Thoughts on economics and liberty

How the leftist Economic and Political Weekly viewed the formation of Sharad Joshi’s Swatantra Bharat Party

Sharad Joshi formed Swatantra Bharat Party in 1994. This is an editorial report from EPW (Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 29, No. 25 (Jun. 18, 1994), p. 1494). How hopelessly leftist these people are – a great shame for India that socialists have taken over ALL mediums of publication, leaving none behind for the liberals.

Few Urban Allies

A RECENT convention of some “800 farmers and intellectuals” in Bombay is reported to have decided to launch a new party, modelled on the extinct Swatantra Party founded by C Rajagopalachari, with the able support of M R Masani, way back in 1959. Masani, appropriately, appears to be an inspirer of the recent move, while the farmer-leader Sharad Joshi is its key organiser. This new move clearly aims at linking the interests and actions of propertied elements in the rural and urban sectors. [Sanjeev: This is the MOST SHAMEFUL comment by EPW. What utter liars] Here lies the essential commonality between the old Swatantra Party and the new venture. But their divergences will perhaps be more significant.

Rajaji’s offspring evolved out of the convergence of the Ganatantra Parishad of the feudal princes and the fiercely anti-Nehruvian Forum of Free Enterprise of Bombay industrialists. Behind the new venture at the moment stands, only Sharad Joshi’s farmer base, limited primarily to the Maharashtra region. The urban link at the moment is apparently supposed to be provided by ‘intellectuals’, a rather nondescript category. The press report did not mention any name from this cerebral sector. Its industrial connection also is equally tenuous, if not totally missing at present. With the bonanza of the ruling NEP, the industrialists being the recipients of the most-favoured treatment from the powers that be do not need any pressure group for promoting their general interests. In other words, with ‘enemies’ like the present government, the industrialist class will hardly need ‘friends’ ! Hence. Sharad Joshi is unlikely to secure any effective urban allies from that quarter.

Moreover, the history of the old Swatantra Party is a mixed story. It shone in the Indian political firmament rather dimly and for a while only, soon to withdraw from the scene without a trace. After a modest debut with 18 members in the Lok Sabha in the 1962 (third general) elections, the Swatantra Party made a moderately spectacular appearance in 1967 with 44 Lok Sabha members, only to be cut down to eight in the following round in 1971. The next step was its self-liquidation through the merger with other forces, ironically including fierce socialists like George Fernandes, to form the Janata Party in 1977.

Even at its zenith, the old Swatantra Party had its bases only in the feudal-dominated regions of Gujarat, Orissa and Rajasthan. Rajaji and Masani had failed to give it any significant urban connection. Today Sharad Joshi and his fellow-travellers may provide the party with a more consolidated farmer base in some areas, but not many urban allies, who have clearly identifiable contradictory interests, at least over the terms of trade of agricultural commodities.

Hence, if the old Swatantra Party had begun with a whimper to meet an early extinction, its reincarnation this time may be a cripple at birth itself!

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Sanjeev Sabhlok

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4 thoughts on “How the leftist Economic and Political Weekly viewed the formation of Sharad Joshi’s Swatantra Bharat Party
  1. Raj

    Hi Sanjeev,

    It’s been a while. I do check the FB page at times, when in mood. Though I cannot support the party as it quite openly seems to hate Southern linguistic rights, I have for fight for my own liberty too.

    Just as a suggestion, you may well choose to discard: I think Baliyant Jay Panda MP, of Orissa is a fine Liberal. I think he has been evicted by the BJD.

    I have read quite a few of his articles: upstanding, liberty-loving man of honor and dignity. I think it may be of some fruit, to reach out to him: in your position, as the Premier of this great party.

    I have a feeling it may be of keenness to him, and would lend great gravity to the cause of Freedom. Bye, thanks.

    Hope my email isn’t on auto-delete. Off I go.

  2. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Raj, what party: “I cannot support the party as it quite openly seems to hate Southern linguistic rights”.

    I don’t know why you sometimes seem to go off on complete tangents.


    Though the Swatantra Party merged with the Bharathiya Kranti Dal(BKD) and not with the Janata Party, as mentioned in the article of E&PW, to form the Bharathiya Lok Dal(BLD), along with other parties, which evantually merged to form the Janata Party,it’s Economic Agenda had been implemented by the Ex.Prime Minister Sri.Narasimma Rao,with the help of his Finance Minister Dr.Manmohan Singh, during 1991-1996.That is the ideological victory ofor the Swatantra Party than other political parties, which are finding it difficult to achieve their ideas.

  4. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    This is not the way the world runs, Balasubramaniam. It was Congress, not Swatantra, that liberalised. And it was not voluntarily but forced by the IMF.

    Till today not more than a handful of people in India support liberty. Swatantra was not bad (its ideology was not purely classical liberal) but it failed miserably.

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