Arthashastra of ‘Achhe Din’: Looking at Modi as Kautilya’s ideal ruler


By Sagar Sethi

“We should always speak what would please the man of whom we expect a favour, like the hunter who sings sweetly when he desires to shoot a deer.” – Arthashastra

So who all fell prey to the rhetoric of ‘Achhe din’?

A man promising a better, brighter future rises from among the people, and sweeps the nation with his persuasive eloquence. The ‘one-man cabinet’ Narendra Modi is definitely the man solely responsible for BJP’s inevitable triumph in last year’s general elections. He came, he sang, he conquered!

NaMo is quick, bold, foresighted, captivating, alluring and attentive – resembling the qualities of Kautilya’sRaja-Rishi,’ or ideal king (Arthashastra).

Interestingly, these resemblances are not only limited to Modi’s characteristics but are also resonated in his approach to national and foreign policy. In the following sections then, we will unravel three instances where NaMo’s art of diplomacy and governance bears striking similarities with Kautilya’s ideal king.

In his Arthashastra, Kautilya writes “power is strength,” and “strength changes the mind,” shows that Kautilya’s king must possess the power not only to change the outward behavior, but also the conscience of his subjects and enemies.

Narendra Modi in his radio programme ‘Mann Ki Baat,’ is apparently ‘freely and fairly’ addressing the people of India.

Besides implicitly promoting government policies – ‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao,’ ‘Land Acquisition bill’ and, ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan,’ he also carefully avoids speaking on the controversies involving his government.

Is Mann Ki Baat then a tool for shaping the hopes and aspirations of the people?


The ideal king must possess the ability to perceive any threat to his legitimacy.

Admitting to its ‘anti-farmer’ shades, the government recently dropped its contentious amendments to the Land acquisition bill.

This move was later projected as ‘pro farmer,’ thus, adding to Narendra Modi’s credibility.

The Mandala theory

Beginning his term by inviting India’s South Asian neighbors to his oath taking ceremony, followed by his foreign policy visits to these countries shows how Modi sought to tackle the ‘inner Mandal’ (circle).

For the ‘outer Mandal’ Modi visited countries like Japan, China, Mongolia, Kazakhstan and has plans for future visits to West Asia, especially Israel! As of September, 2015 Modi has made twenty seven State visits to foreign countries.


Do not be very upright in your dealings, for you would see by going to the forest that straight trees are cut down while crooked ones are left standing.

The element that distinguishes Arthashastra from other treatises on politics is the ruthless pragmatism that it reflects.

The literature in Kautilya’s Arthashastra has been aptly described by Max Weber as “truly radical Machiavellianism” to the extent that it makes Machiavelli’s Prince seem almost harmless.”

It is with this ruthless pragmatism that Kautilya prescribes the following for his ideal king – “Give up a member to save a family, a family to save a village, a village to save a country, and the country to save yourself.

Now that we see that Modi’s politics can be understood in the larger rubric of Kautilya’s Arthashastra; the questionKevin-Spacey-House-Of-Cards that arises, does India need Frank Underwood[1] at the helm of its affairs?


[1]  Role played by Kevin Spacey in popular TV series ‘House of Cards.’

  • rajivx

    True. That sort of politics does fetch a lot of praise …… although it may not solve any real problems, which, is another issue altogether ………..