21st July 2011
The India FNF Alumni Network (IFAN) recently organised a meeting in Mumbai of liberals across the spectrum (young liberals, political liberals, etc.) to meet FNF's Regional Director-Siegfried Herzog. Supratim, an FTI member, attended the meeting and provided some notes. I'm publishing them with his prior permission:
Edited extracts from Supratim's notes:
Manali Shah, IFAN, and Parth Shah of Centre for Civil Society (CCS) were present, along with two people from Liberal Youth Forum, India (LYFI). On the political side, Surendra, Reuebn and one more from Lok Satta, and Awadhesh Singh from Jaago Party attended. There were a few other individuals who were either working with NGOs or have worked in the liberal cause earlier.
There were a fair amount of broad-brush discussions, but the key points from my perspective were:
1. Lok Satta admits that they read the people wrong – and, while people welcome Lok Satta as a moral, ethical political force, LS is unable to transform that into votes yet. So, they are spending more time in trying to build momentum at the ground level, while communicating as widely as possible with potential constituents. They continue with the bottoms up strategy and will be contesting the BMC elections, which are coming up.
2. Jaago party is planning to contest the Rajasthan state elections – that is their focus state and all their energies are going towards this aim.
3. Even otherwise intelligent people find it very hard to accept or think through FTI's strategy of getting first 500 members together, before we contest. Although, LS also acknowledges how hard it is to get leaders in India who are ready to contest, instead of just commenting. People are stuck on getting full time activists in each state, full time politicians (another disconnect) even while the party is in no shape of even winning a significant minority.
4. The other disconnect, I find, is that even so called liberals find it hard to accept market pricing solutions – there was a question of how we get over the impasse of finding good ("middle class) people to contest and to remove the stigma for politics – my solution was obvious, pay the politicians a lot for governing the country. For example, maybe the PM needs to be paid Rs10cr a year for his service. I could see the eyes glazing over, and talking about service for the cause and how one must have a passion for this work, etc – if this is that state of our so-called liberals, I think we are 50 years away from really reforming India.
5. People want to work within the existing system and try to rejig it and reform it – big bang reforms where start from a completely new fundamental base scares most of them.
Simple and ready solutions readily exist to India's problems. For instance (without insisting that these are the only solutions available), the solutions in BFN distill the very best policies that the world has to offer today. These policies are guaranteed to make India rich.
But for some strange reason we can't seem to be able to find 1500 high quality leaders and get on with the job. How hard can this be in a country of 1 billion people?
The few who are 'awake" are continuing to waste their PRECIOUS time in futile attempts to do "ground work" without ANY PREPARATION. They need to first build a strong leadership team and get agreement on policies. Without policy agreement, and 1500 leaders talking the same language, there is ZERO chance of building a successful national liberal political party. Indeed, sometimes I suspect these "liberal" political outfits are not genuine votaries of liberty. (For instance LS seems to be social liberal and Jago's views are unclear). And that they are not serious about India's future.
Anyway, as Rome burns, its educated classes continue to fiddle. I conclude that Indians DON'T want to become rich.
Untold wealth is being offered to them in a platter, and they refuse.