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

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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.

www.mibtimes.com
www.mibtimes.com

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?

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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.

Conclusion

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.’

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  • 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 ………..

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The Answer to The Impending Questions On Demonetization Are Here

While it did broaden the country’s tax base, it was a nightmare for the immense, cash-dependent informal economy.

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Indian Currency. Pixabay

Nearly all of the currency removed from circulation in a surprise 2016 attempt to root out illegal hoards of cash came back into the financial system, Resever Bank of India  has announced, indicating the move did little to slow the underground economy.

Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi’s currency decree, which was designed to destroy the value of billions of dollars in untaxed cash stockpiles, caused an economic slowdown and months of financial chaos for tens of millions of people or demonetization.

Modi announced in a November 2016 TV address that all 500-rupee and 1,000-rupee notes, then worth about $7.50 and $15, would be withdrawn immediately from circulation. The banned notes could be deposited into bank accounts but the government also said it would investigate deposits over 250,000 rupees, or about $3,700. The government eventually released new currency notes worth 500 and 2,000 rupees.

 

demonetization
An activist of Congress party hold the banned 500 and 1000 rupee notes.

 

In theory, the decree meant corrupt politicians and businesspeople would suddenly find themselves sitting on billions of dollars in worthless currency, known here as “black money.”

“A few people are spreading corruption for their own benefit,” Modi said in the surprise nighttime speech announcement of the order. “There is a time when you realize that you have to bring some change in society, and this is our time.”

But even as the decree caused turmoil for those in India who have always depended on cash — the poor and middle class, and millions of small traders — the rich found ways around the currency switch. In the months after the decree, businesspeople said that even large amounts of banned currency notes could be traded on the black market, though middlemen charged heavy fees.

demonetization
Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with mayor, flickr

The reserve bank of India report said in its Wednesday report that 99.3 percent of the $217 billion in notes withdrawn from circulation had come back into the economy. Some officials had originally predicted that number could be as low as 60 percent.

Also Read: Diverse Gathering To Be Addressed This World BioFuel Day: PM Narendra Modi

“Frankly, I think demonetization was a mistake,” said Gurcharan Das, a writer and the former head of Proctor & Gamble in India. He said that while it did broaden the country’s tax base, it was a nightmare for the immense, cash-dependent informal economy.

“You can’t overnight change that in a country which is poor and illiterate. Therefore, for me it’s not only an economic failure but a moral failure as well,” Das said. (VOA)