By Harshmeet Singh
Of all the words in the English language, ‘Liberty’ is my favorite. After all, Liberty is a prerequisite to enjoy the true essence of human life. It was this desire of liberty that gave rise to the feeling of Nationalism in the country and turned young men into freedom fighters ready to sacrifice their lives. Thousands died to ensure that their motherland, India, achieves liberty from the British Raj. As the history stands today, their sacrifices didn’t go in vain. However, many historians prefer to contest this. According to a number of historians, the great Indian Nationalist movement just brought about a ‘transfer of power’ and not liberty. 68 years down the line, these questions are just as relevant today. Did we really achieve liberty or was it just the transfer of power from one hand to another, with no change at the grassroots.
Most colonialized countries in Asia and Africa had suffered from the ill effects of capitalism when their ruling powers used them for their resources. So when these countries became free, Socialism and Marxism were the obvious choices as the frontline political ideologies. But with growing corruption and nepotism and the ruling Congress party failing to fulfill the big dreams it projected to the nation at the time of independence, the growing unrest in the country called for a change which came out in the form of the ‘Swatantra Party’ in 1956. Founded by C. Rajagopalachari, the Swatantra Party was way ahead of its time. After all, the same Congress party which opposed its demands of an end to ‘License Raj’ had to take that route when the country was at the verge of bankruptcy in 1991. With a number of veteran ex-Congressmen among the ranks of the party, people stood up to listen what the party had to offer. In 1967, the second general election that the party fought, it emerged as the single largest opposition party, winning 44 seats.
After Rajagopalachari died in 1972, the party couldn’t hold on to its supporter base and merged with the Bharatiya Kranti Dal in 1974. Though short lived, it was India’s first brush with a political party that stood on the ideals of liberty.
Classical liberalism demands the state to play a largely restricted role in the market while ensuring that the values of justice and security are upheld. Though a perfectly ‘liberal’ state is impossible to achieve, proponents of liberalism suggest taking up measures that can move a society towards classical liberalism. The liberal policies, if applied in the Indian context, suggest that a large population, if well handled and appropriately educated is never a burden. Similarly, liberal values support freedom of an individual, freedom to make a mistake and learn from it. Rather than handing out subsidies, individuals must be well trained, educated and encouraged to sustain themselves.
With the introduction of LPG reforms in 1991, India looked all set to achieve a global stature and assume the position of a world leader that it always aspired for. And yet, close to 25 years hence, we are still nowhere near the tag of a ‘world power’. Where did it go wrong then? Or maybe, where did it not go wrong? The corruption and nepotism that led to the formation of Swatantra Party in 1956 has assumed humungous proportions. The Congress party (and most others) is in a state of trance, refusing to listen to the opinions of the common man and singing its own tune. And just like déjà vu, we have a party formed on the lines of ‘Liberty’, the Swarna Bharat Party. Formed in 2013, the SBP aims to go one step ahead of the Swatantra Party and “make India the envy of the entire world”.
In an email exchange with NewsGram, Swarna Bharat Party’s founder, Sanjeev Sabhlok said that his party is determined to “make India a place without communal or naxalite violence”. The party envisions an India “free of its colonial socialist and corrupt governance system.” When asked if the party intends to fight elections in the near future, he remarked, “No governance reform can be achieved without legislative reform. To deliver that will require political action. The party is beginning to establish its internal systems, and seeks leaders to contest elections in the coming years.” Underlining the lack of political awareness in the country, he further added that “the country is largely ignorant about liberty and good governance, and the educational task must precede any political success.”
Sadly enough our ‘fight for liberty’ was defined as the fight against the British Empire. Little did we know that we would need a much bigger revolution to gain liberty from our own brethren!