NEW DELHI: With a BJP-led government in power, the Indian Right is gearing to occupy the centre stage. If UPA had its National Advisory Council with left-of-the-centre think-tanks driving the policy formulation, with good measure of literature festivals celebrating the liberal thought thrown in, the right-wing is slowly coming up with its own set—from conclaves, international conferences, to seminars for policy advocacy.
On Sunday, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi will go into a huddle for the first time with all the chief ministers to discuss the future of Planning Commission, he will have before him suggestions mooted by a RSS-inclined think-tank, India Policy Foundation (IPF), advocating greater role for private participation in policy formulation.
IPF Director Rakesh Sinha, who works as associate professor at the Delhi University, wrote to Modi on Saturday saying his “revolutionary” idea to replace the Planning Commission led them to hold a seminar and formulate suggestions.
Sinha has suggested four names for the policy body shorn of its “Nehruvian past”—National Commission for Planning and Development, National Commission for Policy and Planning, National Transformation Commission for Development and National Federal Commission for Growth and Justice. Among the suggestions mooted include doing away with five-year plans to three-year plans to sectoral planning for nine years.
In IPF’s recommendations lies the ideological pinning. “The Planning Commission has been a victim of infantile disorder. Nehruvian planning was obsessed with socialism and it delegitimised the private initiatives, capital and entrepreneurship,” Sinha said. Suggesting an 11-member body apart from chairman and vice-chairman, with each member heading a division, the new entity should work as a think-tank and also as a planner.
IPF sets its eyes on more serious topics—coming out with a health policy early next year, apart from providing inputs on education and democratic governance.
As the ‘new world order’ takes shape, with right-wing gaining prominence, Sinha says, “Earlier, the government co-opted the thinkers and included them into the government bodies, rather than giving space to wide generation of ideas. We are now providing for critical ideas for the policy.”
A Sangh ideologue says after the new government took over, right-wing thinkers are coming out of the shadows. “We need to build their confidence, strengthen them in their fields and create a space for engagement with each other,” a senior BJP leader said.
The fight is going beyond policy formulation to cultivate an intellectual space dominated by left think-tanks, and literature festivals like those at Jaipur, says another ideologue.
It’s where India Foundation’s (IF) new venture comes in. IF, which has BJP general secretary Ram Madhav and Shaurya Doval, son of national security advisor Ajit Doval, as directors, is bringing together 70 thinkers, ministers and politicians from across the world, to address a select group of over 400 participants, at a five-star hotel in Goa.
“The first-time event planned at this scale would aim to bring likeminded people together to discuss ideas. It’s a free flow of intellectual discussion on economics, governance and engage with each other,” says Madhav, a RSS leader who recently joined BJP.
IF has been holding discussions and generating contents on critical areas like security, diplomacy, terrorism, and economic order for the new government to get ideas from.
Doval, who is also Managing Director of Zeus Caps, says the event planned as a retreat would become an annual feature to carve its own identity. It is a gathering of finest brains that aims to shape up world order, discuss eclectic ideas ranging from spirituality to role of development, dialogue between civilisations, role of faith leaders, which may not deal with day to day events, but wider concerns.
The India Ideas Conclave has identified Sangh ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhaya’s philosophy of integral humanism as the key theme. Though ministers like Sushma Swaraj, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Nirmala Sitharaman, Piyush Goyal and MP chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Doval says there is a space for discussion at the societal level that is being created. The ideas generated will be collated in form of papers, and books for wider circulation.
The conclave to be held on December 19-20-21, in collaboration with Goa government, would see spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar who is also the chairman of the organising committee as the keynote speaker apart from many former heads of states from Slovenia, Jordan, Bhutan, Netherlands, Lithuania, participating along with many parliamentarians from friendly countries. Other key personalities include former Turkish Presidential candidate Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Lord Meghnad Desai, European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Elmar Brok, economist Arvind Panagariya, former CAG Vinod Rai, author Amish Tripathi and RSS leader Dattatreya Hosabale
If the conclave is being billed as alternative to the other existing conclaves organised by other groups, IF is building up its own set of events which would rival World Economic Forum at Davos.
Doval says it will hold India Economic Forum in March next year in Delhi which will see participation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Last year, Modi as Gujarat CM had been the key speaker. While, International Conference on Counter-Terrorism in collaboration with the Rajasthan government will be held in February next. IF’s other directors—Jayant Sinha and Suresh Prabhu—had recently joined the government as ministers.
Closer home to the BJP, its own public policy think-tank set up last year to bring out the vision document for the government is working on other policies. Innovation policy and new cyber law to deal with cyber crime is being prepared by the centre, which will be shared with the government.
Centre’s head and BJP vice-president Vinay Sahasrabuddhe says, “Prime Minister has advocated policy driven governance. There is a huge home work deficit in the area. We are trying to do our bit for to fill the gap.”
Another BJP think-tank, the Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, last month held a closed-door roundtable before the PM’s visit to Australia to discuss areas of interests, and focus. Officials from the Australian embassy participated in the deliberations to work out areas of mutual interest.
But not all are happy with the BJP led think-tanks. They have been silent when those outside their immediate universe have been holding fort to formulate policy, a RSS ideologue said. However, the India Right has arrived.