Overarching strategy (public read only)


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An India where everyone is guaranteed equal opportunity and equal dignity, and has the freedom to pursue his or her own happiness under an accountable and participative government.


1) To find and develop at least 1500 leaders and support them in winning at least 300 seats in the Lok Sabha (and similar overwhelming majorities in state assemblies) under the banner of freedom.

2) To support these leaders in leadership development and to develop policies and strategies that they can use appropriately.

Strategies to deliver the mission


This paper outlines the overarching strategy. Other strategies are currently provided elsewhere.

Note: All strategies will be combined into a single strategy pack in due course, the first draft of which is expected to be released after the FTI convention in 2009. It is also planned to show how these different sub-strategies combine coherently and completely to the overarching strategy

Question: What broadly is meant by ‘Leadership aspiration and strategy’?

Answer: The idea is to develop genuine leaders on FTI, not egotistical brats who believe this is all about them.

Strategy 1: FTI will work to ensure that its members aim to win 300 Lok Sabha seats at the same time the first time around, with strong candidates offered in all constituencies.

Corollary: This can’t be achieved without a lot of advance work FTI members can’t win ANY seat – either in LS or state elections, without extensive planning and coordination.

Explanation/ discussion

The Indian voter needs a liberal alternative in each and every election, but to get to the point where FTI members can offer themselves as candidates in each election, we need a national profile. We cannot do that by starting with a particular state. Currently FTI is SEVERELY constrained by the fact that (a) there aren’t many liberals in India (b) of these liberals hardly any are willing to contest elections.

We’ll be lucky if we can get 1500 outstanding leaders by the end of 2010. The hope is is (and this issue will have to be reviewed based on who joins FTI over the next two years) that these 1500 members will be representative of all parts of India. So we will be able to find a sufficient number of local candidates for fielding in each LS constituency.

Why not pick a state first?

The state-first strategy calls for significantly more human (and financial) resources. For instance, while Assam has only 14 LS seats it has 126 Assembly seats. FTI (or whatever the future political group is called) will need to field at least two candidates (and ideally, prepare at least three candidates) per seat so that if one candidate’s papers are erroneous, the other will be accepted.

Unless the FTI member speaks Assamese (or at least Bengali or a local tribal language for certain constituencies) fluently he or she has absolutely no chance of winning these far more localised (state) elections. So we can’t pick 256 members randomly from FTI once 1500 have assembled and say to them: “go contest seats in Assam”. They must know the language fluently. So if finding 28 people from FTI to contest 14 seats in Assam is going to be very hard, then finding 252 FTI members to contest 126 seats is going to be 10 times harder!

Unfortunately we can’t invent the thousands of candidates needed to contest all state assembly elections, or we’ll get rabble, whom we don’t want and who will get no votes anyway.

The best strategy is to ‘open the batting’ with a national blitz and then, using the leverage created, expand to the state assemblies. FTI must therefore aim to demand serious consideration from Indian voters.

FTI members should therefore will contest elections only when FTI is fully ready to offer (either directly or as part other groups) 550 high quality candidates under one policy platform, based on freedom.

Why aim for a major electoral victory in national elections as a starting point?

While it may well be that FTI members don’t get 300 seats the very first time FTI members decide to contest, aiming for less than 300 seats will be futile for a range of reasons:

a) Voters:

Voters want a clear alternative government. They don’t like ragtag groups of assorted independents and other small groups. They vote for a national government, not for a bunch aiming for a few seats. They don’t like voting for small parties with limited ambition to run the country’s government. They NEVER vote for candidates who are not united as a single front (a few independents here and there excepted). Aiming for few seats (say 50) will therefore end up with even fewer seats – 10-20 at most, in the best case.

Members of FTI (in its future political avataar) will therefore offer a clear national alternative each time they contest. This can only be done by contesting 550 seats under a common banner.

b) Donors:

Potential donors do not fund effort which don’t have a strong chance of winning. They want a strong group with strong leadership. To attract the money (say, Rs. 200 crores) needed for a serious chance to win, FTI must ensure 550 candidates and a common platform.

c) Supporters:

No political group can win without hundreds of thousands of active supporters. Potential supporters like to see a united front across the country with, a firm chance of forming government. FTI (or its associated group/s) can’t attract sufficient supporters without a clear national alternative on offer.

d) Wastage of resources:

Not contesting in a powerful and well-orchestrated manner will waste significant financial resources. Each time an election is contested, Rs. 25 lakhs is spent (if the candidate is compliant with the law). If a seat is not obtained from this effort, then this money is totally wasted.

It is better to spend money on leadership development, communication, and ground work and ensure a serious chance of winning, before pouring good money down the drain. If some FTI members have money they are willing to spend for elections, why not spend it in a systematic manner to build a coordinated effort across the country?

e) Zero policy impact:

Less than 300 seats will dramatically reduce the likelihood of policy changes being implemented. Many serious policy changes needed in India require a major mandate from the people including Constitutional amendments/ potential re-write of the Constitution. A comprehensive majority is needed in order to make a difference. Aiming for 50 seats is totally useless. Rajaji’s Swatantra Party had 44 seats in the Fourth Lok Sabha (1967-71) but could make no measurable difference to India’s socialist policy.

We will do ourselves a serious disfavour by thinking of less than the total reform of India. Maybe after 10 failed attempts over 50 years we can aim for 20 or 25 seats, but until we have exhausted all possibilities, let’s focus on the big game.

f) Making full use of leader’s lives:

Leaders have a total useful life of 20-30 years. Aiming for small things like 10, 20, or even 50 seats is a sure-shot recipe for mediocrity and disillusionment. An entire life can go by in struggling at that level, without any change delivered in one’s lifetime. Leaders would eventually get disillusioned and lose interest in public life, and possibly even become a part of the establishment, merely to get a ‘position’. To assure leaders at least 10 years of success, we need to make sure they win at least half the time they contest.

Therefore FTI (in its future political avatar) does not aim to contest less than 550 seats at a time. FTI will have to find and develop at least 1500 solid leaders (at least two per constituency, plus a standby) to be launched simultaneously across India.

That they should win 300 seats is a goal, not a certainty. The first contest could yield only 40-100 seats, even with the very best efforts. It may take two or more rounds of contesting 550 seats to get over 300 seats. But aiming less than this will give 5-20 seats and make the whole thing a farce and a wasted effort.

Question: What is the rationale behind these numbers ? 40-100, two or more rounds, 5-20 ? – rationale is that it is very hard to win even if one offers a national alternative. So while aiming for 300 one may have to be content with 40-100 seats in the first round. If one offers a lower order representation, say only of a state or two, then the voter will treat FTI members as independents and the results will be much poorer]

Question: Why not contest a few elections first? Contesting and winning a few seats is not a ‘complete’ waste of money. Why not alternative strategy:

1. FTI should consider some early ‘test elections’ to train for and be better prepared for the final assault. Consider this practical training expense for some of the future 1500 leaders.

2. Given that small parties with much less number of seats than majority wield lot of influence today thanks to coalition politics, getting even a smaller number of seats may give lot of influence.

Answer: With Rs. 25 lakhs (needed for one LS election) one can leverage a great campaign for FTI to find and build 1500 or more high quality leaders. Also, without policy alignment none of this will matter anyway – one or two seats are entirely worthless from that point of view. FTI should therefore conserve every rupee for the build-up phase and not squander in frivolous election campaigns for one or more seats.

Also, there are people on FTI with significant experience of observing and managing elections and we don’t need to waste money in learning how to contest elections. Finally, FTI does not believe in coalition politics, not being a minor regional or one-agenda party, but based on a fundamental and broader idea of freedom.

Question: What in FTI will achieve these numbers, while some other movement with exactly the same strategy document but different policy fundamentals will not achieve them? What is the unique selling proposition: underlying policy philosophy OR strategy OR both?

Answer: Political philosophy (assuming the same strategy) and the quality of leadership

Question Let’s assume FTI wins 70 seats in first round. It is likely that some of the other larger parties reform themselves and shift their policies and leadership in directions similar to FTI. This is of course a positive result in terms of overall reform goals, but what this also means is that subsequent rounds will be more closely fought. Perhaps FTI will make coalitions with other parties with similar ideals.

Answer: FTI members should not align with any party that has a history of corruption and communalism. All other groups with similar policies and processes are fine. Indeed, they should all be there when FTI launches the first national attempt.

Aside: How will FTI raise funds?

Funds never come first. Why would any rational person provide FTI with funds at this stage? But after a strong leadership team and policy platform has been assembled, and a powerful campaign launched, funds should roll in. Some funds will be needed to kick-start the entire process, but that is a minimal requirement. Substantial funding is needed only when FTI members will ultimately contest elections. So the first step must is to form a team of at least 1500 outstanding leaders.

Question: This is a leap of faith?

Answer: At the moment this is a leap of faith. Also based on prior experience that people do want to contribute when they like something. FTI members are in the political market, and so have to let the market pay for their efforts.

Note: FTI members can individually contest seats earlier if they wish

FTI members are independent leaders who come together in their own interest. Nothing stops them from contest elections on their own, noting that up to least Rs. 25 lakhs is squandered each time unless it results in a seat – and even that doesn’t really make a difference to anything. But FTI neither supports nor detracts from such efforts.

Question: Why 300?

Answer: – Already discussed above. The key is the need for significant reform which also needs a few Constitutional amendments.

Question: Are 1500 leaders enough ? Why are they minimum starting point?

Answer: We need at least three leaders per Lok Sabha constituency. Some leaders will drop out, being threatened by goondas, or simply because of unavoidable reasons. Some may file wrong nomination papers. At least 2 solid candidates must therefore be found ‘standing’ in each constituency on the day of lodgement of nominations.

Strategy 2: After the first round of national elections has been contested by FTI members, FTI will work towards is members contesting in all state assembly elections

Explanation/ discussion

After first establishing a national presence, FTI will use the levarge from the national effort to expend into state assemblies.

Strategy 3: To ensure that the best Indian leaders feel comfortable in joining it, FTI must not elect or nominate any office bearers. Everyone must remain on the team as an equal, with equal prospects as others. No hierarchies of decision making shall be created within the team.

Explanation/ discussion

It is natural for the ‘founders’ of any group to want to take the more important leadership roles in any organisation. But FTI has no place for such rubbish. FTI is a team of equals without (at least currently) any ‘core group’ or ‘secretaries’ or ‘president’. Yes, we need a Trust to help us manage funds properly, and we can have ‘office secretaries’ and the like to keep things clean and tidy, but we don’t need any Presidents, Secretaries, and such high-flown designations on FTI. Why so?

a) We are equals

FTI is a flat ‘pyramid’ with no ‘pointy top’ of a single leader. We are all citizen-leaders and team players. Everyone on FTI is a citizen-leader. Hence we don’t need a single leader (or a ‘core group’ of leaders).

b) Leadership challenge and development.

FTI is all about leadership development. Each FTI member should – on his/her own – be sufficient to transform India. As Guru Gobind Singh said of the Sikhs he was preparing to be leaders – “Sava lakh se ek ladaun“. Even one Gandhi is enough. We are asking for at least 1500 Gandhis, so India never has to be short of good leaders again.

c) We can contribute wherever we contribute best without formal titles

Members could aim to work as a team (each with their own independent opinions, which are always welcome) and take the lead on projects where they can contribute most. Of course, we can choose to play different roles (and hence exercise different levels of influence through persuasion). We can select/elect ‘team leaders’ for various teams or tasks, or (better still) nominate ourselves as ‘team leaders’ by volunteering to lead certain tasks. But we don’t want (for the most part) any official designations and ‘organsational structures’.

Similarly, local groups at constituency level we will need to help mobilise support. These groups (and should) function as entirely non-hierarchical ‘families’ and ‘teams’, not as formal bodies. We are friends working together, not ‘high command’ vs. the ‘ordinary member’. All citizen-leaders.

Thus FTI aims to be an “organisation-free” organisation that requires high levels of commitment, understanding and a minimal ego on the part of each of the “team/family” members.

d) Formal roles can aggravate competitions and cause needless conflict

Having ‘offices’ is also divisive, at least until the organisation is deeply bedded down in a culture of freedom and democracy. These ‘offices’ often distract from the main purpose and become a source of conflict. We should aim to avoid them until we have 1500 genuine (at least level 3 or 4) leaders with us. The public wants results, and doesn’t want anyone fighting over utterly useless ‘positions’ which don’t add any value to society.

We may ultimately have office bearers

Task division and identification (by titles for example) will be undertaken when necessary (ie. when necessary for efficient human resource utilization and efficient communication). Also FTI will try to get support staff or ‘non-leader’ staff at an appropriate point in time, for example, someone with translation or accounting skills but no leadership interest. When FTI really starts organising, some such things may be useful for as a public face. But these are incidental, not critical to our goals. Even if FTI were to elect people to certain roles (say, a spokesperson), that would not make them anything ‘above’ the rest of the team. Everyone on FTI must always remain equally free, sovereign citizens.

This also means that if members of other groups (including existing political parties) wish to join FTI, they get no special role or title apart from ‘team member of FTI’.

Strategy 3: The internet will be the main mechanism for attracting the 1500 leaders.

It is true that not everyone in India has access to the internet. But we have to begin somewhere. While there may well be thousands among the people without internet access who will prove to be good leaders. But we can’t wait till we get ALL good leaders.

All we need is 1500 good leaders. India’s internet penetration is sufficient to get us about 1500 outstanding leaders who have access to the internet (or can get access in a nearby city’s internet cafe). Plus, FTI’s target group – highly educated professionals with leadership experience in their job – is 99% certain to have access to the internet.

Question: How is the internet sufficient?

Answer: It is not. However, it is a useful way to communicate. The communications/ marketing strategy and outreach strategies talk of other approaches to extend FTI’s reach. An example would be Adharshila, but also various events on the ground to attract members.

Strategy 4: A political platform will be considered AFTER 1500 members assemble.

Two main options exist after 1500 leaders are assembled and agreed to the blueprint as well as have sufficiently developed leadership skills:

a) Members can choose to join one of the various existing liberal organisations they feel best represents them, eg. Jago party, Lok Satta

b) Members can decide to start a completely new one. In that case options could be:
i) Liberal Party of India
ii) Freedom Party of India
iii) Swatantra Parrty
any other.

c) A combination of the two options above or any other combination.

Strategy 5: Constituency level preparation will begin after 500 leaders assemble.

It is important to have proper representation from each region. There is no way someone who can’t speak Tamil can win a seat from Tamil Nadu. (same in Bengal or Orissa or ….).

At the 500 mark FTI will initiate a process to allot a constituency to each member, not to contest election but to find 2 more leaders with compatibility with FTI policy and ideas, and mass appeal (or ability to generate) in the constituency allotted to them

Question: Is it possible that FTI may end up severely skewed to some regions at this stage?

Answer: The idea of geographical spread is technical irrelevant. Any Indian can contest from anywhere. Indira Gandhi won from Chikamagalur as well as Amethi. She belonged to neither of these places. But this issue is important and will be considered at the appropriate time. Also, the law mandates reserved seats. That will also have to be looked into. FTI will have to fight on the basis of existing law before the law can be changed.

Ground work done through Adharshila or other such initiatives by FTI members will be helpful in this regard.

The person/s allotted particular constituencies will need to:

  1. Visit the constituency frequently and start interacting with the people, listening to their problems and explaining what FTI intends to do, and how it will help them.

  1. Holding small townhall (choupal) type meetings to explain the FTI philosophy and action plan.

General question: How do we plan to address the gap between legislation and implementation? Political leadership and administrative/judicial implementations

Answer: This is a policy matter including reform of various branches of governance – to be dealt with as a policy issue.

Action Plan

To deliver on these strategies FTI will follow the high level action plan in the diagram below

Detailed Action plan at: http://fti.sabhlokcity.com/action-plan.doc

We do not want any FTI member to contribute from their pocket for elections unless we were quite sure of being close to a winning position. Honest middle class lifestyles are very delicately perched between poverty and modest things like a house and education for one’s children. What groups like FTI can offer to the people of India is integrity and good policy: good governance. We can’t throw our limited money at the people (we don’t have any in the first place!).

FTI would therefore need to ensure that funds are fully organised (at least Rs.20 lakhs per constituency) and all the ground work done for 3 years before asking FTI members to collect locally and contribute around Rs.5 lakhs each (to ensure there is no free riding) for contesing elections.

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