Published December 16-26, 2020
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.
The Indian Revolution Loonshot
2020: Imagine its 2030, and the Indian Revolution has happened. Dhan Vapasi put money in the hands of people by freeing up the wealth controlled by the government, thus creating a positive cycle. The heavy hand of government over Indian entrepreneurs and business has lifted – unleashing a mass flourishing. India’s economic growth has lifted hundreds of millions from poverty and subsistence farming to better lives in manufacturing jobs in urban areas. India’s politicians genuinely represent the people as the power of the mainstream political parties and their high commands have diminished. The political and economic transformation of India has been accompanied by a big build-up of social infrastructure – neighbourhood activity centres with libraries and meeting halls to connect people together. And 80 years after the Indian Republic was born, a Second Indian Republic is taking shape – with new rules defining the relationship between the state and the people, with the constraints being put on the former rather than the latter.
In the India of 2020, battered first by the pandemic and then the harsh lockdowns imposed by politicians on the people’s economic activities, this vision of 2030 may seem positively utopian, bordering on fantasy. Limited government? Economic freedom? A new political system? All of them together? Impossible is the obvious reaction. Is this loonshot even remotely doable?
In today’s India, a loonshot is exactly what we need to imagine a new India – because incremental and conventional thinking will not get us to our destination, and because the current path we are on (and have been for a long time) is taking us further away from freedom and prosperity. India needs a loonshot. And the ‘neglected project’ we need to revive is freedom – individual, economic, civic, social and political. The Indian Revolution, which should have happened a 100 years ago. By exercising control on a single individual (Gandhi) who controlled Indians, the British stayed in power for much longer, and when they finally did leave, they simply handed over the keys to the kingdom to the Indians who followed their rules to control the masses that were the Indian people.
A loonshot needs a champion – in this case, many champions whom we will call political entrepreneurs. People like us, not committed to any of the existing parties and willing to think differently, will have to spark the revolution. We will need to believe that the loonshot is possible. We will need to keep this from Safi Bahcall in mind: “The most important breakthroughs come from loonshots, widely dismissed ideas whose champions are often written off as crazy. Large groups of people are needed to translate those breakthroughs into technologies that win wars, products that save lives, or strategies that change industries. Applying the science of phase transitions to the behavior of teams, companies, or any group with a mission provides practical rules for nurturing loonshots faster and better.”
So, how can the loonshot called the Indian Revolution happen?
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.
Imagining the Future
A question I ask people who express disappointment and anger at the current state of affairs in our nation is this: imagine it is 2025 (or 2030, or whatever future year). India has been transformed into a free and rich country. How did it happen? What was the sequence of events between now and then that changed the course of our nation?
The one obvious thing – in the absence of a leader who understands that prosperity needs freedom – is that there has to be some sort of political change which needs to precede economic change. Nations are made by leaders and their decisions. In countries like Singapore, China, Hong Kong and South Korea, far-sighted leaders drove change from the top. India has been singularly unfortunate to have had a long history of leaders who had the power but neither the will nor the vision to bring about the economic changes that would have set the people free to trade and prosper. And hence in India, the starting point will need to be a new political formation that comes to power with a single-minded focus: dismantling the anti-prosperity machine that India’s governments have become.
So, the first step is to imagine how a new set of political entrepreneurs can come to power. They have to bypass the political party system and do something different. In India, the letters in the name of the party in power do not matter – they are all broadly united in perpetuating the kakistocracy that Indian governments have become. If we cannot imagine a path to a future without the current India’s mainstream political parties, we cannot make it happen. So, the starting point has to be to think through how such a future can come to be.
This is what entrepreneurs do. They imagine new futures and work to make those happen. If they are wrong, and most of the time they are, they fail. But the few who succeed change the course of our lives and the world. India needs political entrepreneurs now more than ever – because the ones who came turned out to be charlatans and mimicry artists.
I embarked on one such thought exercise: how can a new idea do to Indian politics what Microsoft’s Windows did for computers, Google’s search engine did for information, Apple’s iPhone did for communications, Facebook did for social connections and Tesla is doing for electric cars. This is the idea I call “Sabhas”.
Local Circles can start the revolution; Sabhas will power it onwards. Circles, with their meetups and debates, will lay the foundation for people to come together in their neighbourhoods. Sabhas will create the incentive via a ladder for political entrepreneurs to act and lead.
Think of Sabhas as mirror governments. In a nation bereft of political alternatives with a comatose Opposition, Sabhas can emerge as the voice of the silent majority – the two-thirds who are non-aligned and non-voters (NANV). Sabhas are equal parts game, movement and reality show. Sabhas is the engine for the political revolution India needs.
Note: before you critique what I am going to outline, do the same exercise yourself – how can India be politically free from the parties and politicians who have become modern day asuras? Chart out the course from here to the political revolution of 202X.
Before we get to the details of the what (Sabhas), we need to understand the who. Change does not just happen automatically, it has to be brought about by people. Who are these change agents? The answer: political entrepreneurs.
Write Wayne A. Leighton and Edward J. López in their book, “Madmen, Intellectuals, and Academic Scribblers: The Economic Engine of Political Change”:
By definition, the status quo is all around us, and inertia is tremendously powerful. When it does happen, when the right elements come together at the right time and place and overwhelm the status quo, it is because special people make it happen. We call them political entrepreneurs.
…In the Schumpeterian vision, the entrepreneur is someone who disequilibrates, who disrupts, who destroys. These are not concepts we normally associate with value creation, but on net that’s ultimately what happens. In the seeds of destruction something new and more valuable emerges. Schumpeter calls this process “creative destruction.”
Entrepreneurship is what gives life to a market economy. It plays just as important a role in political change…Like entrepreneurs in markets, political entrepreneurs also must decide where to invest time, talent, and treasure to effectuate the kind of political change they believe will create the most value. Both economic and political entrepreneurs can create value through peaceful, cooperative behavior…Political entrepreneurship focuses on what are rather abstract concepts—the ideas, institutions, and incentives in a society that must be changed to create value for others. Whereas an entrepreneur in the market may offer the world the next iPhone, a value-creating political entrepreneur offers new ideas, or new institutions that implement those ideas.
Ideas become powerful not simply because they are conceived by academic scribblers and then filtered into society by intellectuals but because political entrepreneurs discover ways to implement those ideas into society’s shared institutions and ultimately change the incentives that drive human behavior.
The challenge, then, is for political entrepreneurs to look for and act on loose spots in the nexus of ideas, institutions, and incentives. Just as entrepreneurs in the market improve the human condition by seeing and acting on opportunities to meet the needs of consumers, so political entrepreneurs improve the human condition by seeing and acting on opportunities to promote ideas, institutions, and incentives that improve the rules of politics toward better outcomes in society: a society with justice; a society that produces wealth that enhances the lives of its members; a society that allows its members to live as they choose to live.
We all have the potential to be political entrepreneurs: perhaps as the academic who conceives a better idea; perhaps as secondhand dealers who relay ideas to the world through brilliant prose, powerful speech, or some other media; perhaps as a political reformer—yes, working among the madmen—creating or reforming institutions that improve millions of lives.
Whatever path we take as political entrepreneurs, each of us is more likely to succeed if we recognize not only the revolutionary but also the evolutionary nature of political change. In short, improving the human condition should start with recognizing that people respond to incentives, that incentives are part of institutions that neither rise nor fall overnight, and that the slow emergence of both good and bad ideas can change these institutions and thus have an enduring impact on the human condition. Tyranny or freedom. Poverty or wealth. War or peace. Ideas, indeed, can have consequences.
What the Indian political revolution needs are ideas and solutions that can facilitate the rise of political entrepreneurs. One such example is Sabhas. A related question to ask is: what are the incentives that will drive political entrepreneurs? A short answer: the opportunity to be part of a future government that transforms the lives of a billion Indians, an opportunity to shape the future rather than be a bystander and watch government after government inflict misery, an opportunity to lead rather than be led.
Problems and Solutions
There are 4 problems in India’s political system that we need Sabhas to solve.
First, the current political system hinders the rise of political entrepreneurs – people with new ideas. All decision-making is concentrated in the top few people of a political party. Actual party members comprising the voters have little or no say in the people or policies of the party.
Second, there is little or no internal discussion within a party. Dissenters are shunned. Debate is engineered with a whip in Parliament and State Assemblies.
Third, there is no separation of powers between the legislative and executive arms of government. In fact, even the executive is run by a small coterie around the PM or CM – for the most part, even the Cabinet ministers have little power.
Fourth, the entire focus is on consolidation of power and winning elections, and not on creating an environment for freedom and prosperity. This isn’t as illogical as it sounds – politicians are people focused on their own self-interest, and for them it is about maximising power for as long as possible. The collateral damage is not of interest to them.
So, how can Sabhas solve these 4 problems?
First, it should do away with the idea of a political party and instead focus on individuals as Independents. Primaries enable local members to select the candidate to contest in their constituency. This inverts to power structure. It can be taken further: should the aggregate of Independents win in enough numbers to form a government, members can also choose one among them as the leader to be PM or CM.
Second, by eliminating the whip and party affiliation, each elected representative can vote as per his or her conscience. Each person thus is respected for their opinions, rather than being treated just as one to increase the voting tally.
Third, the PM or CM should be allowed to choose their own team – outside of the elected representatives. Every policy idea will need to be discussed and passed in the relevant Sabha. This is akin to the separation of powers between the US President and Congress (composed of the Senate and House of Representatives.)
Fourth, term limits can put an upper bound on how long people can stay in power in a specific position. And by adding a rule to prevent family members from occupying the same position after them, those in power will have less incentive to perpetuate their own legacy.
However good these ideas sound, none of them are unlikely to happen in the current political system. That is where Sabhas comes in. What if we create a parallel government and give a demonstration effect of how such a process would work? It is part reality (real people, real members) and part fantasy (because policies made will have no impact in the real world). Nevertheless, such a system would open up new opportunities for political entrepreneurs and show a large mass of Indians a different approach to debate and policy-making.
So, we have the basic contours of how to bring Sabhas to life. But we cannot think of Sabhas as only being for political entrepreneurs. It needs to attract the masses. And for that, we need to borrow ideas from the world of games which make engagement a daily habit for their users. How can we marry the reality of politics with gaming?
When enough people buy-in to Sabhas, India’s politics will change and with it so will our economic future. That is when the Indian Revolution will happen.
Model UN and Boys State
There are a number of ideas that could serve as possible inspirations for Sabhas.
Model UN: “Model UN is a popular activity for those interested in learning more about how the UN operates. Hundreds of thousands of students worldwide take part every year at all educational levels…[It] aims to build and maintain strong links between the UN and Model UN participants across the globe. It does that through guides and workshops, which teach students how to make their simulations more accurate; by visiting Model UN conferences and sharing firsthand knowledge of what the actual UN is like; and through encouraging Model UN clubs to take real action to support UN values.”
How Model UN Works: “Once a team has registered for a conference, it receives a country to represent. Each student on that team will represent that country in a different committee with different topics. For example, Best Delegate High School could be assigned China and have different students representing China in the disarmament committee, the human rights committee, the development committee, and so forth. Schools with larger teams will receive additional countries. There are typically three items to prepare before you walk into your first conference: the Position Paper (sometimes called a Policy Statement), your Opening Speech, and a Research Binder…The goal of every committee (with the exception of crisis) is to produce and pass a document called a Resolution which outlines the problems that the countries want to solve within a topic and the proposed solutions to those problems.”
Boys State: “American Legion Boys State is among the most respected and selective educational programs of government instruction for U.S. high school students…At Boys State, participants learn the rights, privileges and responsibilities of franchised citizens. The training is objective and centers on the structure of city, county and state governments. Operated by students elected to various offices, Boys State activities include legislative sessions, court proceedings, law-enforcement presentations, assemblies, bands, choruses and recreational programs.
How Boys State Works: “Program participants are divided into subgroups referred to as cities. The citizens of each of these cities elect mock municipal officials and representatives to the mock state legislature. Many programs also have a county level as well. The participants also elect state officials, such as governor, lieutenant governor, and other state-level officials mirroring their actual state. The legislature meets to organize, elect leaders, and to pass bills, in a way that is similar to how their actual state legislature operates.”
For more info on Boys State, check the Texas Boys State Political System description and watch Apple TV’s documentary.
Citizen Assemblies and Deliberative Polling
Another interesting variation is the idea of citizen assemblies. The Economist wrote recently about the idea: “Around the world “citizens’ assemblies” and other deliberative groups are being created to consider questions that politicians have struggled to answer. Over weeks or months, 100 or so citizens—picked at random, but with a view to creating a body reflective of the population as a whole in terms of gender, age, income and education—meet to discuss a divisive topic in a considered, careful way. Often they are paid for their time, to ensure that it is not just political wonks who sign up. At the end they present their recommendations to politicians…They are not a substitute for the everyday business of legislating, but a way to break the deadlock when politicians have tried to deal with important issues and failed.”
More from The Economist: “Over the past decade democratic institutions have taken a battering…One solution, long favoured by political scientists, is to include more deliberation within democracy. Citizens’ assemblies are an increasingly popular way of doing so. These involve a group of around 100 people, broadly representative of the population (by gender, age and socioeconomic status, say), meeting over several weeks or months to debate tricky topics, such as whether to legalise abortion or how to respond to climate change. In the course of the best-organised assemblies participants hear from experts on all sides and produce recommendations to which their governments have promised to respond…To work well, these assemblies need a clear subject to discuss…What is clear is that citizens’ assemblies are most successful when politicians actually listen to them…When they work well, these groups provide elected representatives with a mind-clearing idea of what voters really want.”
An idea proposed by James Fishkin (and mention in The Economist article) is Deliberative Polling. “Deliberative Polling is an attempt to use public opinion research in a new and constructive way. A random, representative sample is first polled on the targeted issues. After this baseline poll, members of the sample are invited to gather at a single place for a weekend in order to discuss the issues. Carefully balanced briefing materials are sent to the participants and are also made publicly available. The participants engage in dialogue with competing experts and political leaders based on questions they develop in small group discussions with trained moderators. Parts of the deliberative events are often broadcast on television, either live or in taped and edited form and/or through social media and other mediums. After the deliberations, the sample is again asked the original questions. The resulting changes in opinion represent the conclusions the public would reach, if people had opportunity to become more informed and more engaged by the issues.”
Advisory Voting: This is an idea proposed by Gary Kasparov. He wrote recently in The Economist: “It is a virtual town square that allows citizens to turn public opinion into a politically tangible thing. It can scale down to the province, state or city level, letting people debate and vote about the issues that interest them most. Fringe candidates and extreme positions often dominate conversation online but fail at the ballot box—a comforting fact, but one that is becoming less true all the time. Advisory voting offers the advantages of digital deliberation without the heat. It is open to all citizens, topics are proposed by the people, and the votes provide a lens into public opinion to inform policy. But because people are identified and need to participate in order to vote, there is goodwill in discussions, not just anonymous online anger.”
Model UN, Boys State, Citizen Assemblies, Deliberative Polling and Advisory Voting all have one thing in common – they create some sort-of parallel system for discussion, debate and feedback. Sabhas takes these ideas further to build a permanent mirror government.
Here then are the key objectives of the two-sided marketplace that Sabhas wants to be:
- To create a shadow or parallel government that mirrors the working of the real one
- To attract large numbers of people; ideally, from the non-aligned and non voters (NANVs)
- To attract political entrepreneurs keen on climbing the political ladder
- To unite all on the twin principles of freedom and prosperity
Here is how the Sabhas system can work:
- There are two mirror Sabhas: Jan Sabha Central (for the Lok Sabha) and Jan Sabha State (for the Vidhan Sabha). In due course, Jan Sabha Local can mirror the municipal corporation and panchayats.
- Each Sabha has mirror MPs or MLAs, as the case may be. The term of each ‘elected’ representative is a year.
- Any registered voter can become a member.
- Digital elections held annually determine the winners. (A rank choice vote can be used to determine the winner, as an alternative to the first-past-the-post system which encourages narrow targeting a selectorate for victory.)
- There is a second vote – for the direct election of the Jan Prime Minister and Jan Chief Minister. 50%+1 vote is needed for victory. If this is not achieved in the first round, a run-off is held among the top two candidates.
- The winning elected representatives come together to form the Jan Sabhas. They form the mirror legislatures.
- The Jan PMs and CMs can appoint their own cabinet of professionals (outside of the elected representatives). This forms the executive arm of the Sabhas government.
- The executive arm can propose policies. This is then sent for a discussion and vote to the Jan Sabhas, which meet every other week for 4 hours to debate legislation proposed by the executive, or discuss other issues of importance.
- It is also possible for the elected reps to propose Bills which can then be sent to the PM or CM for assent.
- All registered members can also voice their opinions on proposed legislation via their app. This gives a directional view to the elected representatives of the voice of the people. These votes are non-binding.
- A ‘Constitution for a Free India’ sets out the boundaries of power of the Sabhas governments and the types of policies that can be made. For example, Sabhas cannot make a policy that discriminates between people.
- A 3-member legal team will serve as the judiciary and vet all decisions made by the Sabhas.
- A citizen assembly of a hundred people randomly selected from the members is convened twice a year to provide guidance on policies to the mirror governments. They meet for 4 days and are educated on a wide variety of issues. They are polled before and after to measure shift in opinion.
- Since there is no way to measure the actual impact of the proposed policies, an independent team of economists assesses the impact of all policy proposals and gives its report prior to the election. The voting record of each representative is also released. This helps the members decide on who to vote for in the next election.
- Term limits ensure that no person can serve in the same position twice.
- All winners of elections are automatically enrolled for training. This is done every alternate week for 4 hours. The winners are taught principles of politics, philosophy and economics (PPE) along with the use of digital technologies for outreach.
- 2 weeks are set aside each year for campaigning and elections.
How Sabhas leads to real candidates for elections:
- If the Sabhas membership base is more than 10% in a constituency, then an independent candidate is put up for contest in that constituency.
- A primary will be held to determine the candidate. The winners of all past elections (including the incumbent) can contest.
- A Jan PM/CM has a wildcard entry into any contest.
- Primaries are held to select the contestant for the national election.
- The winner of the primary will contest the actual elections as an Independent.
One might well ask – why will anyone be interested in Sabhas? What is their incentive? The political entrepreneurs may do it for some bit of fame. But the members – what’s in it for them? It is a two-sided marketplace – members and political entrepreneurs are both needed in sufficient numbers for it to succeed. How will this happen?
I will try and answer all of these questions one by one. Of course, all that I say is in the context of Sabhas as a thought experiment – to make us all think differently about changing the future. Sabhas is just one idea; I hope others can come up with more. The political marketplace needs disruption. Who better than startups to do it?! Think of Sabhas as one possible startup idea.
Sabhas is an alternate world – a metaverse of sorts. It is connected with the real world, but it also is a universe of its own because the discussions, debates, policies do not necessarily impact the real world. Think of it as augmented reality – a layer on the world around us. It is not just a game, because over time the people who participate will change the world around them.
Let’s look at the two sides of Sabhas – members and political entrepreneurs. How can we attract both and create a positive feedback loop such that more members attract more political entrepreneurs who in turn attract more members and so on. Let us examine the incentives for both and design a system that can get this flywheel going.
- Will likely come from those who are not committed to a specific political party – the non-aligned and non voters
- Need to see a path to a better future and personal benefits: an upwardly mobile future
- Will also need to feel a sense of anger and frustration at the current state of things
- Have to think of Sabhas as their vehicle for bringing about change – one day at a time
- Sabhas has to become a daily utility in their lives – a habit on which they spend 5-10 minutes daily
- Need to be asked to do simple actions – share something with friends, persuade a new person to join, answer a survey attend a meetup, participate in a debate, give views on hot issues
- Have a safe space where they can discuss with others like them – without getting trolled
- Their actions can earn them points – which get recognition in the form of a leaderboard
- Have games and challenges they can participate in – and learn as they play
- Have a political ladder available to climb should they want to do more
- Opens a parallel track for those who wanted to always do something but did not have a vehicle till now
- Lets them start small, and then rise – based on public opinion
- Multiple different ways to begin – can debate or start a small local circle
- Should be open to learning – new ideas on what actually creates prosperity
- Can participate as a thinker (discussing policies) or a doer (front-end politics)
- Should be willing to commit a few hours a week
- Is as close to the real world of politics – primaries, elections, and more
- Open to everyone – as long as they are willing to give up on ‘party politics’
- Ensures a level playing field – no godfather, no surname advantage, no money accelerator
If It Works
Admittedly, Sabhas is a far-fetched idea – that millions of people will participate in a sometimes digital, sometimes physical platform to try and bring about change, and that this platform can be the motor to drive the revolution. And yet, every idea when it is first articulated sounds implausible. Think of this as version 1.0 of the business plan. Many pivots will be needed as it evolves. The point is to trigger thinking so it can be made better.
If the flywheel starts working, just think of what we get as an audience and a nation:
- A path for genuinely interested and well-meaning people to come into politics
- An opportunity for us to vote in primaries and select the best candidates – who have a real opportunity to win
- A glimpse of what the state and central assemblies can be like – with real discussion and debates on important issues
- New set of ideas on political and economic issues
- High quality daily debates and discussion on topics of national interest – livestreamed
- The Jan Sabhas can showcase the strengths of a new set of people. People very different from the politicians; people united by their passion to change India.
- A real revolution and a new republic, perhaps!
The key question to ask is: how can we begin on this journey? How can Sabhas be piloted? In one constituency or a single state? Can a proof-of-concept be created to validate the idea? These are open questions for everyone to think about.
In this series, I have attempted to put forth some ideas on what it would take to get large numbers of people together on a digital platform to lay the foundation for what could become the Indian Revolution to put our nation on a path of economic transformation. The aim is to get us thinking: India’s greatest challenge is its politics, which in turn leads to poor governance. Challenges should attract entrepreneurs – there are problems waiting to be solved.
It is our nation. If we choose to live here, we must aim to make it better. At least some of us need to rise to the occasion. We have a responsibility to make our country better. Too much time has been lost because of the secession of the successful. Technology today gives us an opening to connect hundreds of millions in a way that was previously not possible. Some among us need to rise and lead. Here the riches are not individual, but an India that can become great in a decade. Can we make this Indian Revolution loonshot a reality?