Published January 22-February 4, 2022
State of Parties
I have written previously about United Voters of India (UVI) as the alternative to all of India’s existing political parties. India’s politicians and their parties are India’s greatest enemies, as they have chosen to restrict freedom and continue with perpetually planned poverty. The parties have concentrated power at the top in the “high command”, silenced the voice of the people, created authoritarian regimes, continued with dividing Indians in their quest for staying in power, and extraction and exploitation of the people – just like the British colonisers did for almost 200 years. In other words, India’s freedom movement failed – it delivered Independence but did not free the people. All it did was replace the white-skinned rulers with their brown-skinned inheritors.
Fourteen Indian Prime Ministers have perpetuated the legacy of British Governor-Generals by denying freedom and prosperity to the Indian people. The rulers changed but the rules did not. India shining and stock market highs notwithstanding, India is still a poor country. Hundreds of millions of Indians are still dependent on government handouts for daily survival.
Every political party in India started out claiming to be different from the Congress but has ended up cloning its structure: one or two people at the top who concentrate power and glorify themselves, eliminate any form of inner-party democracy (from discussion to elections), invite with open arms defectors from other parties who until the previous day subscribed to a diametrically opposite political ideology, whimsically decide on state Chief Ministers riding roughshod on the wishes of the local MLAs, and indulge in horse-trading of elected MLAs and MPs. Economic policies are more a continuity rather than the change that is needed for a transformation; almost every underlying idea can be traced back to the Nehruvian era, which in turn continued with the British rules. The result: a continuity of the kakistocracy (where the worst rise to the top) and anti-prosperity machine, which together deny both freedom and prosperity for the masses.
India’s positions in global economic indices says it all.
Indians need to unite in a new movement – a political and economic revolution – to put the nation on an irreversible path to freedom and prosperity. This is where Nayi Disha comes in – with UVI as the vehicle for political power, and Mission 10-20-30 as the agenda for prosperity for the new government.
UVI enables all those not committed to supporting any of the existing parties – the non-aligned and non-voters (NANVs), comprising two-thirds of eligible Indian voters – to come together and create a genuine alternative to the Congress clones. UVI should be a decentralised platform where Independents chosen by local voters via primaries should be contestants – and presuming they win, we would have a Lok Sabha of Independents, uncontaminated by present day politicians and their parties.
The big question: how to create such a political platform that cannot be hijacked by a single leader and ensure that the people have a voice through their representatives, rather than career politicians helming the parties. This is where the idea of UVI as a blockchain-based political platform comes in. Think of UVI as a decentralised autonomous organisation (DAO), which Wikipedia defines as “an organisation represented by rules encoded as a computer program that is transparent, controlled by the organisation members and not influenced by a central government.” 2022 will see many state and local body elections. Can UVI’s encoded rules offer an alternative to disillusioned voters, as a template for the 2024 national elections?
Blockchain – 1
In the past few years, interest in crypto-currencies has skyrocketed. As per CoinMarketCap, over 9000 currencies are now valued at $2 trillion. Just five years ago, this was at just $10 billion. While the currencies are many (bitcoin and ether being the most prominent), the underlying technology is similar in all cases: the blockchain.
Wikipedia explains: “A blockchain is a growing list of records, called blocks, that are linked together using cryptography. It’s also described as a “trustless and fully decentralized peer-to-peer immutable data storage” that is spread over a network of participants often referred to as nodes. Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, a timestamp, and transaction data (generally represented as a Merkle tree). The timestamp proves that the transaction data existed when the block was published in order to get into its hash. As blocks each contain information about the block previous to it, they form a chain, with each additional block reinforcing the ones before it. Therefore, blockchains are resistant to modification of their data because once recorded, the data in any given block cannot be altered retroactively without altering all subsequent blocks. Blockchains are typically managed by a peer-to-peer network for use as a publicly distributed ledger, where nodes collectively adhere to a protocol to communicate and validate new blocks.”
Tyler Cowen: “Centralized services typically are run by companies or institutions, such as Facebook, Twitter or Amazon. There is a command structure and a boss, and changes can be made by deliberate decision. In this parlance, even Wikipedia counts as centralized, though the editors and contributors are scattered around the world. Decentralized services are harder to define, but two simple examples may be helpful. The first is email, which consists of networks of rules and interconnections not owned by any one company or institution, even though your email provider might be. The second is the World Wide Web itself, a series of protocols with a huge amount of stuff built on top of it. Bitcoin also operates in a decentralized way, unless a majority of the blockchain miners decide otherwise, which is very difficult to pull off.”
Investopedia adds: “One key difference between a typical database and a blockchain is the way the data is structured. A blockchain collects information together in groups, also known as blocks, that hold sets of information. Blocks have certain storage capacities and, when filled, are chained onto the previously filled block, forming a chain of data known as the “blockchain.” All new information that follows that freshly added block is compiled into a newly formed block that will then also be added to the chain once filled…In a blockchain, each node has a full record of the data that has been stored on the blockchain since its inception. For Bitcoin, the data is the entire history of all Bitcoin transactions. If one node has an error in its data it can use the thousands of other nodes as a reference point to correct itself. This way, no one node within the network can alter information held within it. Because of this, the history of transactions in each block that make up Bitcoin’s blockchain is irreversible.”
Blockchain – 2
From IBM.com: “Blockchain is a shared, immutable ledger that facilitates the process of recording transactions and tracking assets in a business network. An asset can be tangible (a house, car, cash, land) or intangible (intellectual property, patents, copyrights, branding). Virtually anything of value can be tracked and traded on a blockchain network, reducing risk and cutting costs for all involved…A blockchain network can track orders, payments, accounts, production and much more. And because members share a single view of the truth, you can see all details of a transaction end-to-end, giving you greater confidence, as well as new efficiencies and opportunities.”
The Economist describes blockchains as databases which represent an immutable shared history: “A blockchain is a database that contains the history of whatever information it was designed to store. It is made up of a string of “blocks” of information that build on top of one another in an immutable chain…What distinguishes a blockchain from other databases is that its ledger is distributed, publicly available and replicated on thousands of computers—or “nodes”—around the world. Rather than a centralised entity, like a bank or a tech platform, ensuring that the ledger is accurate, it is verified by a decentralised network of individuals… Unlike private networks, open, public blockchains are transparent (anyone can view them), permissionless (anyone can use them) and censorship-resistant (no one can stop them).”
Tim Roughgarden: “Blockchains are not about payments per se. They’re about a new computing paradigm—a programmable computer that lives in the sky, that is not owned by anyone (or rather, is owned by thousands of people all over the globe, including yourself if you like) and that anyone can use. (There might be a usage fee you have to pay, but there’s no access control—you don’t need anyone’s permission.) When thought of this way, how could blockchains not unlock a totally new generation of applications?”
He describes the blockchain stack thus starting from the bottom: “Layer 0 [is] the Internet. That is, it provides at least a semi-reliable method for point-to-point communication between untrusted parties…Layer 1 is the consensus layer, and its job is to keep a bunch of computers (potentially scattered all over the globe) in sync, despite possible network failures and attacks…Layer 2 [is] the scaling layer. Essentially the goal here is to implement the same functionality exported by a layer-1 protocol, but a lot more of it…Finally, on top there is an application layer (as there is in the Internet stack), which refers to the applications built on the functionality provided by the previous layers.”
Builtin elaborates on a key innovation that has taken blockchain beyond just being a platform for cryptocurrencies: “Originally created as the ultra-transparent ledger system for Bitcoin to operate on, blockchain has long been associated with cryptocurrency, but the technology’s transparency and security has seen growing adoption in a number of areas, much of which can be traced back to the development of the Ethereum blockchain, [which] lets developers create sophisticated programs that can communicate with one another on the blockchain.”
Jesse Frederik: “Blockchain generalises the bitcoin pitch: let’s not just get rid of banks, but also the land registry, voting machines, insurance companies, Facebook, Uber, Amazon, the Lung Foundation, the porn industry and government and businesses in general. They are superfluous, thanks to the blockchain. WIRED made a list of 187 things that blockchain could supposedly fix.”
Decentralisation, transparency and trust are the fundamental ideas in the blockchain. Indian politics needs all three of them.
Blockchain and Politics – 1
There have been many announcements and writings about political parties and public participation in decision-making via the blockchain. (I have not tracked the most recent updates of these.)
From a press release in Oct 2019: “ Æternity, the next-generation, open-source blockchain for building decentralized applications, today announced a collaboration with the Uruguay Digital Party to optimize the participation processes of citizens through the use of blockchain technology in internal voting. This initiative aims to make decisions more transparent, thus building a new system in which citizens, and members of the Digital Party in particular, can participate in a decentralized manner in the political decisions of their community. For that, Æternity will work in two main areas. The first phase of the project will focus on the development of a decentralized application based on the “liquid democracy” model, which operates with tokens using a basic set of smart contracts that the Digital Party will use for its internal governance. A technological solution will also be developed for the collection and validation of adherent identities. This will allow the Digital Party to create a secure and transparent database. In this way, each citizen can vote on proposals and give ideas directly and safely, thanks to encryption techniques that ensure a verifiable process separating the identity of the vote, which is kept secret.”
More on Liquid Democracy from Wikipedia: “Liquid democracy is a form of delegative democracy whereby an electorate engages in collective decision-making through direct participation and dynamic representation. This democratic system utilizes elements of both direct and representative democracy. Voters in a liquid democracy have the right to vote directly on all policy issues à la direct democracy, however, voters also have the option to delegate their votes to someone who will vote on their behalf à la representative democracy. Any individual may be delegated votes (those delegated votes are termed “proxies”) and these proxies may in turn delegate their vote as well as any votes they have been delegated by others resulting in “metadelegation”.” More from Chiara Valsangiacomo: “The core idea behind LD is that, for each issue to be decided, each citizen has a single vote that can be transferred to a trusted person (or ‘proxy’) at will. In other words, citizens can freely decide whether to cast their vote directly or to delegate it, with a given citizen potentially choosing different proxies for different topics. Anyone can become a proxy, meaning that the number of ‘elected’ representatives is potentially unlimited.”
Mariana Todorova: “Liquid democracy gives the opportunity to combine the advantages of direct and representative democracy, while neutralizing to a great extent their disadvantages…DG Agora is a P2P system for providing confidence and organization of power. It may serve not only for the establishment of new social organizations, movements, parties, and cooperatives, but also for democratic structuring and organization of already existing power organizations of private, state or cooperative characters, as well.”
Australia’s Flux: “Flux is a political movement promoting a new system of democracy called ‘Issue Based Direct Democracy’ (IBDD) which enables voters to influence how an elected Flux representative will vote on legislation in Parliament … Flux is a gateway Australians can use, to participate directly in parliament, making the need for trust in elected officials a thing of the past. Elected Flux MPs and Senators give up their autonomy and use their votes in line with the outcomes produced by the Flux ecosystem; an ecosystem comprised of ordinary Aussies…IBDD has three main aspects: Voters get to have a say on any issues they want to, but can abstain from voting if they don’t want to; instead of voting directly, voters can choose to delegate their vote to someone else – like a specialist, politician or just a trusted friend; and voters can assign priority to the issues most important to them.” Flux uses an idea termed as “liquidity tokens.”
Blockchain and Politics – 2
A 2018 Wired story about Democracy.Earth: “At the center of the project is the creation of what [Santiago Siri] calls “political cryptocurrency”— blockchain-generated tokens that users of Democracy.Earth’s software can spend as votes … Siri dreams of a new kind of social media platform on which we spend “vote tokens” that can do anything, from electing politicians and passing referendums to enacting the bylaws of a social club or establishing the business plan of a corporation. It’s democracy by click…In this perfect world, Siri argues, the supposedly unhackable and absolutely transparent blockchain will ensure that no centralized election authority is required to tabulate a vote, and no corrupt politician or gridlocked legislature can interfere with the popular mandate. But coming up with a superior form of voting technology is just the beginning; the larger, far more revolutionary goal is to devise a decentralized decision-making process that eliminates the necessity for any kind of central government at all.”
Andrey Sergeenkov on the idea of a DePa (Decentralised Party): “A DePa would essentially function like a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO) as the entirety of the protocol relies on predefined rules set in codes and launched as smart contracts. Therefore, the protocol responds to the activities of users or verified party members based on its underlying code. And so, all operations are fully automated and devoid of the influence of third parties or central authorities. Whenever sets of conditions are met, the DePa executes actions that are in turn recorded on the blockchain and open for verification by any member of the party. In essence, DePa is a party that reflects the views of all its constituent members and not just the selfish interest of the few. To ensure that the activities of each party member conform with the unified goals of the decentralized party, the protocol will incentivize positive contributions by distributing its native token as rewards. It is important to mention that the ultimate goal of the protocol is to achieve consensus and at the same time preserve the individuality of each member. The token accrued by each member would also determine the individual’s voting power.”
Comistar writes about tokenising political parties: “While the politics and the social system is a wide topic and blockchain technology can’t fix it all, it could definitely be useful, at least in theory, when it comes to funding and the governance of the political parties. Could we create more transparency in the shady funding shenanigans of the politics? How about the inclusion of the voters?.. The party token could have voting rights. What if the people who own the token could, to limited capacity, of course, have some sort of voting rights on the (important) decisions which the party does? For example, let’s say the party has an important political decision to make and to do that they have to get an opinion of the token holders as well (via token sale agreement or any other type of document highlighting the responsibilities of the party).”
Marta Poblet, et al: “Oracles were trusted sources of knowledge for public deliberation in classical Athens. Very much like expert and technical knowledge, divine advice was embedded in the deliberation and decision-making process of the democratic Assembly. While the idea of religious divination is completely out of place in our contemporary democracies, oracles made a technological comeback with modern computer science and cryptography and, more recently, the emergence of the blockchain as a “trust machine.””
In summary, while the ideas have been discussed, there has been no successful implementation of a blockchain based political party (or platform). The only example of a digital-centric party coming to power has been Italy’s Five Star Movement, but that experiment eventually failed.
Five Star Movement – 1
Italy’s Five Star Movement (Movimento 5 Stelle, in Italian) rose to power on the back of a digital platform targeting disillusioned voters with a fresh new alternative and a vision of a digital model of participative governance. From Wikipedia: “The M5S was founded on 4 October 2009 by Beppe Grillo, a comedian and blogger, and Gianroberto Casaleggio, a web strategist. In the 2013 general election, the M5S was the second-most popular single party, though it was only the third-most popular grouping, behind the centre-left and centre-right coalitions. The M5S subsequently turned down a coalition offer with the centre-left coalition and entered opposition. In the 2018 general election, the M5S became the largest party in the Italian Parliament and entered government led by Giuseppe Conte.”
Wikipedia’s briefing on Five Star Movement elaborated on its use of technology: “The movement bases its principles on direct democracy as an evolution of representative democracy. The idea is that citizens will no longer delegate their power to parties (considered old and corrupted intermediates between the state and themselves) that serve the interests of lobby groups and financial powers. They will succeed only by creating a collective intelligence made possible by the Internet. In order to go in this direction, the M5S chose its Italian and European parliamentary candidates through online voting by registered members of Beppe Grillo’s blog. Through an application called Rousseau reachable on the web, the registered users of M5S discuss, approve or reject legislative proposals.”
Marco Deseriis wrote in a 2017 paper: “Central to [the] shift from politics as a profession to politics as a form of service is the network, which M5S activists routinely refer to as the ultimate source of decisional power. Although the network of M5S members is dispersed throughout the Internet, Rousseau is the hub where the network coalesces in what the party rule book describes as the “assembly of the members”. In this context, the term assembly is to be understood metaphorically for two distinct reasons. First, as with any Internet-based community, the members do not meet in a physical location. Second, if Rousseau could support in theory the formation of a virtual assembly, the platform lacks in practice any tool for real-time or asynchronous communication among the members. Such choice is deliberate. As Members of Parliament Manlio Di Stefano, Nunzia Catalfo, and Danilo Toninelli noted, Rousseau has been designed to function as an “operational tool” rather than an outlet for extended discussions among party members. In this context, operational means that Rousseau allows members to make decisions via majority voting and to develop a relationship with their representatives that is ostensibly unmediated by party structures … This Web-based parliamentarization of the M5S is in line with the process of institutionalization that the M5S has undergone since 2012. Indeed, the extension of parliamentary processes to the Web occurs almost exclusively via a “crowdsourcing” of bills of law that channels the activism of the party base within specific boundaries.”
Writing in Washington Post in 2018 after FSM’s electoral success, Davide Casaleggio, who conceptualised Rousseau, had this to say:
The Five Star Movement, which launched in 2009, has now achieved a landmark success among Western democracies by using the Internet to play a crucial role in the electoral process. The first major digital political organization in the world, it was born and raised online, supported exclusively by donations from ordinary citizens. Its objectives and priorities are defined by citizens, not the old moribund parties, with a mission to end corruption, fight tax evasion, reduce taxes, protect the environment, improve education and accelerate innovation.
…The platform that enabled the success of the Five Star Movement is called Rousseau, named after the 18th century philosopher who argued politics should reflect the general will of the people. And that is exactly what our platform does: it allows citizens to be part of politics. Direct democracy, made possible by the Internet, has given a new centrality to citizens and will ultimately lead to the deconstruction of the current political and social organizations. Representative democracy — politics by proxy — is gradually losing meaning.
Our parliamentarians who stood for election were chosen through online voting on the Rousseau platform — not inside a smoke-filled room like the established parties. Since it is the citizens who finance us though micro-donations, it’s the citizens who choose our program and representatives. In the last online vote to choose our parliamentarians, 8,000 candidates were picked from 40,000 nominees.
Five Star Movement’s Rousseau was thus one of the most successful pioneering efforts to upend the traditional power structure by putting people, rather than the politicians, at the centre.
Five Star Movement – 2
Cecilia Biancalana wrote in a 2017 paper entitled “Reshaping Political Organisation and Participation: The Use of the Internet in the Five Star Movement. An analysis of Rousseau”: “The FSM represents one of the most advanced experiences regarding the use of the Internet by a political party, especially considered its electoral potential. The most relevant example of the power held by FSM’s members is the candidate selection process: all candidates at the local, regional and national are decided by members, in most cases through online votes … FSM’s elected representatives are considered as spokespersons, that have to follow the “volonté génèrale” of the people. So, the online participation platform is the tool used in order to connect “the people” (the FSM members) and the elected representatives and to make members participate to the internal life of the party, exercising the “steering power, usually detained by few”. As stated by Davide Casaleggio on the occasion of the presentation of the new version of Rousseau: “The representative democracy was probably the best model that we could have until a few years ago. But with the use of the Internet and the set of tools that can be used through the Internet, today participation is probably the best democracy that we can have.””
Caroline Stockman and Vincenzo Scalia analysed the success of FSM and Rousseau in a 2019 paper: “The Five Star movement is positioning itself as the morally superior choice in Italian politics and explicitly aims to be the nation’s sole governing force. Its narrative centres on the materialisation of real democracy, one that is direct and unmediated. One of its key tools for this utopian promise is the Rousseau platform, which allows online voting amongst other direct democracy functionalities. It is named after the well-known Western theorist Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who proposed the general foundation to which the Five Star movement subscribes, centring on the people’s will, against the corruption of the established government. The party’s programme is based on the disaffection for politics by the Italian voters and their resentment over corruption.”
Enzo Floris wrote in a 2020 paper: “The Rousseau platform fulfils various purposes. It runs primary votes, serves as a public forum discussing salient political issues, and organizes referendums on policy proposals… Arguably, the rise of online deliberative platforms is also influenced by a pervasive democratic deficit. The current systems of democratic representation date back to a time when technology did not allow to overcome space and time distances. As new possibilities open, the public’s expectations of further involvement in the public sphere increase. Indeed, the Italian trend fits into a wider global picture of dissatisfaction with representative institutions, the ruling class and politics as a whole…FSM’s Rousseau aims to answer this expanding need for alternative and better systems of representation and for greater democracy within party structures. The platform offers registered users the right to weigh in on important issues, which traditional political organizations reserve to party elites. The significance of the users’ preferences reflects clearly in recent Italian political history, as several key decisions for the party as well as the country were taken within such framework. Remarkably, in 2018 Rosseau determined the birth of a coalition government between FSM and Salvini’s League, after an overwhelming online vote in favor of it.”
Wired UK provides a summary and update in a June 2021 story:
The Five Star Movement (5SM), wanted to upend Italian politics with its revolutionary plans for digital direct democracy. Over the past few months, instead, it almost managed to upend itself, stuck in a kafkaesque drama that left its online voting platform paralysed.
The anti-establishment party, founded in the late 2000s by comedian Beppe Grillo and digital entrepreneur Gianroberto Casaleggio, prided itself on reconciling with politics thousands of disenfranchised citizens, giving them a say on strategic decisions and in the selection of candidates by means of frequent online votes.
But over the past two months its internal processes have been disrupted by a painful divorce with the association that owns Rousseau, the web platform (named after the Genevan political philosopher and theorist of direct democracy) where the 5SM used to hold its ballots and debates. The end of a long stalemate between the party and the platform, this week, provided some respite – but questions remain on whether the party’s online democracy utopia can ever be revived.
Five Star Movement eventually failed in its utopian ambitions. Can India do better? Can we become a pioneer in going beyond just a digital app supporting a new political party to creating a blockchain-based mass platform for political power and governance?
India’s political parties have let down the people. Instead of inner-party democracy, there is the “high command.” Witness what happens when state Chief Ministers are replaced by the national parties and a charade of selection by ostensibly listening to the MLAs is played out. Corruption is a must because there is no other way to feed the organisation. While electoral bonds offer a legitimate route, pressure can easily be applied by those in power for contributions in “white”, even as the bulk of the funding stays in “black.” There is no process for primaries for local candidate selection – diktats come from the top. As a result, the voters have no say in the candidate chosen to represent them. Thus, after winning, the elected representative’s focus is on gratifying the leader, not listening to the constituents. Politics has also become a family business through the decades – with sons and daughters inheriting the mantle from their parents. Defections are still easy to do because ideology doesn’t matter – a politician has to just resign (after being appropriately compensated), switch parties, cause a by-election, and then win on the other party’s symbol. Even after being elected, there is no voice – the whip takes care of that.
Thus, our democracy is built on a fundamentally flawed foundation where the voice of the people is limited to voting every few years in an election where they know their individual vote makes no difference. It is little wonder then that India’s governance model is also a failure – a few know-it-alls make every decision and use Parliament as a cover to provide the illusion of “rule by the people.” India’s politics and government has always been of the few, by the few, for the few.
There is very little to differentiate the BJP from the Congress now. I was jokingly telling a friend that the BJP has become the CJP (Congress Jaisi Party – a party like the Congress). Everything that some of us disliked in the Congress can now be found in the BJP. As they say, you tend to become the enemy you fight. Nehru and Indira may be disliked by the BJP, but they are the inspiration for most political and economic decisions. The mantle of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty has been inherited by BJP’s leaders.
If Indians have to become prosperous, they have to get rid of their politicians and political parties. There is no difference between them. This is the real choice we have to make – existing parties or something new. Only when we get past the notion that the BJP and Congress (or the regionals) are our only alternatives can we start imagining a new future for India. This new future – Nayi Disha – cannot be created by a broken political system that only enriches the few. Mass prosperity in India needs an economic transformation, which in turn needs a political revolution.
This is where hope comes in the form of the blockchain which can eliminate the extreme centralisation that is the bane of India’s politics. This is the thinking behind United Voters of India, a decentralised political platform (not a party) made up of independents, chosen by local voters, and united by an agenda to put India on a new path – freedom and prosperity, something most Indians living or dead have never experienced.
According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Karl Popper is regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of the 20th century. His entry reads: “He was also a social and political philosopher of considerable stature, a self-professed critical-rationalist, a dedicated opponent of all forms of scepticism and relativism in science and in human affairs generally and a committed advocate and staunch defender of the “Open Society”.”
He wrote in The Economist in 1988: “In “The Open Society and its Enemies” I suggested that an entirely new problem should be recognised as the fundamental problem of a rational political theory. The new problem, as distinct from the old “Who should rule?”, can be formulated as follows: how is the state to be constituted so that bad rulers can be got rid of without bloodshed, without violence?.. In theory, however, these modern democracies are still based on the old problem, and on the completely impractical ideology that it is the people, the whole adult population, who are, or should by rights be, the real and ultimate and the only legitimate rulers. But, of course, nowhere do the people actually rule. It is governments that rule (and, unfortunately, also bureaucrats, our civil servants—or our uncivil masters, as Winston Churchill called them—whom it is difficult, if not impossible, to make accountable for their actions).”
In a constitution that does not provide for proportional representation, parties need not be mentioned at all. They need not be given official status. The electorate of each constituency sends its personal representative to the chamber. Whether he stands alone, or whether he combines with some others to form a party, is left to him. It is an affair he may have to explain and defend to his electorate.
His duty is to represent the interests of all those people whom he represents to the best of his ability. These interests will in almost all cases be identical with those of all the citizens of the country, of the nation. These are the interests he must pursue to the best of his knowledge. He is personally responsible to persons.
This is the only duty and the only responsibility of the representative that must be recognised by the constitution. If he considers that he has also a duty to a political party, then this must be due solely to the fact that he believes that through his connection with that party he can do his primary duty better than without the party. Consequently it is his duty to leave the party whenever he realises that he can do his primary duty better without that party, or perhaps with a different party.
…What we need in politics are individuals who can judge on their own and who are prepared to carry personal responsibility.
While Popper is discussing political parties and proportional representation, the key points he makes actually make an argument in favour of independents, the central idea of UVI. What we now need is a mechanism to bring to life his idea that “what we need in politics are individuals who can judge on their own and who are prepared to carry personal responsibility.”
A blockchain-based political party can be imagined as a DAO (decentralised autonomous organisation). More from Forbes: “DAOs need the following elements for being fully functional: A set of rules to which will operate, a funding like tokens that the organization can spend to reward certain activities to their members, and also to provide voting rights for establishing the operation rules. Also, and most important, is a well and secure structure that allows every investor to configure the organization.”
Lu Liu, et al: “DAO is defined as an organization built on smart contracts that can execute autonomously. Unlike the conventional centralized entities, it doesn’t include the central control or management. DAO achieves the decentralized organization by encoding a set of rules in smart contracts, where how DAO performs is predefined.” The authors suggest a 4-step process for launching a DAO:
- Developing and deploying smart contracts according to predefined rules.
- Handling the token issues (through ICO) at the initial financing stage.
- At the end of the financing phase, a DAO starts running.
- Proposals are made and members can vote on them.
E2Analyst writes about Decentralised Autonomous Parties: “Think of DAP as an internet-native party that’s collectively owned and managed by its members. Decisions are governed by proposals and voting to ensure everyone in the party has a voice. They have built-in treasuries that no one has the authority to access without the approval of the group. No party leader can authorize decisions based on their own whims. Everything will be out in the open and the rules around policies and governance will be baked into the DAP via its code. DAPs are an effective and safe way to work with like-minded folks and build a true democracy…DAP is fully virtualized through software. To be fully operational DAP needs a set of rules according to which it will operate. These rules are encoded as a smart contract (a computer program) that autonomously exists on the internet. At the same time, it will need people to perform tasks that it can’t do by itself. The backbone of a DAP is its smart contract. The contract defines the rules of the party and holds the group’s treasury.”
UVI can thus be thought of as a DAO, a decentralised autonomous organisation – a platform, not a party. (UVI may need to register as a political party to ensure there is a common symbol nationwide; India’s voting machines only have the candidate’s name and symbol.) Built on a blockchain, UVI can offer everything that Indian voters do not have today – decentralisation, transparency and trust. And only through this political revolution where power is taken away from the politicians and returned to the people will we lay the seeds for the economic revolution and the Nayi Disha towards freedom and mass prosperity.
The Indian Revolution
Just as cryptocurrencies (especially Bitcoin) are emerging as a possible alternative to gold as a store of value, we need an alternative to India’s political parties who are like a cancer destroying the country from within. The emergence of Bitcoin has coincided with the central banks printing money and devaluing it. Similarly, UVI is needed at a time when all political parties run authoritarian governments which focus on controlling the people and their actions. When people are allowed a voice, they will choose liberty over serfdom. Indians do not know what real freedom looks like. During the time when some countries in the world attained freedom and then prosperity, Indians have continued to be ruled and dominated – first by the British and then the political class which continued with most of the colonial rules to maximise power at the top.
This is where UVI comes in – as a decentralised political platform where the people are the ones making decisions rather than one or two people at the top. It is UVI which must complete the unfinished freedom movement to do what should have happened in 1947 – a political and economic revolution that put Indians on an irreversible path of prosperity.
There is no global precedence for a blockchain-based political party or platform which attains power. So, much of what I write next is more of a plan and future roadmap on what should happen. None of this is possible without people changing their minds. For now, we will make the assumption that a significant percentage of the population is interested in an alternative to India’s political parties and what they lack is a unifying platform. They do not want yet another political party which can at a future time become an extension of the leader of the top as has happened with every new party. Unless the rules are pre-decided and cast in stone (software code, in the case of UVI), a true people’s platform is not possible.
Bitcoin emerged from the vision (and white paper) of Satoshi Nakamota whose identity to date remains unknown. In just a decade, Bitcoin and its underlying blockchain technology ideas have fired the imagination of millions around the world. UVI needs to come to life through the actions of a few who can imagine a new future for India and inspire local leaders to rise and take on the establishment that has in effect disenfranchised Indian voters. India’s non-aligned and non-voters comprise two-thirds of eligible voters. Can they unite and make the Indian Revolution a reality in the next 1000 days, in time for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections?
Members, Candidates, Primaries
There are two parts of bringing UVI to life: the tech and the go-to-market (GTM). UVI is the product and it needs to then find its place in the market – what is termed as the product-market fit. Let us first start by defining the key features of the product, and we will then discuss how it can find the early adopters, and then cross the chasm to the mainstream.
UVI is a two-sided marketplace – connecting voters and candidates. The purpose of UVI is to enable those voters not committed to voting for a specific party to choose their own candidate in a transparent process. This needs to happen in every voting unit. UVI thus is a manifestation of a DAO (decentralised autonomous organisation). There is no one leader or small collective at the top deciding who the candidate should be. For this, the rules need to be simple and easily understood by all.
UVI will have members. Any eligible Indian with a VoterID can become a member. Each member has one vote, and will need to be authenticated by someone else. A member must agree to a set of basic terms at the time of joining. Members can be incentivised via “tokens” to recruit other members and do other actions which help UVI. These tokens can give extra influence when it comes to policy decisions. However, when it comes to voting for candidate selection, the principle of one person one vote must apply.
Candidates are selected via a primary. Any member can contest in a primary. There should be an “entry fee” paid in the form of tokens. The entry fee can vary as per the election (local, state, national). The entry fee ensures there is a cost for contesting and thus ensures only serious contenders (those with an interest in public service) contest the election. The primary can be in two parts: the first phase to bring the candidates to 3, 5 or 7 (for local, state and national elections, respectively), followed by a second phase which uses ranked choice voting to ensure the winning candidate gets at least 50%+1 of the votes. All voting is done digitally and recorded on the blockchain. Think of the voting as the equivalent of a digital transaction.
The winner of the primary process gets to contest the election as a UVI-supported candidate. Note that the entire process is transparent and does not require any arbitrary decisions. The UVI software does the magic. It is open-source so anyone interested can see the underlying logic. The UVI contestant will hopefully get votes on election day from the members. If the membership in the voting region is large enough (in excess of 20%) and all the members go out to vote in the election, the UVI candidate has an excellent chance of winning. Repeat across every constituency and we can have a Lok Sabha, Vidhan Sabha or municipal corporation of UVI-backed independents.
Tokens, Decisions, Policies
Two additional ideas need to be discussed – tokens and the UVI policies.
Tokens are the engine that moves UVI. Tokens are earned and then spent – much like airline miles or loyalty points. Tokens can be earned via actions. Signing up a new member is the most important action because this is what helps UVI spread and grow. The value of members at the early stages is much higher, hence more tokens can be awarded for referrals till a membership threshold (let’s say 10%) is crossed in a constituency. Tokens can also be issued for offline and online activities that contribute to the growth of UVI. All such decisions can be made by UVI members via a new form of voting called quadratic voting.
Here is an explanation of quadratic voting from Shaan Ray:
Quadratic Voting is a method of collective decision-making in which a participant votes not just for or against an issue, but also expresses how strongly they feel about it. It can help protect the interests of small groups of voters that care deeply about particular issues. Quadratic Voting can be used in democratic institutions, in corporate governance, and blockchain-enabled collective decision-making.
In Quadratic Voting, each participant is given a number of credits that can be used to vote for an issue. However, the cost of casting more than one vote for an issue is quadratic, not linear. So, the marginal cost of each additional vote is far higher than of the previous vote.
Here is the Quadratic Voting formula: Cost to the voter = (Number of votes)^2
Imagine that a vote generally costs $1 to put toward an issue, and you have $100 of voting credits. You want to cast your vote toward protecting endangered species. Casting one vote will cost you $1. However, casting two votes for the same issue will cost you $4, casting three votes for the same issue will cost you $9 and casting 10 votes for the same issue will cost you your entire $100 of credits.
So, while you are increasing the chances of victory for your issue with each additional vote, the quadratic nature of the voting ensures that only those who care deeply about issues will cast additional votes for them.
Tokens earned via actions can be used for voting on issues and proposals. (Voting during primaries is not via tokens.) Tokens thus incentivise actions by members – much like mining is rewarded by coins in the crypto world. Also, the quadratic nature of voting ensures there is no outsized influence exercised by a single person or small group.
This brings us to the UVI policies and day-to-day decisions. This can be done in the form of proposals that are submitted by members, and voting via tokens. The policies themselves can be put up for vote by the community – except for those in the core “UVI Constitution.” This mirrors the decision-making process of governance also – elected UVI candidates would make their own decisions in accordance with the wishes of their constituents. Remember, they are the people’s “representatives.”
It may seem chaotic, but I believe this process with its simple rules will work well. And for a system to work, it is better to have a few simple rules that everyone understands (and which are hard to change) rather than complex rules that are easily editable. [Think of the American Constitution as compared to the Indian Constitution.]
Implemented thus, UVI can create a new paradigm in Indian politics – a government of, for and by the people (rather than the politicians and their parties.)
Now that we have an idea of the UVI product (and it still needs to be developed), we need to discuss how it can get traction – product-market fit. The best way is to use the UVI for two applications: actual elections (“war time”) and Sabhas (“peace time”). 2022 has many important elections scheduled – states and municipal corporations. One of the best places to pilot it would be in the Mumbai corporation elections which are scheduled in February.
Mumbai’s NANVs could be the early adopters – few are happy with the state of governance in the city. Turnout in 2017 was just 55%. Given that the various parties are all likely to contest on their own (and not in coalitions), the first-past-the-post system offers an opportunity for UVI to make a big impact. In a multi-party contest, winning 30% of the votes could be enough to win a constituency. 30% of 55% comes to 16.5% of the total electorate. So, if NANVs can attract 20% of the voting population in a constituency, the UVI candidate stands a good chance of winning. Success in Mumbai would resonate across India, helping mainstream the idea ahead of the state elections.
So, a targeted campaign for UVI ahead of the BMC elections is a good starting point. Win or lose, this will offer rich learnings and help improve both the platform and the sales pitch. Every election after that should be used to improve and scale. By the end of the year, UVI should be ready as a platform for taking on the incumbent parties in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
A second track to identify candidates, conduct primaries and train winning candidates in decision making is the idea of “Sabhas” that I have described earlier. The objectives of Sabhas I had stated then were:
- 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
Sabhas needs a platform like UVI for attracting political entrepreneurs and training them to climb the political ladder. UVI needs Sabhas to run through iterations to constantly improve. Together, they can work across the country even when there are no elections scheduled, and thus lay the foundation for political awareness and action among the NANVs. The UVI platform could also be used for movements and campaigns as a way to grow support for the broader ideas. Combined with the pipe, UVI and Sabhas become the building blocks for constructing the Indian Revolution.
To conclude: what I have outlined in this series is an approach to use the decentralisation movement that is driving the world of finance and apply it to politics. India needs a disruption in our political system – UVI can be that force of change. These are just ideas for now. Transforming India and making Indians free and rich is the biggest problem in India today. Hopefully, entrepreneurs can build on this and create a New India, mirroring what they are doing in many other sectors in India. Our time starts now!