I keep getting asked by a lot of people about Lok Satta and why I don't join it. I have often replied this one-on-one, but it is impossible for me to keep repeating the information each time. So I'm going to publish this response here and refer people to this response the next time I'm asked the following question:
2. I made three efforts to form a political party WELL BEFORE JP's Lok Satta entered politics in Oct 2006. These were in 2000, 2004 and 2005. One of these efforts (Swatantra Bharat Party) did lead to a real party and it still exits – with one seat in the Rajya Sabha and a seat in the Maharashstra Assembly.
3. I FAILED three times to reform India, and learnt from these failures – well before JP's foray into politics. Therefore I can quickly recognise what will work and what will not.
5. But – and here's the twist to the story! – by the time JP finally come to the view that politics is necessary, in October 2006 (and I personally sent him an email congratulating him at that stage), I knew that his method couldn't work.
By then I had framed a completely different strategy towards politics
. By December 2006, I sent a very early draft of Breaking Free of Nehru (BFN) to Penguin for early comment
(Penguin decided, on the basis of this very early draft , not to pursue it further, which is a shame, since they formed their opinion so pre-maturely). That draft articulated a very clear strategy for the process that underpins FTI. While I had not yet arrived at the title, "Freedom Team of India", all
the ideas that underpin FTI were in place there by then
By early 2007 I found the name Freedom Team of India. Since April 2007
, the draft of BFN has been in the public domain, and I've benefited from much public comment. In December 2007 I launched FTI.
6. I had invited JP to join FTI in that initial email of 23 December 2007, as well. On receiving no response, I contacted him later – in early-2009 – and spoke to him at length over the phone explaining this idea. I provided moral support for fund-raising for Lok Satta in London. He knows I've been supportive of his new work (I was NOT as supportive of his NGO work) and have often recommended his work.
In any event, JP knows exactly what FTI is. Many Lok Sata members have come across FTI by now and know exactly what FTI is. FTI is NOT a competitor of Lok Satta. It complements the work of Lok Satta. It can help it rapidly grow.
In 2009, FTI members in Mumbai made it a point to meet JP and explain FTI to him, but apart from asking them to join and fund LS, he was completely unresponsive to FTI's strategy of first finding leaders (and gaining agreement) and then entering politics. He asked one of FTI's members (a Lead India finalist) to nominate on behalf of Lok Satta, but that member is simply not interested in losing elections. He refused.
7. JP could have easily joined FTI and the effort of a national liberal movement would have gained tremendous momentum by now. But he chose not to. He knows that I was open, and still am – but much less than before (given the lack of reponsiveness from LS) – to the idea of the future national liberal party being called Lok Satta. But JP has deliberately chosen not to communicate with FTI. He prefers to ply his "own" boat, as if resolving India's problems is his personal 'theka' or contract, not India's shared problem, our joint responsibility.
The impression gaining ground among FTI members is that he is interested in his 'position' and 'authority', not in India. That kind of an impression would be fatal to his political career. But that's what is happening, I can tell you that. It could have been different. It can still be different, if he joins FTI. He could easily join FTI AND continue to operate Lok Satta. But he chooses to ignore FTI.
8. FTI has, however, not given up hope on Lok Satta. Shantanu Bhagwat of FTI has been trying to bring together people from PPI, LS, etc. in a Hope Summit to discuss and debate strategies. That summit had to be cancelled twice for unforseen reasons, and will one day happen. That is the plan.
9. I remain open and welcoming to the idea of JP joining FTI. I believe he runs an ethical operation. He has somewhat liberal inclinations. So there is at least some common ground. But there are many policy differences to be resolved between what JP advocates and what at least some members of FTI believe in – at the level of detail. There are many organisational matters to be resolved, as well. These require openness. FTI is a platform for such discussion and agreement. It needs top quality leader who will discuss and persuade. That is a crucial characteristic of FTI leaders.
On openness and debate, JP needs to raise the bar. He CANNOT expect to attract good leaders to Lok Satta if he effectively gives people a fixed structure and manifesto and says, "take it or leave it". And India needs thousands of top quality leaders. Not just one or two. That is the challenge here, not to form a party (which is easy) but to REFORM India.
10. JP will surely arrive at the same strategy that I have outlined in BFN (namely, a common platform of leaders BEFORE thinking of political party) one fine day (as he did with the need to join politics). I had hoped that his abject failure at the 2009 elections (obtaining a tiny proportion of the votes for Lok Satta, excluding his one seat), would have made him realise that his approach can't work.
But so far, 14 months after this massive electoral ROUT, he still hasn't arrived at the approach that I have been advocating publicly since mid-2007. One day, he will. When that happens, he (and his leadership team) will join FTI, and then FTI and Lok Satta will both be one step closer towards the goal of reform.
Till he realises that his current approach CAN'T work, I'm afraid I can't chase him every day of my life! The day he realises he has nothing to lose by joining FTI and everything to gain, he will join FTI. He
must now make the approach to FTI. I will not chase after him or Lok Satta or anyone else. It is very easy. He just needs to apply at http://freedomteam.in/blog/content/who-should-join-freedom-team-india
MAJORITY OF SEATS IN PARLIAMENT OR NOTHING
I want the mandate to reform India. Nothing less will do. I DON'T CARE FOR LOSING, OR FOR WINNING ONE OR TWO OR 200 SEATS.
I MUST WIN and the platform I work with must form government OR I'm not interested in politics. The strategy I work towards must be capable of delivering at least 300 parliamentary seats or I'm not going to waste time returning to India on a full time basis. That is the line I've drawn in the sand. 300 seats. Everyone knows it. It is clear. It has a logic to it. It is hard to achieve, but if good people come together, it is doable. That, if you wish to so call it, is the FIRST STEP of my dream for India. Many other steps exist, but NONE can be achieved without that first step.
If JP wants anything less, I'm NOT interested. Let this be very clear.
I have a strategy to REFORM India's governance. Not to merely become a politician. That is the possible gulf that divides FTI and Lok Satta. Perhaps our dreams are different. But only time will tell.
I wait for JP and Lok Satta to join FTI but I will NOT chase after them. I will continue to write my books and articles, and do a few things for FTI, and leave it at that. I've got to live a life. That's far more important than India or anything else in the universe.