Thoughts on economics and liberty

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:
    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. 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.
  4. 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?


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.


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.


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.

Sanjeev Sabhlok

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4 thoughts on “A new approach to political liberal action – workshops across India to find leaders at the grassroots
  1. Raj

    Fine idea.

    What a good start! A lot of what I say may overlap with what you’ve mentioned, but just for ease of flow it may repeat, I’d try to not do it though..

    As you’ve mentioned, I think *firstly*, robust financial support need to be made available to our godly volunteers and the ground team. We’re nothing without them, nothing at all.

    Their daily finances to all extents that is deemed fair, must be provided to them for this task they do.

    I guess we may need to start fundraising campaigns (perhaps online ones, with set targets as you’ve mentioned, which I greatly agree with!) need to started pretty much now. A semblance of mind that they have some cash support would be great I’d say.

    I would suggest Rabi always (ALWAYS!) leave out details of the party HQs and leave an open call for volunteers, wherever he goes.

    Volunteers being our missionaries, the greater the better. We obviously would not support them all financially. It would be great if they could to go *neighboring* districts and do the same — open call for more volunteers, AND candidates for that district — whom we will test and check for suitability.

    Obviously, they will be asking these people to vote and vote for SBP in 2019 — the primary function of the walking and talkin firstly.

    As the point is to spread far and wide .. I would say a bit of help could do well.

    One caution I’d give Sanjeev: The people are everything and we must judge them for their merit. Anybody, literally ANYBODY.. who gets liberty and is willing to fight for *his/her* rights first, must be offered a chance to volunteer, proselytise and of course, fight for parliament.

    We must not, NEVER see whether a person has “sufficient” education and all. Anybody with a fire .. will be the one who’d burn down the canopy of tyranny.

    And we’d know this when we *see* him, his willingness and how he/she speaks to people carrying the msg.

    Charisma matters, and those who truly seek liberty.. will have the power to move people. We must seek them.

  2. RR

    “But they are not interested in the ideas of any party because the country doesn’t matter to them.” Not because ‘the country doesn’t matter to them’ but because they don’t think any political party can actually change anything. Most Indians think that things are bad because ” we Indians are lazy”, “Indians are कामचोर”, “Indians are dirty”, etc. etc. They really have no understanding of the concept of how an incentive based system works. They keep thinking बेचारा अकेला मोदी क्या क्या करे?!

  3. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    They should ask questions about the governance system – but my experience is that they are too thick headed and will never ask any question. They have ready made answers. We should ignore them since they are simply not affected by the mess around them. They live in air conditioned homes, travel in air conditioned cars, have servants all around them. And they never vote. Not relevant to India in any way, except as wage labour.

  4. A V Raju

    May i add a few of my thoughts here. If you ask any common man in this country what the politicians main drive is , it would be unanimous that it is to make quick money. Fast and real fast. You ask any young man with ambition for politics and delve into their treason for such a drive it is singular passion to make money and that too very very fast. Ask any common man they will all agree – let the politician eat 50% of the money , atleast let him try and spend 50% for the country- would be the answer. Here we see a special blend of controverted logic- i.e., every body agree there is corruption everywhere and somehow miraculously these very people/society would bootstrap itself to annihilate corruption . I would come to the lovely summary of your views on the ills of religious beliefs . I would say this “bootstrapping ” is another example of the religiously irreligious logic our folks employ to somehow convince themselves that a miraculous annihilation of corruption is round the corner, every time , every year and every election. Little would they believe otherwise. And very little would they believe that it requires co-ordinated , consistent , unsparing efforts to end it all. It would start with change of mind set that – zero tolerance to corruption as the hall mark of our societal thinking.
    Our youth and our aspirants must first accept and shun corruption at every stage . I recall your brush with Mr Saikia and your resolve not to budge . I am sure, that came, in the bringing-up and values installed in you in the process , cemented further by your own education, commitment to principles and the individuality you have developed. And of course the courage to say no , when required ,the opponent , regardless. That is to pay the price for the honesty and keep the dictate of the conscience and the individuality high rather than succumb nincompooishly to the dictates of some one else and regret the bad conscience all the life.
    But that opens up a larger question as far as our political agenda is concerned. Tackling these ticklish issues requires Intellectual strength, Moral strength ( not necessarily religious) , and an emotional quotient that can be only driven by experience , in fact long experience. I would therefore suggest that we refrain from overly concentrating on the youth leaders for the team but rather on people who are committed and intellectually able to drive the agenda forward. The youth would be enabled as we go along under the close supervision of cadre builders and trainers imbued with principles of good governance.
    I would also agree that we must meet up with people and invite open forums , use the watsapp platform to make small and manageable groups to spread the ideas we cherish. Alongside instead of committed people having to contribute sums , it might be convenient to have a small amount contributed regularly every month , without the pressure of “the minimum size of the contribution ” as a criterion. Every bit is welcome may be the procedure we must adopt. But there are certain very important issues i would like to discuss with you but not on this platform as it is more for my “erudition” rather than for “public” audience. Issues like our take on certain policies connected to demography which may have an impact on the political canvas once we are enabled to challenge the existing political big-wigs.

    About one point on the summary of your religious views is this point – ” that you will protect the individual right to believe , even though you disagree with religion at all ” is simply superb and sets the tone for the wonderful leader we have in you. I too dont believe most of this non-sense. But the nation requires a man who has both the right head and the right heart — and both in the right place !!!. regards AVRaju