The BJP 275 Loonshot
2010: Imagine its 2014, and the BJP wins a majority on its own in the nation’s elections. The BJP’s previous highest tally is 182. Majority in the Lok Sabha means winning 272+ in the 543-member house. No election since 1984 (in which Rajiv Gandhi got a massive sympathy wave after the assassination of his mother and then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi) has ever delivered a single party majority. For more than a quarter century, India has seen coalition governments – some stable, some unstable, some managed to survive their full term, some didn’t. Can the 2014 elections deliver a majority for the BJP – a tally that would be 90 seats or 50% higher than what they had ever won? Given that the BJP was competitive in just about 300 seats, it would mean a hit rate of 90% to win a majority of its own. What would it take to do it?
While I did not know of the term then, what I imagined in 2010 was a loonshot. In his book, “Loonshots”, Safi Bahcall defines loonshot as “a neglected project, widely dismissed, its champion written off as unhinged.”
That is what happened to me when I wrote a series of blog posts in mid-2011 that outlined “Project 275 for 2014”, a game plan for the BJP to get a majority on its own. Some people laughed at me, most others just ignored me. But I decided to do something about it. And later that year, I started Niti Digital, a startup funded by me, and working independently and outside of the BJP, to work on making that loonshot a reality. Niti Digital had four functional areas: media, data, analytics and a volunteering platform. We hired nearly a hundred people. The 2014 elections came. BJP won 282 seats. What was a loonshot had become a reality in a thousand days.
Every loonshot starts off as an idea in someone’s head. We all have our crazy ideas. Most of the time we just let them pass. But some of us do get started. Most of the time the ideas fail, and no one hears about them. The loonshots we hear about are the ones that succeed – because they change the world.
I have had my share of failed loonshots. After the BJP 275 loonshot, I tried multiple loonshots during 2015-2018, and failed at every one of them. I first wanted to replace India’s flawed Constitution with one that put real power in the hands of the people and the constraints on those in power. I then wanted to change Mumbai’s antiquated Municipal Corporation Act and free it (and all other cities) from the clutches of the CM and the Municipal Commissioner, both of whom were not accountable to the people of the city. Finally, I tried Nayi Disha and Dhan Vapasi, to create a movement for prosperity.
As an entrepreneur, I always aim for loonshots. It takes the same effort to fail at a small idea or a big idea, so why not go big?! The path to a loonshot is very different from just an incremental approach – for BJP to get to 272+ needed a very different gameplan from trying to get to 200+. The Indian Revolution loonshot is another such idea – a big transformation that reimagines the contract between the Indian people and the government to put Indians on an irreversible path to freedom and prosperity. It is a loonshot we should have made happen after Independence. Every Indian leader has lost the opportunity handed to them. We have waited enough. We need to be the ones to bring about the change.
Tomorrow: Part 2