United Voters of India: The Logic of Collective Action (Part 12)

Postscript: Many as One

The past week has been a tumultuous one in India’s capital as protesting farmers upped the ante with their actions on Republic Day. Riding tractors, they drove into Delhi and clashed with the police at multiple places. The peace was broken and positions will undoubtedly harden on all sides going forward. Even as all this was happening, there was a different sort of organised and coordinated action taking place in the US financial markets. A large group of individual traders rode up prices of a few stocks (primarily GameStop) and roiled the world of some of the large hedge funds who had shorted these stocks. As individual farmers went up against the might of the state in India, digitally savvy retail traders took on the biggies of Wall Street. The common theme was of individuals organising themselves and coordinating their actions.

Going back a few weeks to early January, digital platforms were also used by US protestors to coordinate the storming of the Capitol. A mob came together and acted as one in a horrifying attack on the seat of US power. This would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. Social media platforms and messaging apps are the instruments the masses use to unite and act in ways that were impossible earlier. The collective becomes greater than the sum of the individuals.

The underlying theme in all these cases has been digitally coordinated action by individuals to take on the powerful. Farmers have used WhatsApp while the retail traders used the Reddit platform. The Capital protestors used a wide variety of platforms. All were largely leaderless (though one could argue that Donald Trump egged on the Capital mob from the White House). The story of GameStop is especially interesting because it illustrates how digital technology has changed the game and levelled the playing field for the weaker players. Whatever be the eventual outcomes of the farmers’ protests and the GameStop matter, there is much to learn for us on how to make United Voters of India (UVI) a success.

I had written earlier: “Taking on existing political parties is non-trivial. Recreating the organisational system they have built over decades is not easy. If disruption needs to be done, digital is the only alternative. UVI needs to work like a new-generation startup that is taking on the heavyweight incumbents in politics… UVI should become a digital non-party platform targeting the blue ocean of non-aligned and non-voters (NANVs) with an agenda crafted around principles for prosperity and wealth creation to attract at least 1 out of every 10 Indians. This is how citizens can seed the political revolution India needs to engineer the economic transformation that creates a Nayi Disha for the next generation.“

If the two-thirds of India’s eligible voters that constitute the NANVs can organise themselves and act in unison, it will be possible to bring about political change in India – not just determine the winners and losers, but actually be the winners. The key change is to use coordinated action within the existing rules of the game to bring about the desired change. It is not a change in the rules but in the strategy that the players evolve that change the outcome of the game.

Let’s begin by looking at what happened in the US in its financial markets – it is a fascinating study because it is end-to-end digital. We will then consider what could be done in India to make the Indian Revolution a reality.

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.