15th July 2010
On 1 July 2010, the Freedom Team of India (FTI) completes [completed] one year of its existence. Despite a political and media culture in India that is hostile to liberalism, and despite a severe shortage of leaders, FTI has successfully managed to build a platform where good leaders can work together towards a free India. FTI’s tricolour torch is now well recognised by thousands of people across India, and everyone has been invited to become a Freedom Partner (http://partners.freedomteam.in/).
A liberal national political group
What is FTI trying to do? Essentially, it aims to fill the void in India’s political spectrum, of a missing liberal party. Ever since Swatantra party wound up in 1974 things have gone downhill for India. FTI is trying to reverse this trend and take India towards freedom.
What is the obstacle to this goal? Is it that we don’t have the policy solutions? No! The solutions to India’s governance problems are quite clear, being broadly on the lines suggested in my 2008 book, Breaking Free of Nehru (BFN). (You can download it from http://bfn.sabhlokcity.com.)
So if the policy solutions aren’t an obstacle then what’s holding us back? Leadership vacuum. There is no one to fight the corrupt leaders who rule India. After Rajaji died, India’s liberals washed their hands off politics and, ever since then, have watched from the sidelines and made idle, useless comments about India’s ruin. They are bhadralok and will not step into the ‘dirt’ of politics. They are the problem!
Our education system has added to this by creating millions of clerks. Our clerical classes would much rather serve corrupt politicians as bureaucrats and industrialists, than join politics and change things themselves. No one in India seems to be aware of what Pericles said about ancient Athens, that ‘this is a peculiarity of ours: we do not say that a man who takes no interest in politics is a man who minds his own business; we say that he has no business here at all’ We must therefore tell those liberals who refuse to actively engage in India’s politics that they have no business in India. Please get involved! That is FTI’s main message.
One generation of liberals has bitterly failed India. I am now already fifty years old (what a shock!) and if I can’t deliver a free India to my people, then one more generation would have bitterly failed. With repeated failures of this sort, we don’t know whether there will even remain an India to talk about in the future.
Make no mistake. The ball is firmly in our court. Your court, my court. Our children will blame us just as we don’t hesitate to blame those who have failed us so bitterly.
For the past 12 years I have been working towards bringing together outstanding liberals into India’s public life. After promoting Swatantra Bharat Party between 2004-05, it became clear to me that piecemeal efforts simply can’t work. We have to do this properly, or not at all. Changing India is no piffling matter and we should give this task due respect and prepare for it properly.
The path of the Freedom Team
At least 1500 outstanding leaders therefore need to come together to agree on the policies they will offer India. They then need to campaign for three years and acquire considerable funding support. Only then should they consider joining or forming a political party with the clear aim of winning a majority of seats in the Parliament.
I proposed the idea of FTI in mid-2007 and later that year created a Yahoo group, inviting a few people to join. Shantanu Bhagwat, a former foreign service officer, was among the first to join, and published my guest post on his blog, Saytameva Jayate. That post received many comments and many bright young people then joined FTI. That was a lucky break.
These founders of FTI then initiated a range of activities. A magazine called Towards a Great India was issued, and an excellent brochure released. Thereafter, led by L.K. Kandpal and Ajay Anand in Indore, FTI became a Trust on 1 July 2009. FTI’s rules, and particularly its Code of Conduct establish high standards for FTI members to follow. FTI later released its Basic Principles and Strategy documents and launched a website. Members actively conducted outreach events in UP and MP and received good press coverage.
FTI is based on the citizen-leader model, a citizen who is also a leader. It doesn’t require full-time commitment. Members are asked to give the highest possible priority to their livelihood and family, after which they can work collaboratively on a few activities with the team in their spare time. A lot of excellent work has been achieved this way, at very low cost. To further keep costs down, member expertise in finance, accounts and IT is extensively used on the team.
FTI’s teamwork is exemplified by a letter that was drafted, designed, and sent out across India to 4000 independents candidates of the 2009 parliamentary elections. Members fielded tens of telephone calls that were received from all over India in response. FTI currently has 94 members and is in touch with 119 independent candidates.
FTI’s first conference
Seventeen members attended FTI’s first three-day conference in February 2010 held in Mumbai. At the end of that conference I was able to announce “to the nation that we have a Team. It is now up to the remaining bright and determined young leaders of India to join the Team, and for the good people of the nation to support this effort to transform India’s governance.”
The conference endorsed FTI’s strategy with minor amendments. In brief, FTI members will not launch direct political action until all the necessary homework is done and the people of India clamour for change. Further, as part of FTI’s annual action plan, a range of programs will be organised this year, including public seminars and Freedom Rallies.
Challenges to be overcome
The environment for liberal politics in India remains extremely hostile. The shortage of leaders is beyond acute: virtually impossible. No reader of Freedom First has joined FTI yet. About two thirds of those who have joined FTI are dormant. IT millionaires (and billionaires!) in India who pontificate about values and write books advocating liberal policies have no hesitation in consorting with corrupt socialists!
Funding remains the second major challenge. Members have funded almost all FTI efforts so far. If funds could be raised, then a few FTI members will be able to devote their full time to this task, giving this effort a much needed boost.
Despite these difficulties, FTI is determined to rouse the country from its slumber. It is clear to me that FTI is India’s only hope now; indeed, India’s greatest hope for the past many decades. If anyone has a better alternative to offer, please tell us urgently about it! But if you have nothing better to offer, then make haste to get on board this movement. I look forward to your active participation.
By Sanjeev Sabhlok
This article was published in Freedom First, July 2010