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India's Liberal Political Strategy: 2004 and beyond Presentation for the Seminar organised by India Policy Institute: 9 January 2004. Version 0.1 28 December 2003. contents. About the Seminar Workshop highlights Strategic review Strategic analysis Strategy Action Plan Your role.

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India's Liberal Political Strategy: 2004 and beyond

Presentation for the Seminar organised by India Policy Institute: 9 January 2004

Version 0.1 28 December 2003



  • About the Seminar
  • Workshop highlights
  • Strategic review
  • Strategic analysis
  • Strategy
  • Action Plan
  • Your role
  • Dissemination and debate on strategy
  • Strategy is needed to build mass support

“The greatest impediment to action is … the want of that knowledge which is gained by discussions preparatory to action.”



1 Ajay Gandhi, Director (Finance), IndiaPolicy Institute and proprietor, Wings software

2 Antony Joseph, Executive Director, IndiaPolicy Institute

3 Ashok V. Desai, Consultant Editor, The Telegraph. Former Chief Economic Adviser, GOI, significantly responsible for implementing liberalisation in 1991

4 Barun Mitra Founder Director of Liberty Institute, Delhi

5 Bibek Debroy Director, Rajiv Gandhi Institute for Contemporary Studies, Delhi

6 Gurcharan Das Author of the book, "India Unbound" (Knopf) which has just been filmed by the BBC. Columnist Times of India. Mr. Das was CEO of Procter & Gamble India before he took early retirement to become a full time writer.

7 Jayaprakash Narayan National Coordinator, Lok Satta (ex-IAS)

8 Madhu Kishwar Editor, Manushi

9 Parth Shah President, Centre for Civil Society

10 Pramit Pal Choudhuri Foreign Affairs editor, Hindustan Times

11 Rakesh Wadhwa Active liberal, Gurgaon/ Kathmandu

12 S.V. Raju President, Indian Liberal Group and former Secretary, Swatantra Party

13 Sanjeev Sabhlok Director (Public Affairs), IndiaPolicy Institute (ex-IAS)

14 Sauvik Chakraverti Editorial Director, Centre for Civil Society and author, "Antidote" etc. (ex-IPS)

15 Shalini Wadhwa Active liberal, Gurgaon/ Kathmandu

16 Subodh Kumar Friedrich-Naumann-Stiftung

17 Sharad Joshi President, Swatantra Bharat Party

18 Tara Sinha Former CEO of Tara Sinha McCann-Erikson

19 Ramesh Ramanathan, Janaagraha

20 Swati Ramanathan, Janaagraha


11 Rakesh Wadhwa

  • 12 Ramesh Ramanathan
  • 13 S.V. Raju
  • 14 Sanjeev Sabhlok
  • 15 Sauvik Chakraverti
  • 16 Shalini Wadhwa
  • 17 Subodh Kumar
  • 18 Sharad Joshi
  • 19 Swati Ramanathan
  • Tara Sinha

1 Ajay Gandhi

2 Antony Joseph

3 Ashok V. Desai

4 Barun Mitra

5 Bibek Debroy

6 Gurcharan Das

7 Jayaprakash Narayan

8 Madhu Kishwar

9 Parth Shah

10 Pramit Pal Choudhuri

decision tree
Decision tree

Feasibility of

political party


Feasibility of

other political




India’s political spectrum

Heavy mixing

Huge vacuum:

Secular, economic



Mix religion and politics

Congress Party

Liberal Party

Communist Party

No mixing

Heavy role:


Role of government in economic activity

Minimal role:



Adding a regional dimension

Religion-political mix

Regional priority

Economic role of govt


Choices in front of each of us

  • Run away
  • Do nothing and hope nothing
  • Hope that someone else will do it
  • Make excuses since it is difficult

Rough road

  • Teach someone else to do it
  • Form a political party
  • and ‘do it’!

Clear road ahead


“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”

Edmund Burke

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world”    

M. K. Gandhi

  • Ensuring change occurs “on the ground” requires holding the power and authorisation of the people to make the change happen
  • Existing political parties that hold power do not understand how to get India to where it can be:
    • Teaching them how to do it is a tedious and wasteful process with little hope of success
  • Participating in India’s existing democratic process, no matter how seriously flawed, is the only acceptable way forward

Strategic process of workshop: focus on formulation

Strategy formulation

Strategy implementation

3. assess environmental factors

1.Identify current mission and strategic goals, if any

  • 2.Conduct competitive analysis:
  • strengths
  • weakness
  • opportunity
  • threats
  • Develop specific strategies
  • operational
  • functional

carry out strategic plans

maintain strategic control

4. assess human resource factors


Entrepreneurs are not risk takers:

These conditions cannot happen if we are to go ahead

Dissonance among leaders; no “followers”

No funds, few candidates, no hope of victory

Disillusionment and

pressure to abandon

Better to not begin such a thing

strategic review method
Strategic review method
  • Learnings from the past
  • 1. Environmental scan andforce field analysis
  • 2. Causal analysis
  • 3. Competitive analysis
    • Customer (voter) analysis
    • SWOT analysis
  • Key constraints analysis
3 1 learnings from the past swatantra experience
3.1 Learnings from the past: Swatantra experience


  • Haste makes waste: avoid riff-raff (and the corrupt)
    • Screen all members, leaders and candidates?
    • Incremental growth better than too rapid?
  • Build a ‘chain’ of leaders
    • Party should not die with death of a leader
    • Potential leaders to be chosen who value the party and the country more than themselves
    • Leaders to ensure that the party can be sustained for long periods in the political wilderness, if necessary
  • Summary of one’s understanding of Pasricha – next slides

Lesson No.1 : Liberals are no different to other human beings, and we should be

humble and accept our individual limitations

Gandhi too had many preconceived notions; the one difference was that he had less of them than others and was willing to continuously learn. He wrote in Community Service News, September -- October, 1946, "I have great concern about introducing machine industry. The machine produces too much too fast, and brings with it a sort of economic system which I cannot grasp. ... as we grow in understanding, if we feel the need of machines, will certainly have them. ... we shall introduce machines if and when we need them." He kept saying that he was a seeker for the Truth and was happy to be corrected. Obviously one man can only learn so much in one lifetime so we can understand why he could not understand the capitalist system of Adam Smith. If he could find the time to understand it, he would have surely changed his views.

Liberals will need to build a political organisation that is based entirely on rigorous thinking, and complete equality.

Lesson No. 2: Never tolerate a person on the Executive Council who does not challenge any view that the person does not agree with.

Just because someone says so, does not make a thing true. Even Masani made such an appeal, that eventually destroyed the party. At page 79 Pasricha says, "Mariswamy, the general secretary of the Madras party, was arguing against the alliance [Grand Alliance of 1971] fairly cogently, when Masani interrupted with the remark that Rajaji was in favour of the alliance. A sudden, dramatic change came over Mariswamy. He stopped in midstream and abjectly announced that he withdrew his remarks unreservedly and totally. It struck me as extremely peculiar that the leader of the National Executive level should so abjectly withdraw his considered opinion merely at the mention of Rajaji's opinion. This is a small illustration of the type of leadership the Swatantra party was able to scrounge." Subservience to autocratic "rule", real or perceived, is a more natural state of man than democracy, particularly in India.

Never accept a sheep or 'yes men'.

Lesson 3: Nip the evil in the bud

At page 130, Pasricha talks of Masani being "fed up with the state of indiscipline in the party." At page 36, Pasricha points out how the Jan Sangh nipped in the bud any deviationist by expelling him from the party. People who discriminate against women, Harijans, Muslims, etc., etc., need to be blocked at the doorstep, but if they manage to infiltrate, they need to be expelled at the first opportunity. 


Lesson 4: Build party workers

Nobody in the party seemed to be bothered about building a set of workers who would proselytise. Apostles were in very short supply. A corps of trained, devoted workers, functioning under the direct control of a centre, could have sown the gospel far and wide and counteracted the prevailing socialistic rhetoric." "No attempt was made to formulate a detailed scheme for the training of cadres." (p.115) The party clearly did not have a strategy for the long-term. It was dependent on Rajaji in more ways than one.

Lesson 5: Do not contest elections until fully ready

Repeatedly, Pasricha shows the ill-judged keenness of state leaders as well as National leaders to contest elections well beyond the capacity of the party to organise. Resources need to be spent strategically and very prudently. Recklessness and haste can only destroy. That is one more reason to have ‘big picture’ strategy to be continuously reviewed.

Lesson 6: Never consort with parties the do not have the same principles

The moment the party compromises its fundamental principles, it is as good as dead. We are liberals. We do not provide Indian citizens with a hodge podge of policies - strictly liberal only.

Lesson 7: Ensure rigorous audit of the party

Tendency of state units to be highly factionalised, based on feudal or caste principles. All the demerits of existing political parties began to rapidly emerge in the State units of the Swatantra party including financial irregularities. A rigorous audit of party membership, funds, processes, etc., is essential for the party to not deteriorate "around the fringes".

Lesson 8 : Place a significant membership fee

 By putting a low membership fee, wealthier individuals with political ambitions are able to enrol a significant number of dumb followers by paying for their fees.

Lesson 9: The importance of allowing joint stock companies to fund political parties

3 2 environmental scan




within Liberals





for power

and influence

3.2 Environmental scan


Constitutional and Legal

Environment (Indian, global)





and interests




Socio-cultural Environment


Potential learning from environment scan: Opportunity knocks

  • The environment for liberalism is at its best ever, since the last 50 years
    • The challenge is
      • How not to fail
      • If we fail how to be resilient and not give up
    • The first challenge is to begin

Environment analysis

Force Field Analysis

Old guard (Swatantra)







Scale of 1-10, 10 being ‘big’


SWOT Implications – an example

KEY CHALLENGE: How to overcome this


1. Indian liberals tend not to see themselves (in a theoretical framework) as providers of governance services, but providers of gently tendered advice to socialists and ruffians through newspapers and booklets. This mirrors what liberals did with the British in 1890s to 1930s, but that method made them irrelevant to India's freedom. One sees the provision of governance as a fundamental liberal obligation, but there are few takers of this basic theoretical view. Ie., of the two key pillars of liberalism, viz., capitalism and democracy, we are 100% at ease with capitalism but 0% with democracy. Most of us preach participation in democracy by the people but shun it like leprosy personally, since democracy is a beautiful word but "too dirty" to touch. We may be half-liberal in a theoretical sense. We have no (or few) Thomas Jefferson or James Madison or Edmund Burke, or Rajaji or even Sapru.

2. We have extremely limited resources in terms of funds, support or people; almost no Indian industrialist of any standing has any interest in promoting liberalism, leave alone a liberal political alternative. We do not even know 50 people who would like to come to the seminar on 9th January.

3. The intricacies and enormous magnitude of the needed effort are not readily appreciated nor the complex problem of inventing a viable incentive system to sustain the effort. .

electoral success its causes fishbone
Electoral success – its causes(fishbone)










Humility and courtesy




One on one persuasion

Regular contact

  • Having the material to deliver
  • Delivering
  • Winning again and again till the job is done




to voter


Creating an attractive message

"impossibility of weaning away the half-starved, illiterate electorate of India from the fantastic charms evoked by the repetitive intonations of the blessings expected from the socialistic haven the Congress was building." (Pasricha)

If a powerful and simple message can be created, it will attract people and resources. If such a message had existed in the past, this workshop would have been completely redundant, since someone would surely have taken the message to the people. A major focus therefore has to be in determining whether we have a distinctive and attractive message, and what does it look like? The message would have to be short and persuasive. None of the potential messages so far have met that criteria.


Potential messages

  • - Hamein aur kahein jaana hai, gandagi aur garibi se door
  • - Hamein Bharat ko Singapore banana hai
  • - visuals of communal rioting on one side and peaceful, wealthy communities on the other
  • - Hamari party ki guarantee - kabhi koi bhrashtachaar nahin
  • Hamein bahut kuchh badalna hai
  • Swaraj se swatantrata ki or
  • Bhrastachar char imandar sahabon aur netaon se nahin shasan vyavstha me krantikari parivartan se ghatega
  • Sarkar har haal mein aapaki svatantrata ki rakshak pahle hai sevak baad mein
  • Sarkar janta ka dhan lekar janta ke kaam acchitarah nahin karati, isliye sarkar chhoti ho to janta ka dhan kam kharch hoga....
how we can compete
How we can compete


Way forward

  • Differentiation (70% of effort) – policy, integrity, evidence of success of such policies
  • Marketing (20% of effort) – building the image, credibility, viability
  • Cost (10% of effort)
strategy options
Strategy options
  • Begging existing political parties to make some basic changes in the Constitution or the Representation of People’s Act has not and will not work
    • >>> It is better to gain the power to make the change
  • Begging the Supreme Court to empower the people in terms of knowledge of candidates’ background will not work
    • Knowing more about candidates will not ensure that liberal policies will automatically emerge
    • >>> Simply provide a better alternative with more information to the people and let them choose.
stagewise differentiation 1
Stagewise differentiation -1
  • It is the median voter that counts
  • Extreme position (e.g. libertarian) is unlikely to enthuse the median voter
    • Libertarian party in USA is struggling and will continue to struggle for a very long time
    • Classical liberal thinkers with libertarian policies will need to educate the population and ensure that median voter understands these ideas and policies
    • Societal fairness must be on the agenda: e.g. the negative income tax
stagewise differentiation 2
Stagewise differentiation - 2
  • Until the voter is convinced that the Liberal Party will not attack the unions, and will eliminate poverty as a top priority, the voter is unlikely to support this effort
  • There must be a gradual shift in policy positions from slightly right-of-centre initially, to more classical positions as the population understands the value of classical liberal thinking
  • This strategy would ensure that political power is obtained immediately rather than in the distant future - so that the “positive cycle” of stagewise differentiation can come into play
  • Being hard-bound on espousing a strongly libertarian position initially would destroy the Party given that India comes from a very socialist tradition, unlike the USA
obstacle 1 s 29 of rop act
Obstacle 1: S.29 of ROP Act?

Fact: The election commission cannot recognise a party unless it declares allegiance to socialism. No existing political party, including the BJP has any interest in changing this.

  • Only the Liberal Party, when in 2/3rd majority, can change this hopeless situation.

But can a Liberal party be formed with such coercive “allegiance”?

OPTIONS: The Constitution does not define socialism

  • call ourselves socialists as per ‘our definition of socialism’
  • call ourselves socialists “for purposes of the Constitution”.
  • sign the allegiance but record a written protest - separately.
  • As soon as we can change India’s Constitution and offending enactments, expunge from the party constitution etc.

Ethics: The word “ethical behaviour” does not exist in the dictionary of socialists. They cheat at election time, and fleece the people whenever given an opportunity to govern. Telling a lie in such a miserable situation for the sake of changing the situation so that lies need not be said, is ethically sound.

obstacle 2 electoral funds
Obstacle 2: Electoral funds
  • It is clear that at least Rs. 2 crores is needed for contesting a parliamentary election these days. Most of this is black money, and the government is only informed about a part of this expenditure, usually < Rs 15 lakhs
  • The Liberal party cannot and will not countenance any compromise of this kind


  • We will spend <Rs 15 lakhs per constituency through frugal use and leveraging a wide variety of strategic leavers, e.g. the media, regular contact with voters, etc.
  • We will contest only once we are sure that we are likely to win a large number of seats.
  • Numerous amendments to existing Acts have to be made; there’s not much point working as an ineffective opposition
draft resolutions
(draft) Resolutions
  • We resolve to work together as a team to examine, motivate, and put into place a liberal platform that would be robust in terms of quality and integrity, and durable in terms of longevity.  We resolve to encourage and take on board others who are so inclined.
  • We recognise the need for India to move forward into the future based on principles of liberalism. These principles insist on tolerance, mutual respect, the need for government that enforces the rule of law and protects the individual, and minimal interference by government in the affairs of the citizen.
  • We resolve to adopt the document entitled, “Basic assumptions of a liberal, Version 1”. Over the course of time this document will be expanded and even modified where necessary. 
  • We resolve to adopt  the Vision, Mission, Values, Goals, Objectives, Strategies and Actions defined elsewhere in this document.
  • We resolve to implement adopt the Action Plan determined by us jointly on 8 January 2004.
  • We resolve to meet again in a year's time under the banner of the India Policy Institute.
vision and mission
Vision and Mission


To achieve an India with the highest standard of living in the world.


To provide durable and long-lasting, highest quality of governance services compatible with principles of economic, social, religious, and political freedom to the people of India.

methods and values
Methods and Values


Solutions that exhort others to do something different or differently or that require human nature to change are not acceptable.


The citizen’s trust and advancement is our most valued asset: trust that is obtained through unflinching insistence on integrity with no compromise on basic principles. We insist on the highest ethical standards in public as well as in private life.

Nothing that we do will be of any value if it does not in some way assist the poorest of the poor in India in making their life better.


A possible road map: 2004-2011


4 years


7 years


1 year



2004/05 ?

Phase 1:


Full prepn. of party and policy documents


Phase 0:


Liberals decide to deliver a national party; sign documents

Phase 2:


Phase 3:



Phase 0: “Go - no go”

  • Workshop15-20 persons 5-8 Jan 2004
    • Strategy
    • Draft the key messages,
    • Sketch the constitution, party documents (membership, donations, policy process etc.
    • Elect spokespersons and agree to process
    • Set up process to finalise party documents
    • Action Plan (next page)
  • Seminar – 50 persons to disseminate plan

Action Plan

  • Finalise party documents including policy positions
  • Market the concept: advancing the imperative and building coalitions: key individuals eg. popular personalities may help.
    • Find the founders – 100 registered voters
  • Fund collection ~ Rs. 10 lakhs to stage national platform
    • The organisation will have to set the highest financial benchmarks possible: Indians are tired of crooks running political parties – how is this to be ensured?
    • The mainstay of fund collection will have to be the membership – its advantage is in terms of voluntary commitment and a direct indication of support
  • Build and run full web site
  • Spokesman to issue press statements regularly
  • Organise National Platform (if necessary precede by Workshop)
immediate commitments needed
Immediate commitments needed
  • Willing to be a policy writer
  • Willing to help in organisational work and web site
  • Willing to contribute
    • > 100 lakhs
    • 1-100 lakhs
    • < 1 lakh
    • Willing to consider later

Phase 1: PARTY KICK-OFF - 2005?

  • National Platform. 2 days. 1000 persons
  • All documents ready for sign-off
  • Hold final discussions and confirm the GO decision
  • Office bearers and spokesmen elected
  • EleCom docs signed by 100 founding members
  • Party launched in as many states as possible
  • Register the Party
  • Recruit 2-5 full time staff and set up office
  • Spokesman to issue press statements regularly
  • Build endowment for Liberal College
  • Collect funds for next stage ~ Rs. 1 crore

Party Level



State Level

Functional Level

liberal party college strategy
Liberal Party College strategy
  • To be formed after the ‘go’ decision
  • Eg. Republican efforts in USA
  • To be located around New Delhi
  • Large endowment needed
  • Objects:
    • Publisher, library, and sabbatical resource for the party
    • Training of electoral candidates
  • College of liberals to be fully funded and active even outside election periods
  • RISK: Can become centre of vested interests that are not in touch with ‘grassroots’


  • (ZERO + 4 years)
  • Market the existence of the Party
  • Recruit new members
  • Set up State branches and hold elections
  • Provide them clear roles
  • Fund collection for next stage ~ Rs. 5-7 crores
  • Prepare policies for implementation if elected to power: 1 year intensive activity


  • (ZERO + 7 years)
  • Invite potential candidates
  • Massive fund collection drive ~ hundreds of crores, or as much as necessary
  • Screen candidates
  • Train candidates on policies: 3 months each in Liberal College
  • Decide what to contest – winning control is critical
    • A few states only? Electoral alliances ?
  • Finalise Manifesto for the election/s
  • Final approval of candidates
  • Send candidates to the hustings
notes for phase 3
Notes for Phase 3
  • Candidate selection to be based on application process focused on knowledge and commitment
  • Minimum expectations to be met by all candidates