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The evolution of Somnath Bharti as a leader – a review of the past three years.

Prompted by some questions from someone, I've written some thoughts on Somnath's evolution as a leader. 

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I had resigned from the IAS in January 2001 with a view to reforming India's system politically. To cut a long story short, after various efforts and learnings I started the Freedom Team of India (FTI) in December 2007 to promote liberty and world-best economic and governance policies, with a key focus on identifying and building values-driven leaders who will contest elections. We had a slow but steady growth. 

Somnath and Vikram Buddhi

Somnath Bharti impressed me with his work for Vikram Buddhi (https://www.sabhlokcity.com/2010/03/the-vikram-buddhi-case/) and later joined Freedom Team of India in 2010. When everyone had forgotten Vikram, Somnath stood by his side. He stood for idea of liberty and against oppression of an Indian by the USA.

Somnath and IAC

Somnath had become close to Arvind Kejriwal during this period and represented IAC in the Commonwealth Games corruption case. 

Somnath and my meeting with Arvind Kejriwal

Through Somnath I met Arvind Kejriwal in February 2012 and recommended that he join politics. Arvind did join politics later but choose an entirely different path (of socialism). Somnath was happy to let people know my role in motivating Arvind Kejriwal to join politics. On 5 May 2012 he wrote to a friend, with a copy to me:

"Sometime back, I had organized a meeting of Sanjeev with Arvind Kejriwal who was persuaded then by Sanjeev to look for political solution of corruption. I don't know if it is that persuasion or something else but as you know Arvind and his team announced their will of contesting the election 2014."

Somnath and Gurcharan Das

At one stage, I introduced him to Gurcharan Das (we went on a walk, together) and this is what Somnath wrote on 3 March 2012:

"I am sure that Gurcharan will play a more active and pivotal role in bringing a liberal govt in power at the center in addition to what he through his talks and writings is already doing. To make this possible, his presence in our monthly meetings will go a long way. I have startd reading his book "India Unbound" and my request for his active involvement in our work, more like a mentor, draws strength from his book. "  

I'm not sure if Somnath finished Gurcharan's book. My understanding about Somnath is that he is not very clear about ideology. That is not surprising. Although FTI has a requirement that anyone who joins it should commit to the principle of liberty it takes time (often years) for most FTI members to understand the implications of this principle.

Somnath has been generally busy with his job and other engagements, so he has not had time to interact actively regarding policy and principles as much as many other FTI members have. I do know that he has read much of my book, Breaking Free of Nehru, but he has not asked me questions about it. There was a brief discussion we had on education policy, once.

Somnath's FTI membership and AAP

Regarding political party involvement, FTI members are supposed to get active in politics. FTI approves parties that are broadly liberal, for its members to consider joining. FTI has also created Swarna Bharat Party in June 2013 to progress its political goals. After AAP was formed, its policy positions were not clear enough. Somnath told me that Arvind doesn't have any ideology but stands for 'whatever works'. That was not very promising. But Somnath became more influenced by Arvind during mid-late 2012.

When Somnath wanted to join AAP in later 2012 he took my consent (during a long one hour phone call) which I gave on the condition that he'd influence Arvind Kejriwal – who holds extremely regressive economic beliefs. 
 
I recall during my long phone conversation in late 2012 that I told him that Arvind is speaking in populist language and such an approach will harm India. To that, Somnath responded that according to Arvind populist policies are needed to get votes, and after power is obtained, good policies can be introduced. I cautioned him against such an approach since the means and ends must match. Instead, I advised him to try to influence Arvind in the right direction. 
 
Somanth told me that although he is not yet part of Arvind's inner circle, he would try his best to influence him. At that I agreed to his joining AAP and informed FTI accordingly on 27 November 2012: "Although Somnath has joined AAP (he spoke with me and I agreed he should do so), I'd be very reluctant for FTI members to support AAP at this stage."
 
Unfortunately, Somnath was unsuccessful in changing Arvind and, instead, seems to have fallen into Arvind's and Yogendra Yadav's ideological trap of socialism that includes subsidies and anti-business policies. [See further details below – some of this may simply be political compulsion].
 
In early 2013, the Freedom Team of India resolved to remove anyone who was member of AAPFTI members are currently only eligible to join Lok Satta Party, Navbharat Party and a couple of others. 
 
Interactions since he joined AAP
I have been in touch repeatedly with Somnath since he joined AAP, including in April 2013 when Somnath met me in Delhi while I was running a 2-day Governance Reforms conference at the Indian Institute of Public Administration
 
Subsidies
Recently, Somnath told me that his views on subsidies had been misrepresented.  He told me that he never said that AAP would give subsidies to reduce the power tariff. But then AAP went and announced subsidies for power. I wrote about this here: https://www.sabhlokcity.com/2014/01/i-do-hope-you-didnt-lie-to-me-somnath-bharti-you-should-now-resign-from-aap/

Somnath's "raid"

As you are aware, I have strong concerns about the reported behaviour of Somnath in recent times, and accordingly, even if he had not joined AAP, he would likely have been at least suspended, if not removed, from FTI for trying to take "justice" into his own hands. His excellent work (Vikram Buddhi, CWG corruption case, etc.) does not exempt him from the rule of law. Further, there are various policy solutions to the prostitution etc. problems of Khirki which do not involve arresting people. One FTI member meet him just a couple of days ago and had detailed discussions re: the raid. I don't deny there is a problem in Khirki, but the way to fix it is not the way Somnath has pursued.

SUMMARY

I suspect Somnath was never very clear about ideology but is basically a liberal. He is, however, unable to influence Arvind in any meaningful way. I think Somnath is handicapped by the party's "inner circle"
 
Everyone on FTI is expected to be ambitious. All members are focused on contesting elections. Somnath has seen a short-cut to power, and in that process has compromised significantly on what he wants for India. 
It is my hope that Somnath will resign from socialist AAP, make amends for his recent reported actions (some of which might – subject to court orders – involve his going to jail for a while), and return to the liberal fold to further progress his journey as a leader. I believe people can make mistakes but in the end everyone must be encouraged and prompted to become a great leader. We can't permanently penalise those who – like Somnath – have taken up the battle on behalf of India, so long as they are ready to continuously learn and improve. I continue to hold the belief that one day young people like Somnath will learn the right way to help India.
 
The Freedom Team of India will continue its efforts to find and build leaders. Many of its leaders are preparing to contest the 2014 Lok Sabha elections to promote libety. We hope many others can be identified and developed in the coming years. 

Sanjeev Sabhlok

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