Published May 24-June 1, 2022
It is counting day after the Lok Sabha elections of 2024. As the results start coming in, it is apparent that a political revolution has taken place in India. Independents across the country are winning; candidates from established political parties are losing. These candidates, backed by a people’s movement called United Voters of India, were selected through a primaries process by voters registering their choice on a blockchain. A Swatantra Lok Sabha, with Independents far outnumbering the collective from political parties, is taking shape. The first step of the Indian Revolution is complete. The economic revolution is next.
How did this happen? How did a technology platform in the form of an app manage to unseat India’s most high and mighty from political office? How did unknown, anonymous voters across the nation aggregate their votes to win power? How did a leaderless organisation succeed in uniting and coordinating the actions of hundreds of millions of voters?
The Bitcoin revolution started with a white paper published by Satoshi Nakamoto in 2008, and took more than a decade to achieve mainstream adoption. The Bharatverse revolution began with a white paper and app released in early 2023. It took just a year to bring together lakhs in every Lok Sabha constituency who decided to vote as one for the candidate they selected. These non-aligned and non-voters (NANVs), who were two-thirds of India’s 100 crore (1 billion) voters, united and ejected India’s political parties from the Lok Sabha to deliver on the promise of “power to the people”, a prerequisite for the economic transformation of the nation by bringing freedom and prosperity.
The underlying infrastructure was there. The pandemic had ensured mass-scale adoption of the smartphone across India. Mobile operators had dropped data prices to the lowest in the world. Bitcoin and other currencies and tokens had initiated tens of millions to the world of crypto. The blockchain infrastructure got built out rapidly as investment flooded startups during 2021 and 2022. All it needed was an idea, an app, and a trigger – all of which came together in late 2022. Bharatverse, a decentralised, virtual world to bring people together, manifested via the Nayi Disha app to spearhead the United Voters of India movement.
None of this would have mattered without the trigger. Even as a section of India prospered during and after the pandemic, a large section had fallen behind. With jobs slow to come by, with education deeply impacted by two years of the pandemic, with a future of diminishing opportunities, with politicians playing with fire by using caste and religion to stir by sectarian sentiments long suppressed, there was an edginess in many, a fragile calm before the storm.
And then came the WhatsApp viral video. But that story will need to wait a while!
Looking back from the future…
The success of Bharatverse hinged on a single idea: given an opportunity, enough Indians would seek an alternative to the politicians and their parties to create a Swatantra Lok Sabha. There was nothing in past voting patterns which pointed to this possibility because the choice for voters had always been between political formations and not between politicians and non-politicians.
The years from 2020-2022 created the opening. The pandemic disrupted the normal lives of hundreds of millions of Indians. While they got free food from the government, they saw their upwardly mobile future disappearing. Kids did not get an education, jobs in urban areas slowed, incomes dropped. Even as 10% at the top prospered, the other 90% struggled. The response of those in power was not to make the structural changes to increase economic freedom which would have led to wealth creation, but ratchet up the divisions in society along caste and community lines to make people forget their deep distress.
This approach of divide-to-rule had worked well since British times. Indian society has many schisms. Rulers were able to exploit these fault lines – a first-past-the-post electoral system ensured that only the support of a ‘selectorate’ was needed. But this time it was different. Even as mainstream media became government mouthpieces in return for advertising money, people had alternate channels via social media that provided them a clearer view of the reality. Video by video, message by message, the perception slowly started gaining ground in those most affected that their problems were government-created, and the solution did not lie in re-electing the same politicians. The search for an alternative was quietly underway.
In the past, alternatives had come from within the political establishment. In 1977, a Janta coalition took on the Congress. In 2014, the BJP took on the Congress. The question now was: who would take on the BJP – and the other parties, because they were all equally culpable in the policies that put hurdles in people’s paths to prosperity. Economic well-being had never been a determinant for voting decisions, but people’s minds started changing because for the first time, an alternative future was presented to them.
The pandemic had broken the cycle of slow but steady improvement. For the first time in a generation, living standards had declined and future prospects did not look good – unless one was at the very top. Job creation was at a low because lack of reforms kept masses stuck in agriculture, small and medium enterprises had been battered, and ancient and unreformed labour laws drove automation rather than employment. A government-controlled education system did not bode well for the future either.
It was against this backdrop that the alternative presented by Nayi Disha interested people.
The Alternative – 1
Continuing from the future…
Nayi Disha offered three solutions: an alternative economic roadmap anchored around Dhan Vapasi which would immediately put money in people’s hands (money that was rightfully theirs), an alternative political platform where they could decide their own candidates, and a decentralised tech app that made them active participants in spreading the movement. Nayi Disha had no leader and no hierarchy; it was decentralised and autonomous. Nayi Disha was run by rules, not rulers.
At any other time, such an idea would have seemed impossible. But the rise of the cryptocurrencies in India starting in 2021 had opened up people to the fact that technology could enable the creation of trustless and permissionless entities. Nayi Disha came to be seen as a “crypto party” – fun, game-like and rewarding! This brought together three initial groups of people as the early adopters: those fed up with the politicians and their parties and seeking a new alternative (the NANVs – non-aligned and non-voters), people wanting to serve in positions of power but not having any opening in the current political parties where decisions were made top-down and based more on family lineage than merit, and those who believed that the Dhan Vapasi program was more empowering than free food, water and power. And so the “crypto party” grew. Of course, it wasn’t a party and crypto was just the underlying tech used for the tokens. Nevertheless, in a nation where crypto had become a household name and a buzzword for fast money, the tag helped Nayi Disha acquire its initial members.
The Nayi Disha structure was that of a DAO – decentralised autonomous organisation. Simple rules determined governance. The Bhim token offered the incentive for actions. For many, it was a game played in the real world. Everyone realised that it was up to each of them – there was no God giving them directions what to do next. In that sense, it resembled the marketplace – voluntary exchange between strangers driven by a belief that every transaction makes both sides better off.
The Bhim token, powered by the blockchain, was the lubricant. It got created in two ways: when a new member joined, and when real money came into the system. A new member and the member’s referrer both earned Bhim tokens – with the quantum reducing as membership rose. The first million members were much more valuable than the hundred millionth member. Donors could buy tokens via the daily auctions that were conducted thus injecting real money into the system – money that was needed to pay for the development, hosting infra, content creation, and so on. Donors then used the tokens to give to their favourite candidates who in turn could use these for campaigning and buying services via the internal marketplace. This incentivised volunteers to come on board. As demand for the Bhim token rose, so did its price – creating value for the entire ecosystem of members, candidates, donors and volunteers.
The Alternative – 2
Continuing from the future…
The next innovation was the Dhan Vapasi NFT (non-fungible token). The premise was that while everyone would get an equal share from the asset monetisation done following the formation of the Nayi Disha government, the sequencing of payouts mattered – getting money on Day 1 was better than getting it on Day 365 every year. NFTs were created for Days 1 to 100, and auctioned daily, creating additional value for the Bhim tokens since that was the only way of bidding. In economic terms, the value of getting money on Day 1 as compared to Day 365 was 5-10% of the amount being received. Given each family would get about Rs 1 lakh a year for the next 5 years, the Dhan Vapasi NFTs now were valuable enough to create corresponding value for the Bhim tokens.
Together, the Bhim tokens and the Dhan Vapasi NFTs created an economic marketplace which funded the Nayi Disha movement and made every member an amplifier of the message. With membership rising and funds available for content and software, Nayi Disha became a growing force. The government could do little to stop it since there was no single person running it who could be pressured. It was a people’s movement – powered by network effects and Web3 tokens.
The next problem that needed to be addressed was voting and candidate selection. Here too there was innovation. For every election, each member got a Voting token. Borrowing ideas from ‘liquid democracy’, the Nayi Disha platform enabled members to either vote themselves or delegate their vote to someone else who could make a better decision than they could. Since every member was in theory anonymous (on-chain), no money power could be used for purchasing votes. Only the candidates revealed themselves. Primaries helped pick candidates – first for the internal Sabhas, and then later for the Lok Sabha election. The governance decisions were made via Policy tokens – distributed to miners, software developers and the winning candidates.
These 4 tokens – Bhim, Dhan Vapasi, Voting and Policy – formed the core of the Nayi Disha DAO. They ensured that there was no concentration of power. Everyone was aligned towards a single goal: winning power in the 2024 elections to implement the Nayi Disha agenda to put people on an irreversible path of freedom and prosperity. A single 5-year term would undo decades of misgovernance and flawed policies – but this was not something to be expected from politicians and their parties who prioritised power over people and their prosperity.
Once unleashed, Nayi Disha became a juggernaut. The timing was right; the messaging captured the mood of the nation. Every new member brought in their own network and connects, helping spread it even faster. No top-down political party could have ever grown at this speed – they typically require multiple election cycles to get traction. Nayi Disha was a platform; the combination of network effects and Web3 tokens helped it grow from zero to hundreds of millions in months. It became Digital India’s ‘killer app’. It became India’s political and economic alternative for a better future.
Continuing from the future…
It all started with the video. It was all of 3 minutes long. In just 180 seconds, it laid out a new future for India. A future of freedom and prosperity. A future where families were not dependent on government handouts for their livelihoods. A future where the Dhan Vapasi program gave every Indian family an opportunity to make their own choices. A future where hard work could transform lives within a few years. A future where upward mobility was a reality. A future where surnames did not matter. A future that belonged to the people and not the politicians and their parties.
The video ended with a call to action: we have to unite our vote against the political parties who seek to divide us. If just 30% of us voted as one, we can choose our own candidates and propel them to the Lok Sabha, so they could enact the Nayi Disha agenda to put India on a new path.
There was perhaps something in the timing. Ideas of political alternatives had been talked about in the past, but none had got any traction. There was something in the video that connected with this particular moment in time – an India divided into those with a future, and those without; an India free from the politicians who enslaved, exploited and extracted; an India where every family got its economic right; an India that would finally be free in the true sense of the word.
It is true that movements need leaders, and leaders create movements. But there are also revolutions that arise when “the crowd” changes its mind. And that is what happened. A seemingly helpless mass decided they had had enough. The video unleashed that inner energy to do something different. The old ways were simply not working. A life of subsistence was not a life to be bequeathed to the next generation. The parents wanted better for their children, the young wanted better for themselves. Indians finally woke up to the fact that Rs 10,000 as the median family income was not the path to fulfilling any dream, however modest.
And thus it began. The Bharatverse vision, the Nayi Disha agenda, the United Voters of India movement – all coalesced into a single decision. We will vote in the next election and vote as one. This vote will be for one amongst us, not for the politicians. The virality of the video was matched by the acceptance of the app, and a new platform for India’s politics took shape in months. There finally was an alternative – just not what the politicians had expected.
Continuing from the future…
The brilliance of the app was its duality. To those seeking political transformation, it offered a path to power. To those seeking economic betterment, it offered a fast track to prosperity. It did so by leveraging the Web3 foundation to create a flywheel which moved faster and faster with each passing day.
The app had three elements: identity, currency (in the form of tokens), and incentives. When a person signed up, they were rewarded with tokens. The rewards were also extended to the person who did the referral, and those who verified the identity. The blockchain infra recorded all these actions, such that there was no need for a centralised team to make the decisions.
The tokens were the oxygen and lubricating oil for the Bharatverse system. New tokens were minted when a new member was verified and successfully onboarded. The incentive system created greater rewards for those joining early, and thus helped address the “cold start problem.”
Those seeking to bring about change saw this as an opportunity to bypass the traditional political party system. A new set of people, untrained in politics but inclined for public service, could finally enter and rise. The promise of primaries as a process for candidate selection meant that there was no kowtowing to the “high command” for a ticket to contest. They brought along some of their supporters, and as the numbers rose, more entered the fray thus creating the first flywheel. The number of tokens a person had was proportional to the voting power in internal elections, via an innovation called “quadratic voting.”
The second flywheel came about with the Dhan Vapasi initiative. As part of the Nayi Disha agenda, a key plank was the return of the public wealth of India to its real owners – the people themselves. This wealth, locked up in land, minerals and public sector companies, would be monetised and returned equally to every Indian without discrimination. Done right, this could deliver Rs 1 lakh to every family every year for many years. In effect, it would almost double the median family income in the country. This was not printing new money and debasing the currency; this was about bringing unused assets into circulation and giving people and businesses the opportunity to create value from what was otherwise lying idle or being wasted.
The tokens earned gave an opportunity for an earlier date for the Dhan Vapasi transfer each year. Thus, the tokens now had an economic value. Getting it on the first day of the year rather than the last day meant putting the capital to work quicker. This incentivised new members to refer others and be rewarded.
The rules were thus transparent and clear. Like a market where buyers and sellers engage in voluntary exchange such that both benefit, the marketplace created by the Bharatverse DAO (decentralised autonomous organisation) and its use of the blockchain attracted voters and candidates. And in a digital world where each of us is connected to dozens if not hundreds, once the word spreads, the numbers multiply very rapidly.
Continuing from the future…
So it was in 2023 that Bharatverse, powered by network effects and Web3 tokens, attained critical mass. The power and prosperity (“shakti and samriddhi”) message resonated. There was nothing that the incumbent government could do to stop it. The app had a life of its own; there was no leader to threaten or pressurise. Politics leapfrogged from offline to on-chain. Willing donors stepped forward to contribute to the campaigns of willing candidates. Creative people created a content factory to spread the message, knowing that for the first time the pipe to deliver it to people existed and was not controlled by a few big media houses. Volunteers helped with offline events to give the feel of community and belonging to members, with tokens offering an economic incentive for actions.
Tokens were tradeable on an internal exchange. Demand rose because of scarcity (there was an upper cap on the tokens), its use for influence (in internal voting), and its value for an earlier date for Dhan Vapasi. With the rising demand, the tokens also rose in value, creating an additional upside for the token holders.
Building on the Sabhas idea [LINK}, as soon as a constituency reached 10%, there was a primary that was held to elect a “Jan MP”. The Jan MP thus became the favourite for being nominated for the actual Lok Sabha seat for which primaries would be held when the notification for the general elections came out. All of this created buzz and competition. The threshold for a very high degree of confidence for victory was 30%. Member by member, many seats crossed that number by the end of 2023. The political establishment still did not take this movement seriously; “how can a bunch of leaderless political novices run the country?”, they said. But the people knew what they wanted. The movement continued to pick up supporters, and as the world of business has seen so often, disruptions can unseat incumbents before the latter realise it.
Almost everything that was needed for spreading ideas, voting, making decisions on policy or internal governance matters was done digitally via the app. The only physical world action needed was walking to the polling booth and voting on election day. In Digital India, the only vertical that had been left untouched by the tech revolution was thus transformed – “politech” became a new addition to the *tech (star-tech) lexicon of fintech, edutech, agritech, insuretech, and the like.
When one looks back from the vantage point of 2024, what becomes clear is that the only alternative possible in India to the existing parties was not yet another party but a completely new platform. The blockchain and crypto revolution that powered Web3 provided just the base to build on. A leaderless movement is not exactly a movement without a leader; it is just that it has thousands of leaders – thus making it immune to the machinations of those in power. This was a true grassroots movement that gave a political voice to people who had been suppressed by the parties for decades. It created an opening for thousands who wanted to serve but had no entry. This was truly a people’s movement – one that brought Indians together based not on their surnames or the God they prayed to, but on a simple desire that tomorrow should be better than today.
Continuing from the future…
A question that is often asked is: What made Nayi Disha succeed? Many political parties in India had failed to grow beyond a state. How did a leaderless entity capture power in less than 500 days since its launch?
There were five factors which helped Nayi Disha: timing, tech, platform, incentives, and constraints.
Timing: Every government has an opportunity to transform, but very few actually do. In India, politicians get into the same rut of welfare and handouts, funded by taxes and economic interventions. As long as there is economic growth, this works well enough to keep people quiet. But the pandemic disrupted business as usual. More than the pandemic it was the arbitrary lockdowns that disproportionately damaged the vast majority of Indians not lucky enough to have good jobs that enabled them to work from home. A future that seemed somewhat bright was dimmed by lack of education, jobs, incomes and economic opportunities. People had despaired of the politicians and their pie-in-the-sky; they wanted something different – something that promised and showed a path to a better future. Nayi Disha and Dhan Vapasi did just that.
Tech: Without digital, it would have been impossible for rapid growth. For Indians in 2022, mobile phones had become a necessity. There was at least one smartphone in almost every family in India. With the world’s cheapest connectivity, digital virality was possible. The design of the Nayi Disha platform hooked early adopters and they then helped spread it. The app was also crafted such that it could work in a peer-to-peer mechanism, without relying on the App Stores (which could potentially be blocked by upset politicians!)
Platform: Nayi Disha was created as a platform, and not yet another political party. It was made to serve the people, not one or two individuals at the top. Notwithstanding the moniker “crypto party”, it was a decentralised platform, where decisions were made by consensus rather than the wishes of a few. It also needed very few decisions: the rules governing its operations were simple and could be explained to others in minutes.
Incentives: Nayi Disha combined the fun of gamification with the power of money. Everyone knew that they would only benefit if others also joined in. Dhan Vapasi would not happen with 1 or 10 or 100 MPs in the next Lok Sabha; they needed a majority. Dhan Vapasi was the greatest empowerment program that could be imagined, and it was built on the simple principle of fairness – every Indian owned a share in the public wealth of India, and deserved to get it back. This combined with the gamification aspects of Nayi Disha created the right competitive spirit to drive adoption and spread.
Constraints: Nayi Disha did not try to do too much. It had a clear single purpose: Swatantra Lok Sabha in the 2024 elections to elect a government for a 5-year term to implement the economic agenda. The focused objective and the limited time span convinced people that they needed to give this initiative an opportunity – because the politicians had singularly failed in the 75 years they had been given to create a prosperous India. Promises repeated year after year, election after election held little excitement in post-pandemic and post-lockdowns India. Change was needed, and Nayi Disha’s clarity of purpose won the day.
And so it was that in May 2024, a new government took office, and its first act was the passage of the Dhan Vapasi Bill – liberating Indians from the clutches of their government and giving them the freedom they needed to create a better life.
Making It Happen
What I have articulated may seem fantasy, the workings of a playful mind running amuk! The questions are many. Show me where it has ever happened? People, without a leader to motivate and inspire – can they truly unite? Don’t you know that Indians do not cast their vote, they vote their caste? All these technocratic visions are just that – what place do they have in India’s politics? How will you get the message to people? You really think a Lok Sabha of Independents can function? Who will lead? Who will become the PM? You think they can get any policy passed – if there are hundreds of decision-makers and blockers?
All are valid questions, and all can be answered. Our focus should not be on the naysayers, but the early adopters. There are many Indians looking for an alternative, a better future. Today, they have no choice at the ballot box. They have no say in the candidate chosen to represent them. They don’t even know if the candidate they vote for will stay in the party he or she belongs to! Such is the state of Indian democracy. Increasing centralisation by every leader in power has chipped away at the say that people have in their own future.
The problems Indians face with their politics cannot be solved at the same level at which they were created; the answer is not yet another centralised party which promises but can never deliver because the end is power, not prosperity. That is why Indian politics needs innovation. This is where Web3 comes in; it can usher in new forms of organisations and dynamics within organisations. Who would have imagined Bitcoin becoming “digital gold” and a trillion-dollar asset class – based on a white paper and some software code released to the world by an anonymous do-gooder less than 14 years ago?
Indians can become rich and prosperous. But this will never happen under any government formed by the political parties – and it does not matter what their initials are. They all stand for the same things: absoluteness of control, blind faith in their leader, corruption to stay in power, debasement of institutions, and extreme worship of those at the top. The names of the PMs can change, their souls remain the same.
For prosperity, a different approach is needed. The people have to take back power. This can only be done by a decentralised and leaderless movement, for anyone who dares to stand will be swatted down by those in power. It has to be bottom-up, like the believers of the Bitcoin, blockchain and crypto revolution. Bharatverse, built on Web3, offers Indians yet another chance – perhaps the final one – for a Nayi Disha. The choice is ours – darkness or opportunity, division or unity, past or future, kakistocracy or democracy, enslavement or freedom, poverty or prosperity.