14th January 2018
A new approach to political liberal action – workshops across India to find leaders at the grassroots
I had alluded to a fundamental change in approach in my recent podcast (see my blog post here). I’m now attempting to refine its mechanisms.
The key findings to date:
- A top-down approach is essential to start a new political movement. There has to be intellectual rigour and capacity at the top, to provide meaningful direction. We are doing that pretty well in SBP, particularly given how badly stretched we are for resources.
- Our goal must be to reach out to people at the grassroots. Liberals have hitherto never tried to reach out to people on the ground. We have largely remained in the cities and in English medium newspapers. But we now know that our message has greatest resonance at the grassroots. The poor in villages and slums care a lot about our approach. All reports from the ground are 100 per cent clear: our message is being picked up like a sponge soaks up water. The poor are really thirsty for good governance. The socialists indoctrinated Indians for a hundred years, RSS Hindutvas for 80 years. Let’s start spreading our message – right now.
- Our candidates must necessarily come from the lower middle class. We need 500 candidates for Lok Sabha elections but from where will we get them? In BFN I was naive and wrote: “Initially we have the simple task of finding only 1500 exceptionally good and competent people to form the Freedom Team of India”. But this has turned out to be a far from simple task, as the experience of the past ten years shows. Some learnings:
- The poor are our main voters but they are largely unable to offer leadership to the party both because of educational handicaps and limitations of time/ resources.
- The elites can help us financially, some may even write about us. But they will not contest elections, which involves really hard work in difficult circumstances. It is physically not possible for the elites to contest elections. A few can be invited to contribute in the Rajya Sabha in the future when we hold enough seats across the country.
- The android connected social media savvy middle class is also not going to lead. First, they are not motivated enough (most employ the poor as their servants) and their focus is on irrelevant issues like religion and empty “national pride”. Even when they do get convinced about our ideology, they will not step forward to contest elections – indeed, most will never even vote.
- That leaves us with only one group: the lower middle class. That’s the kind of people like Modi and Amit Shah, who can’t speak English but can rise to the top from grassroots work. This is a very large group, close to a few hundred million people. From them will arise our leaders.
- Our initial candidates will have to be very young. It is extremely hard for people to unfreeze their mind after 35. So our initial candidates will largely be younger than 35 -in fact, we ought to target those younger than 30. Among these we need those who have fire in the belly and want to change things – even if they don’t know the path clearly right now. If they really want to change things, we can show them how to do it.
So what next?
- LET’S STOP DOING WHAT DOESN’T WORK
We ought to immediately stop asking the upper middle class to contest elections. They have signalled REPEATEDLY and COMPREHENSIVELY that they won’t. (This includes most SBP members and FTI members; if some more come forward that’s good but they will need to do significant work on the ground to succeed). Instead, these people – who are otherwise quite capable – should become the SUPPORTING CAST for new leaders who must necessarily arise from the ground. We should forget the idea of being leaders and, instead, become facilitators of India’s youth and provide them with the support and mentoring they need to succeed.
2. LET’S HOLD A WORKSHOP TO FIND GRASSROOTS LEADERS
Everything now points in one direction – to the grassroots.
Let’s issue a call to youth (from the Hindi speaking belt initially) who want to change India by contesting elections in 2019. They can be invited to attend a 2-day workshop in U.P. – at their own expense. We will organise the venue and tea/lunch for these two days. Of course, we will speak to each applicant in advance to work out suitability before issuing the formal invite to the workshop.
At the workshop we’ll ask our grassroots youth leaders like Rabi Kant Bharti and a few others to speak. If possible, I’ll also try to attend.
From amongst these youth we should hopefully be able to shortlist a few for further development (training/ mentoring). First of all, they should be sent to Bhadohi for grassroots training. The Bhadohi team is a trailblazer and we must learn from the team.
Thereafter, if these young leaders are found competent and clear-headed, we can announce their candidature for 2019 and support them financially. I suggest we set up goal-oriented projects and pay them a token honorarium (say, Rs.5000 per month – a bit more if possible) – subject to ongoing delivery of agreed outcomes.
If the first workshop works, we can hold many more such workshops across the country. Then, by end-2018 we should have 50+ highly talented, young Lok Sabha candidates from across the country.
Let’s aim to create thousands of leaders from the millions of Indian youth.
This is the new liberal strategy. The idea of FTI is dead. The idea of asking SBP elite leaders to contest is dead.
NO OTHER APPROACH HAS WORKED – FOR REASONS THAT ARE NOW CLEAR. LET’S GIVE THIS NEW APPROACH A CHANCE.
Any thoughts/ ideas welcome – including how to organise the workshop. Every level of detail needs to be thought about, so any suggestion/ question/ idea will be useful. And if you wish to donate for this workshop, let me know.
My attention was drawn to an issue often found amongst the youth belonging to the lower middle class. These are relatively young grassroots activists and “leaders” who view politics purely as a source of income – with no desire to change the country.
They are generally paid by the big parties to “organise” rallies and can even organise votes. But they are not interested in the ideas of any party because the country doesn’t matter to them.
A great challenge – while shortlisting young leaders for the proposed workshop – will be to make sure that no such person is allowed to attend.
I suspect that there are very few young people who will actually attend such a workshop.
India is effectively jammed from all sides, no wonder we have such a big mess. Despite having a massive population, the real pool of leaders is exceptionally small.