Sabhas: Powering the Indian Revolution (Part 3)

From Debates and Circles to…Sabhas

This series is a speculative exercise on imagining how the Indian Revolution loonshot can happen. It needs political mobilisation, a massive change in minds of the people and the rise of a new generation of political entrepreneurs. During the mid-1970s, India had a towering leader like Jayaprakash Narayan who could stir the conscience of a nation and unite all the political opponents of Indira Gandhi and her imposition of Emergency. At this time, India lacks an Opposition leader of stature to provide an alternative vision for India.

What India needs is not just political change but economic transformation. No Indian politician understands what prosperity truly means. Because there is no political price to be paid for economic mismanagement, bad policy has no negative consequences for those in power. An ignorant populace with baked-in idol worship of the Great Leader has an almost infinite capacity for tolerating pain.

My hope is that at some point of time at least a few will say “enough is enough” and “Indians deserve better” – and rise to kindle a revolution. I do not know if this will happen or when. What I can do is to chart out a possible path so people realise it is not impossible – if they can throw off their self-imposed blinkers, get out of their cocooned existence, muster the courage to speak and unite as one, desirable change is possible.

It is with this in mind that I have started thinking through the Revolution series. The first series focused on the revolution India needs. The second discussed how the rise of a debating culture can bring forth new ideas and political entrepreneurs. The third envisioned how a social infrastructure centred around local circles built by such entrepreneurs could lead to wider mobilisation. This series takes the discussion further and imagines the next step in the form of an idea called “Sabhas” – how a shadow government can be created at national and state levels to give voice to new ideas and visibility to new leaders.

The Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabhas in India today have become rubber-stamps. There is little debate and more drama. The so-called representatives of the people vote on party lines constrained by the whips issued to them. They aim to please their high commands – because that is the only way they can assure themselves of tickets for the next election. Driven by greed, some do not hesitate to switch parties after election for a shot at power for a position to make profits. This has not happened overnight – every party has contributed to the slow and steady decline of the institutions of governance, exploiting the loopholes in a flawed Constitution.

This is where the idea of Sabhas as the foundation for the Indian Revolution loonshot begins. It is for us to convert it from fiction to reality.

Tomorrow: Part 4

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.