India.

What we have to offer India is so good and so attractive, only total fools will reject it. I believe Indians are not fools, merely ill-educated.

Let’s at least show our wares to the nation. Let’s set up our shop and let the people choose. Let’s give India a chance.

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One-page explanations of key economic/ political issues for the people of India

Below is a list of one-page google docs that I’m giving access to ANYONE IN THE WORLD to comment. These documents are intended to provide a summary regarding key questions/ issues to the people of India. Once finalised these will be published on the website of Swarna Bharat Party as part of its educational program for India.

Please provide your comments directly on the google doc. This is only the start. New documents will be added and I’ll make the announcement on FB.

Question: What is the role of government in business?

Question: Why is it not the job of government to run schools?

UNDER DEVELOPMENT

Governance

Question: Why is it that state funding of elections will get us honest politicians?

Economy

Question: Can a government create jobs?

Infrastructure

Question: Why should all utilities be privatised?

Role of government

Question: Why is it important that religion and state should remain separate?

Freedom of speech

Question: Why is freedom of speech necessarily a right to offend?

Welfare of the poor

Question: On what basis should the poor receive money through a government?

(Can private welfare and charity not take care of poverty?)

Question: Why is it not a good idea for the government to give freebies?

 

Question: Why is wrong with giving government servants a job for 35 years?

Social problems

Question: Does the government have a role in fixing social problems?

Question: What explains the low status of women in India?

(including their poor security)

Environment

Question: What is the role of government in managing our environment? 

Question: How can we put an end to environmental pollution?

Inflation and prices

Question: What can we do as a society to put an end to inflation?

Question: How can we lower the cost of living?

Question: Why should the government not fix prices of things in the market?

(This includes the maximum retail price)

Question: Why should the size and scope of government be limited to certain functions? http://opinioncentral.in/this-is-how-a-country-should-be-run/

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Regional language versions of Gurcharan’s TOI article re: SBP and liberalism – please assist in identifyng the URLs

Gurcharan’s 26 February 2017 TOI article will be translated and published in the following newspapers
  • Dainik Bhaskar
  • Eenadu
  • Hindu Tamil
  • Lokmat
  • Divya Bhaskar (Gujarati)
Would appreciate being notified of links. I’ve got the ones for Dainik Bhaskar, below.
RECORD OF URLs
Dainik Bhaskar
In Lokmat
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Gurcharan Das joins Swarna Bharat Party and talks about the challenges of political liberalism in India

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/register and consider taking membership. Prior to doing so, please review SBP’s draft manifesto that has been prepared after more than 19 years of hard work in consultation with thousands of Indians (http://swarnabharat.in/manifesto). SBP is an ideological party and it is vitally important that members are aligned very closely on ideology. The details can always be improved.

(Btw, here’s the link to my Open Letter to Gurcharan which prompted his TOI article today: http://www.sabhlokcity.com/2017/02/open-letter-to-gurcharan-das-please-clarify-your-position-regarding-bjp-and-indias-only-liberal-party-sbp/)

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?

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Gurcharan Das sends a strong signal to India and the world by taking membership of Swarna Bharat Party

Five days ago I wrote an Open Letter to Gurcharan Das, one of India’s major liberal thinkers.

Gurcharan has responded by taking membership of the party. He will also raise the issue of political liberalism and the great challenges it faces in India in a future article.

His taking membership sends a strong signal to India and to the world – that this is a challenge worth taking.

This is also a signal to all those who support liberty in India – to join SBP and put their shoulder to the task of educating India about the benefits of freedom – and of contesting elections to offer India a real choice.

Swarna Bharat Party brings a message of optimism and hope to India – a nation that ranks close to the bottom on all key measures of liberty.

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