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Building a Complement to a Political Party

April 8th, 2009 · 18 Comments

As I observe the Indian elections at close-range, I have also started thinking about what we can do better. More specifically, is there a role for “Friends of BJP” (or for that matter, a “Friends of Congress”) once the elections are over? I think there is a big void that such an entity can fulfill. Here are some starting ideas.

  1. Create an army of volunteers across India. This will be the new cadre, comprising youth and professionals who stay engaged through the period between elections, work in their local constituencies (zones), build inroads into the communities and associations, and thus become a credible voice of wisdom. A multi-level network needs to be created to manage this value chain.
  2. Create a Continuous Engagement Programme with Middle India. We should create a weekly session (say, Fridays 6-7 pm) that allows people to network and converse. Each week there needs to be a topic for discussion with material provided centrally, and feedback solicited after the discussion. This programme will help the volunteers widen the reach and build a deeper presence in society. This engagement will also help identify the leaders of tomorrow.
  3. Identify 10 Key enabling Ideas / Innovations / Disruptive Technologies. These can help the party leapfrog and get a huge advantage in the political marketplace.
  4. Fund a Think Tank. The goal needs to be create something like the Centre for American Progress or Brookings Institute which explores new ideas, organizes talks, builds deep intelligence into how India is changing, and creates a governance agenda (and policies) for the party.
  5. Nurture 1000+ candidates across India. At the end of the day, the party needs to win Lok Sabha elections. The process of identifying the right people should begin now, and they should be trained to work in a constituency so they can be battle-ready in a few years. They can use technology to identify local issues, stay connected with people, and solve problems.
  6. Project a Big, Bold Vision for India. The party needs to provide an overarching positive vision with big bold ideas for the country which can attract people in Middle India. For example, a $10 billion investment into solar energy, the creation of 100 new cities to house 1 million people, a high-speed rail transportation network across India, opening up the education sector to public-private partnership, leapfrogging to 4G in wireless and 100 Mbps to offices and homes in broadband, etc. – ideas which can capture people’s imagination, and also create Indian organizations that can lead globally because of their strong domestic market presence.

The goal thus has to build a modern organisation focused on the new, emerging, urban India, which can be a key source of ideas and inputs to the political party it is affiliated to. We have to be the movement that captures the dreams and aspirations of Middle India. It is a volunteer organisation, but one that has a corporate discipline. I think we will find plenty of people willing to dedicate an hour or two a week to participate in this process.

Improving the input (quality of people0 to our political system is what will lead to an improvement in the quality of our politics and governance.

What do you think? Is this possible? What else can groups like these do? Would you be willing be participate in this process?

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18 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Amit Chakradeo // Apr 8, 2009 at 6:37 am

    Didn’t RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) did the same grass-root work ? They surely have been doing #1, #2 and #4 from your list.

  • 2 Sameer // Apr 8, 2009 at 7:55 am

    Rajesh,

    One problem we have with the current form of democracy as practiced at the moment is lack of consensus building, and a severe lack of thought leadership thats put into a “do-mode”. Too many “leaders” are content to merely “follow the voice of the people”. True leaders have created/changed public opinion with reasoning, debate and good marketing tactics. Gandhi sold the concept of – well – “Gandhigiri” as we now know it. Raj Ram Mohun Roy dared to question the acceptance of Sati. We cannot merely “accept” dowry, for instance, because the majority indulge in it.

    This boils down to one question : what do political outfits do “offline” – that is to say when they’re not in power, or even otherwise outside of that scope ? Has any party tried getting involved in ecological consciousness ? Or in building a consensus for fairer wealth distribution (you should hear some arguments I’ve heard about “how dare they demand such unreasonable increases?” in the context of security staff, maids in our apartment asking for a 10% increase).

    Our political activity needs to get out of the current status-quo driven comfort zone where the only idea is to please/placate, not drive towards a greater common good for the longer term.

    Rgds,
    Sameer

  • 3 Gaurav Agarwal // Apr 8, 2009 at 9:32 am

    Hi Rajesh,

    This definitely sounds like a good plan to do. But unfortunately political parties tend to politicize everything. I am ready to volunteer and be part of this group as long as it is party independent. No single party should take credit for it and party workers across parties should contribute to this forum. If you think pan-India, you need support of local MPs/MLAs, IAS officers etc.

    Regards,
    Gaurav Agarwal

  • 4 Sauarbh Garg // Apr 8, 2009 at 9:58 am

    Hey Rajesh,

    Good ideas.

    However I was wondering if we did it not for a particular political party for individuals and groomed them and invested in them, may be we can bring about a better change?

    Lemme know if you plan on a “Friends of India”. Would love to be a part. I think I am not really cut out to be a Friend of BJP or Friend of Congress for that matter.

    Regards,
    SG

  • 5 Virender // Apr 8, 2009 at 10:16 am

    Hi Rajesh

    I’ve been reading your blog for around an year now and I really feel good about the content that you have put up here.

    I also feel that you have a genuine concern for this country – whether as an entrepreneur or now in the political arena. But my gut feeling is that you have not tried to find the root cause of the Indian problem. Do you think that just by building good roads or creating new cities or providing bookish knowledge to Indians, this country will progress ? Although these things are useful, they are not sufficient (and in fact, are not the most important component). A nation can progress only if it has an enlightened citizenry. Otherwise, it will be a case of a sword in the hands of a monkey !!

    And when I say enlightened, I’m talking about people who are truly spiritual. When I say spiritual, I’m not talking about the way religions are practiced today because they are not teaching anything other than hate for each other. Whereas spirituality teaches love for everyone, irrespective of caste, creed, religion ….:

    “Parhit saras dharam nahi bhai
    Parpeeda sam nahi adhamai”

    So this country (and the world) can progress, in the true sense, only when truly spiritual persons come to the forefront in all fields – business, education, politics, administration etc. Leadership requires lot of sacrifice and care for others. This can never be expected from people who just want to fulfill their desires.

    Have you ever heard about ‘Ram Rajya’. Although some political parties have hijacked this term to meet their ends, but I would recommend that we should all try to learn from his life as a person as well as a king.

    Regards
    Virender

  • 6 Atanu Dey // Apr 8, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    Virender,

    Please do consider for a bit the possibility that no one is making the case that good infrastructure, good education, good incomes, etc., are sufficient for India. The claim is that all those things are necessary, not sufficient.

    Your claim that “a nation can progress only if it has an enlightened citizenry” is content free in the sense that it is not clear what you mean by “progress” although you have defined what you mean by “enlightened”.

    Spiritual is all fine and good. But you may wish to consider that spirituality sits very uncomfortably on an empty stomach.

    I take it that you must be very spiritual and that you have very spiritual thoughts daily. May I suggest this little experiment? Don’t eat anything for 48 hours; sleep on a hard surface without AC or even a fan in a room without any windows; drink unfiltered water; etc. After 48 hours, bend your mind to consider spiritual matters.

    I suggest that after 48 hours, the most spiritual thing that will occupy your mind will be a meal of dal and roti and some water to drink.

    All this talk of being spiritual and the dismissal of material goods is a lot of nonsense coming from people who have all their material needs fulfilled.

    It is time that this vacuity be shown to be the nonsense it is. There is a hierarchy of needs. Only when the material needs are met without struggle, does one have the luxury of seeking and finding spiritual (whatever that means) solace.

    So the claim that India needs a functioning economic system that is capable of meeting the material needs of its citizens stands. It is a necessary good without which no society can function, and which no amount of pontificating about spirituality can truthfully deny.

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  • 8 Virender // Apr 8, 2009 at 2:15 pm

    Hi Atanu

    Sometimes bookish knowledge makes one more closed minded than open minded, although the latter should be the aim of education. Therefore, people cannot accept things different from the notions which are so dear to them.

    Where did I say that materialistic progress is not important ? Spirituality, in true sense, can never lead to the conditions mentioned above – people not having enough to eat etc. It is, infact, its absence which leads to such cases. Then people want everything for themselves and deny others their due.

    Seeking spiritual solace is not a luxury, but it is a basic need of every human being. It is mostly misunderstood and misinterpreted because those who themselves do not know about it, speak the loudest. I gave the example of Ram – he was a king and fulfilled all his worldly duties. Didn’t he work to meet his material needs ? And Arjun – he was the best warrior of his times. So, when did spirituality say that we should waste our time and not attain excellence in the world.

    So, if the aim is to do good for India, then undoubtedly this is the only way. Otherwise it might just be a good way for socializing with other like minded people.

    Virender

  • 9 Atanu Dey // Apr 8, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    Virender:

    You write, “people cannot accept things different from the notions which are so dear to them.” I assume you are talking for yourself.

    As for myself, I am perfectly capable of changing my mind based on evidence.

    My claim is that basic material needs have to be met first before one has the capacity or even the inclination to ponder immaterial (or spiritual) matters. Disparaging someone’s attempt at fixing the material poverty of people by saying that spiritual issues matter is not too clever.

    Indeed, your raising the issue implies an unstated assumption that anyone who focuses on the material side of the matter has no regard for the spiritual part. This is patently false in the present case. I will not presume to speak for Rajesh but I can state with absolute honesty that I value the spiritual capacity that humans have. It is precisely because of that that I am so concerned about the material aspects because I know that one cannot attain anything spiritual if one is struggling with basic existence.

    I believe that those who put spiritual aspects before material aspects have got the wrong end of the stick.

  • 10 Virender // Apr 8, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    Hi Atanu

    If you read my first post, it has the following couplet:

    “Parhit saras dharam nahi bhai
    Parpeeda sam nahi adhamai”

    It means that doing good to others is the best religion and hurting others is the worst act. So helping others get out of poverty is a spiritual act.

    And spirituality and these worldly affairs are not different. Thats why I say that people should first try to understand it. Spirituality deals with knowing one’s true identity – WHO AM I ? And for this, one has to know about the omnipotent, omnipresent power which is called by different names – God, Allah, Parmatma etc. Once, you have this realization, all acts – working in companies, doing business, politics etc., become spiritual. Then one realizes that the person who is standing in front of me is also the creation of the same power and so why to hate him. The love that Rajesh has for his family should come for everyone (because we are all part of the same family as we are creation of same creator). Only when that love and belongingness comes, can you do any good to others.

    I wouldn’t like to go into any more details as this may not be the appropriate forum to discuss this. Moreover, I do not want to force my opinions on anybody. Everyone is free to find out the truth themselves.

    Virender.

  • 11 Siddharth Chawla // Apr 8, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    Count me in as long as there is no particular existing political party affiliation or ideology promotion.

    It sounds like a good plan which may potentially bear fruits in long run.

    Siddharth

  • 12 Arpit Agarwal // Apr 8, 2009 at 10:08 pm

    Rajesh,

    Have you heard about SIPOPS? This Society for Influence of Professionals on Political System (http://www.sipops.org/sipops/
    ) is an organization founded by Srikanth Reddy, an alumnus of NIT Trichy, my alma mater. This is based out of Hyd I believe.

    I can connect you to him. It would be great if you can see how the two initiatives can find synergies.

    Cheers,
    Arpit

  • 13 karishma // Apr 8, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    rajesh,

    i think this is an excellent idea that needs to be implemented. we need to have an on going effort to ensure we have quality governance, pipeline of candidates, as well as, agile in understanding the national issues and responding appropriately.

    as you also mentioned in a different blog post – we need a sea of change for indian politics. the bar needs to be significantly raised and we need to drive thinking such as accountability, transparency and a genuine interest for change / the country and her people vs. oneself.

  • 14 Vishal // Apr 9, 2009 at 8:22 am

    Rajesh – I think the ideas put by you are good.
    The issue would be India is a large country and there are differences in society in many spheres of life. The challenge would be how to meet aspirations of such diverse population. Also how much independence volunteers will have in terms of actions. For e.g Friends of BJP will have to toe the line of BJP and that will not appeal to all.

    A Friend of India is a more interesting idea and I am all for it.

    Vishal

  • 15 Vijay Vikram // Apr 9, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    Rajesh,

    Absolutely. Now that the Friends of BJP have managed to mobilise the Great Indian Middle Class behind the party, you must continue to function as a powerful advocacy organisation linking the thinking voter to the party high-command. India’s political future belongs to the educated middle class.

    I particularly like the idea of funding a think-tank to come up with innovative policy solutions and devise electoral strategy. As somebody who has worked for think-tanks in the UK and India I would be glad to help.

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  • 17 Amrit Hallan // Apr 22, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    The central point is that debate and discussion — unbiased, not the sort of done by the MSM — must take place for the country to move forward in the true sense. It shouldn’t just happen at the time of elections. Good points :-)

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