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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.

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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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Modi, BJP Looks To Lose State Votes, Congress May Get a Boost

Analysts have been warning it would be a mistake to rule out BJP wins in all main Hindi-speaking states

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Modi, BJP
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses an election campaign rally ahead of the Karnataka state assembly elections in Bengaluru, India. VOA

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party won a landslide in India’s last general election, in 2014, it grabbed almost all the parliamentary seats in the heartland states of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

But his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could be about to lose power in the three states – results of recent state assembly elections will be announced from early on Tuesday – which would raise huge questions over Modi’s bid for re-election in polls due by May.

Analysts say a big loss for the BJP in the states would indicate rural dismay and could help unite opposition to Modi, whose personal popularity remains high despite criticism he has not been able to keep a promise of creating jobs for young people and improving the lot of farmers.

Modi, Bank, BJP
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures as he addresses a gathering in New Delhi, India. VOA

Indian share markets and the rupee have already turned nervous, falling on Monday, the first trading day since exit polls said the BJP would lose Rajasthan, with the other two going down to the wire.

Equity analysts said the surprise resignation of the Reserve Bank of India governor, Urjit Patel, late on Monday after a long tiff with the government could send the markets crashing.

“As the three erstwhile BJP states have a large agrarian population, the BJP’s drubbing could be interpreted to mean that farm unrest is real, and the much vaunted increase in farm minimum support prices haven’t yielded material political dividends,” Nomura said in a research note.

“A rout of the BJP on its home-ground states should encourage cohesion among the opposition parties to strengthen the non-BJP coalition for the general elections.”

The central states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, and the western state of Rajasthan, together account for 65 of the 543 seats for the lower house of parliament. Several research firms have said markets could fall sharply if the BJP loses all the three states currently held by them.

Modi, Bank, BJP
Nitish Kumar Invited to Join NDA by Amit Shah After JDU-BJP Tie-up in Bihar.

Regional parties are likely to retain two other smaller sates, Telangana in the south and Mizoroma in the northeast, that also report results on Tuesday, the polls show.

The main opposition Congress party, led by Rahul Gandhi of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, has been trying to form a coalition of various regional groups, some headed by experienced firebrand, ambitious politicians.

Congress has already said it would not name Gandhi, who is seen as lacking experience, as a prime ministerial candidate, keeping in mind the “aspirations” of other opposition parties.

Opposition Gathering

Leaders of 21 opposition parties, including Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, also of the Congress, met in New Delhi on Monday as they sought to strengthen their stand against Modi.

In a likely boost for the opposition, a federal minister, Upendra Kushwaha, said on Monday he would pull his small party out of the BJP-led coalition.

India,India, elections, BJP
India’s Congress party President Rahul Gandhi displays documents as he accuses Narendra Modi’s government of buying 36 Rafale fighter jets from France’s Dassault at a highly inflated price, in New Delhi, India. VOA

Media has speculated he would join Modi’s opponents ahead of the general election.

The BJP says the planned opposition alliance would be fractious, would struggle to find focus and would be riven by competing interests.

The BJP has also cast doubt on the exit surveys, saying they have underestimated its performance in the three states.

Also Read: Narendra Modi Accuses Congress of Doing Divisive Politics

While analysts have been warning it would be a mistake to rule out BJP wins in all main Hindi-speaking states, they have also warned that the party has lost the narrative to an extent.

Sriram Karri, a political strategist and author, said the BJP government was losing its sheen because it was afraid to take “big bold moves,” like including fuel in a unified goods and services tax and cutting income tax. (VOA)