The main goal of my (ongoing) visit to India is to determine whether it is feasible (or desirable) to bring all good people on a single platform that could potentially offer a viable alternative to all existing political parties in India in the next general elections.
In this regard, based on discussions over more than two weeks, I am pleased to report that some representatives of the Anna and Swami Ramdev team have been happy to engage with me and the Freedom Team of India, more broadly. This willingness to discuss is perhaps the result of the many years of preparation and commitment that FTI brings to the table. In addition, FTI has already formed a very close and cordial relationship with Lok Satta (I had a very good conversation with JP over the phone as well).
The other group: the Arvind Kejriwal group, has (to date) generally been unresponsive to me or to FTI. I gather, though, that Arvind is now trying to counter leftist leanings in AAP by engaging with the (very) few non-leftists in his team. He might possibly be re-evaluating his views on economic policy. If so, that is excellent news. I do know that he is an extremely capable individual and I remain open, as always, to engage with him if he wants a genuinely ethical and prosperous India.
I believe that the common ground between all “good” groups could be found on the basis of a common vision document (that I've started drafting, in order to set the ball rolling). Such a document would, of course, require consultation and agreement before it can be widely accepted. I've also bought and operationalised a domain (http://sonekichidiya.in/) should everyone agree to the Sone Ki Chidiya brand for this national movement. The Sone Ki Chidiya brand was developed based on extensive market survey, and I believe it best represents the best of the past and the future.
As part of the vision, we could all potentially agree on reducing the unnecessary role of government, and insist that government undertake its primary role well: that of security and justice.
This basic demand of FTI was re-affirmed in my meeting with Gurcharan Das yesterday. He pointed out that less than 20 per cent of Indians are in the organised sector. That means they face the greatest difficulty in dealing with an extremely coercive and intrusive government. If these people are told that the new system will remove such coercive and needless intrusions, and that they will be able to set up and operate their businesses without constantly bribing petty officials and policeman, they will be the GREATEST supporters of this alternative platform. Imagine the support we could get just from truck drivers who are delayed at checkposts across India! Multiply this support one million times.
Due diligence re: FTI's support for the Bharat Swabhiman movement
After conducting significant due diligence at Patanjali, I now support Bharat Swabhiman and the broad goals of Swami Ramdev. Of course, there are some issues that need resolution. But there are no integrity or other such moral issues. Instead, Swami Ramdev's team is so highly above board that they match FTI in their insistence on total integrity.
I am convinced that Swami Ramdev is being harassed by Congress Party. ALL charges against him are (prima facie) false. Yes, this is not a final position, and I’m seeking further information. The Swami Ramdev team has been putting out numerous rebuttals, but the press has simply ignored them. Two FTI members are conducting a preliminary research from internet-based data. Once their findings are finalised, I’ll share with everyone and seek public comment.
Some of the commonly held beliefs/ misconceptions include:
- Is Ramdev communal? Doesn’t he support Narendra Modi?
- Is Ramdev against MNCs? Does he want to ban them?
- Is Ramdev against English education?
- What does Ramdev think of the way women are showed in our movies? Does he think that women should dress in a particular way or they should have freedom to decide?
- Is Ramdev using his business to advance his political career?
- Does Ramdev claim that he can cure all illness by yoga? Is he not unscientific?
- Why did Ramdev run away from Ramlila ground ? If he is not afraid to die for nation then why did he run away?
- Everyone who is so rich must be corrupt. No one can become rich in India without being corrupt.
- Did Ramdev kill (or organise the killing of) his guru?
- Did Ramdev kill (or organise the killing of) Rajiv Dixit?
- Doesn’t Ramdev have foreign property? How do we know that his foreign assets are clean?
- Is a sanyasi allowed to promote any business under “Hindu law”?
- Are Ramdev’s accounts clean?
- Does Ramdev try to avoid paying taxes?
This is only a preliminary list of misconceptions. Many others were also discussed/ debated.
I’m convinced that Swami Ramdev and the Trusts and Companies established by his team are TOTALLY above board. Indeed, these are the FINEST examples of Indian genius. The best that India has to offer.
Documenting detailed responses to these and similar questions will take some time. It will take even more time and effort to demystify the false image created by the media re: Swami Ramdev.
But the journey to fix this evil saga of disinformation (likely planted by Congress) has now begun.
In addition to these and related issues, a number of other matters were discussed, including possible establishment of a school of governance. I'd be most happy to help establish a school which studies the best in India's past, and the modern world, and proposes an Indian System of Governance to India.
The urgent need of India can't be ignored
They say that good people can’t work together, but bad ones always join hands quickly.
Although no major political action seems to be plausible at the moment (I believe that AAP has no capacity to dent any existing party and Lok Satta is in an even weaker position nationally) , I’m hopeful that as the year progresses, all such groups will find it essential to work closely together in order that a united front can be formed against Congress, BJP and other corrupt entities.
In order that all such groups are able to come together, they'll also have to eschew utopian ambitions such as People's Candidates. To me, such a demand (placed by Anna Hazare) is literally impossible to operationalise. I don't say this lightly, but after enormous investigation of options and processes for nearly two weeks. Such a desire, no matter how admirable and desirable, must give way to ideas that allow us to at least change the colour of the current parliament from BLACK to grey (preferably off-white) in 2014.
If such a combined movement of good people doesn’t ultimately arise in 2013 (and soon!), then India is going to be in for a dangerous ride, given the severe mismatch between people’s expectations and the tragic reality of daily life in India.
A new platform?
I’m not going to wait for such a combined group to establish. FTI will try (subject to internal agremeent) to work with Bharat Swabhiman in the first instance to develop a national movement for reform.
As this combined effort between FTI, BS and many other groups grows, other liberal groups may find it worthwhile to join hands in some form or shape.
FTI members remain free to join AAP or other "good man" parties, in addition to Lok Satta, if they wish. However, I'd hope that we can create a new platform that everyone is comfortable in joining. [I am inclined to support a united Sone Ki Chidiya movement, but that is up for further discussion. After all, what's in a name? It is the GOAL we are interested in, not the name].
Note that up to 10 FTI members ((up to 10 from current members) are CERTAIN to contest Parliamentary elections in 2014. Getting them into parliament will remain a key objective for me and for FTI.
In addition, I believe FTI should aim for 2000 FTI members by December 2013. This will necessarily involve coming down to the "ground" by establishing a full-time office in Delhi. A business case for such an office is now under preparation. Of these new (total of 2000) members, hopefully at least 90 additional good FTI members will be found to contest elections – subject to a strong due diligence. This would give FTI 100 seats in which to contest. To this one could add candidates from other groups, giving us 540 candidates in all.
Although inconsistent with FTI's strategy, this might be a necessary intermediate step in the journey to achieve 540 independent FTI member candidates in some future parliamentary elections. Unfortunately, the situation in India is so dire now, that we can't wait for perfection. Indeed, when I'm rejecting other people's utopian ambitions, I must also discard my own utopian ambitions. The country needs and DEMANDS change. Right now. It can't wait till everyone masters their preferred approaches.
Intensive public engagement
FTI members like Shantanu Bhagwat will now start working almost full time to bring our ideas into the public domain through TV debates and the like. To the extent I can join them in some way, I’d be very keen to participate in such educational activity.
In brief, this has been a very productive trip. I’ll talk more about this in the coming days and weeks.
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