The meeting was held in Mumbai on 1st August 2009. Awadhesh Singh, Vishal Singh, and Babu Joseph from FTI attended the meeting, along with S.V. Raju the organiser who is also an FTI member. In all, there were about 60-75 participants coming from diverse fields such as business, education, media, social work, etc. Some of the well-known participants:
- Capt G.R. Gopinath, ex-owner of Air Deccan and an independent candidate from Bangalore South constituency in the Lok Sabha election 2009;
- Shri Sharad Joshi, MP (Rajya Sabha) and founder of Swatantra Bharat Paksha, a liberal party on lines of Swatantra Party; and
- Ms Meera Sanyal, an independent candidate from Mumbai South constituency in the Lok Sabha election 2009.
There were quite a few old Swatantra Party members. There were also people representing many parties Professional Party, Jago Party, Youth for equality. All claimed that they shared the ideology of Swatantra party.
Review of Swatantra Party
The meeting began with a welcome note by Shri S.V. Raju, Executive Secretary of Swatantra Party who had organized this function. He gave a brief history of the rise and fall of Swatantra Party. He indicated how Swatantra got formed and how it quickly vanished also. Rajaji came out at very old age to fight Nehru Socialism. He was supported by many able people like Mino Masani. The end of Swatantra party came with differences between Mino Masani and Rajaji.
Later, some of the old Swantantra party members talked about license raj and the fear of state in during old times. Many people fondly remembered Mino Masani and his intellect. From what Raju and others said an FTI member got the impression that difference in strategy caused the downfall of Swatantra Party. An FTI member believes, “I think there is a lesson for all us in rise and fall of Swatantra party. We need to have a very strong ideological base and also we should never compromise on core values.”
Need for a new Swatantra Party
He stated that the liberal thoughts of the party were ahead of its times. At that time, Indian mind space was dominated by socialism. Not only Nehru, but several other prominent politicians and intellectuals were obsessed with socialistic thinking at that time. Only after 60 years of bitter experience, India is realizing the correctness of liberal thoughts. The economic liberalization of 1991 is an example of such a realization. He said that Swatantra Party itself may or may not revive, but its fundamental ideas are ideas whose time has come. It is now up new liberal thinkers to take up the thread and move forward. He would always be available to help such a forward movement.
Later, Captain Gopinath and many others also said that party should be revived again. Most of the speakers also suggested that now time has come to have a common platform/alliance of liberals; that we must pick up the liberal thoughts of Swatantra party and similar other small parties and work together to offer a credible national alternative. The central theme was that all wanted a change but again generally lacked the intellectual depth barring few.
This was followed by a talk on Indian secularism by Prof. V.K. Sinha, a former member of Swatantra party and now editor of The Secularist (Mumbai) and an educationist. He highlighted the distorted version of secularism being followed by Indian governments in which secularism has degenerated into “equal appeasement to all religions” or worse, “minorityism”. He very nicely put that in India secularism became respect of all religions rather than being away from all religions. His lecture was very good. Sharad Joshi also talked about secularism.
At this, participants were invited to speak for 2-3 minutes on their vision of liberal philosophy for the future of India. FTI members spoke at this juncture. During the discussion, Shri S.V. Raju introduced FTI’s effort to bring 1500 leaders to the participants and requested them to visit FTI’s web site.
All participants were given a set of books. To sum up, there was passionate desire among participants to revive Indian liberal thoughts and work together to offer a national alternative to pull India out of its current mess. The meeting ended after the discussion.