The Bengaluru-based ‘non-political’ forum is headed by Gurdeep Singh Sappal, former CEO of Rajya Sabha TV and key aide of former Vice-President Hamid Ansari.
New Delhi: Well before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Ajit Doval, now National Security Adviser, sowed the seeds for the Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) – today an influential public policy think tank said to be closely associated with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s BJP government.
Ahead of 2019 general elections, a new foundation has risen quietly from the only large southern state where the Congress still holds fort. And it is positioned firmly against the Right-wing concept of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’ and calls itself the Samriddh Bharat Foundation (SBF).
Just as the VIF claimed to be distant from the BJP and its associates, the new foundation claims it has no political backing. If Doval steered VIF as its founder-director, the SBF has former Rajya Sabha TV CEO Gurdeep Singh Sappal as its chief trustee and architect.
SBF is registered in Bengaluru and has set up office in the southern suburb of J.P. Nagar, ThePrint has reliably learnt.
Although news of the foundation is being kept under wraps, the SBF is learnt to have reached out to senior politicians as well as artists and scholars to lend their weight to it.
It is also likely to play host to Congress president Rahul Gandhi ahead of the Karnataka assembly elections due in April-May.
The makings of the foundation
The nascent foundation aims at developing a platform for a ‘progressive ideology’ and a commitment to ‘constitutional values’. It will also effectively work towards countering ‘Right-wing propaganda’ and work towards actively disseminating ‘progressive’ values through a range of mediums, sources well versed with the SBF blueprint told ThePrint.
The larger message will be about ‘Hindu Rashtra’ versus a ‘Samriddh Bharat’ that is inclusive and reaches out to all marginalised sections of society.
The idea to create an organisation that espouses liberal and democratic values but remains politically distant first emerged in July 2017, when the Congress party hosted a three-day international conference in Bengaluru on ‘Reclaiming Social Justice, Revisiting Ambedkar’.
Human rights advocate Martin Luther King III and then-Congress V-P Rahul Gandhi presided over the conference – also termed a ‘Quest for Equity’.
It culminated in a Bengaluru declaration that promised a ‘new deal for a new India’, and also a possible blueprint for a common minimum programme for a united opposition ahead of 2019.
The ‘Quest for Equity’ also managed to draw in people from all walks of life but with a common commitment towards a democratic value system.
Sources told ThePrint that many eminent persons who attended the conference and others who observed it from afar expressed their willingness to associate with a non-political platform that would be committed to liberal social values. Work on the blueprint for Samriddh Bharat began right there.
In August 2017, Sappal resigned as CEO and editor-in-chief of Rajya Sabha TV. He was also officer on special duty to former Vice-President Hamid Ansari. Sappal is now key to the new foundation, and is reportedly in touch with senior politicians from across parties as well as scholars and artists to engage with this ‘non-political’ and ‘independent’ forum.
Preparing for 2019
The SBF has already initiated activities on a small scale in Karnataka, working at generating video and print content that subscribes to a liberal ideology. It, however, has plans that go far beyond the borders of Karnataka.
It is the requirement of the time to come forward….all the best….
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