There is no 'Chanakya' today like the real Chanakya

Kautilya was a philosopher, teacher, economist and jurist. He would never have employed such underhand tactics as the present rulers are doing, and if he had, he would never have failed

There is no 'Chanakya' today like the real Chanakya

Sujata Anandan

By now Chanakya must surely be turning over in his grave – or at the least his ashes might be fluttering in agony wherever they are blowing in the wind.

Chanakya was a philosopher, teacher, economist and jurist and his treatise of statecraft is known as the Arthashastra, Artha being economics, and not something like rajshastra or dhoortashastra which is all what those in this regime who evoke his name are capable of – sly politics. None of them has the depth of a philosopher or a teacher, they are not just rulers, needing to bend the judiciary to their will by fear or favour and not one of them knows even the tiniest bit about economics having tanked the nation’s economy to an all-time low -- which not even the worst finance minister in this country (in view of Arun Jaitley and Nirmala Sitharaman, naming anyone else seems such a travesty) could achieve.

So what I had believed all these years was that at least they were good at rajniti, or rajshastra, if you will. They were at least winning elections, by massive majorities in some places even if many people believed those victory margins were entirely due to manipulation of electronic voting machines.

But now I am hugely disappointed that all that this regime is capable of is dhoortashastra (underhand politics), for while I believed they did make a concerted effort to win the West Bengal elections, by hook or by crook, it has me quite taken aback that not even the application of underhand tactics like spying surreptitiously on the opposition leaders and their political advisors could swing them that state. So what Chanakya, who Chanakya and where is Chanakya, really?

There is no 'Chanakya' today like the real Chanakya

Chanakya would never have employed such underhand tactics and if he had, he would not have failed.

Now look at what is happening in two border states in north-east India. I reported extensively out of the region during the insurgency years and I never heard of anything like the police of one state shooting down the police of another and an FIR being lodged against any chief minister anywhere in India for creating distrust between people and inviting violence.

Even when there was a lot of violence on the borders of Maharashtra and Karnataka over the Belgaum imbroglio, I recall heavily armed police of both states behind their riot gear on the state borders but not a single shot was fired.

Sometimes both state governments belonged to the same party, at others different political parties ruled one or the other state but there were no FIRs against any chief minister nor did one accuse the other of sowing discord or creating unrest.

So I am utterly stunned that a government that swears by Chanakyaniti is unable to not just resolve this dispute but also seems to be in a position of secondary importance to two chief ministers of their own party who seem not to heed the exhortations of the most powerful Home Minister of all times and continue to squabble with each other.

So where is Chanakya who knew the importance of conquering the borders of the kingdom before proceeding to the heart of the empire? Attempting to capture the centre first had led to the defeat of Chanakya's king but now, despite that lesson in history, this regime has left our borders unguarded and vulnerable to the capture of our territory by the Chinese, focussing instead on changing three chief ministers in a year in a secured state, capturing two others from the rival party and then virtually giving away one state (Karnataka) to a chief minister who knows less about winning elections than his predecessor.

Chanakya would never have permitted anyone he could not completely trust or control to gain the upper hand in the kingdom. Those coming to the BJP today from other political parties do not believe in its ideology and are there essentially for personal gratification-- something that Chanakya abhorred. So how does anything this regime has done in Karnataka or Madhya Pradesh – governments with the support of self-serving Congressmen -- make them like Chanakya?

Ours today is the weakest, most ineffective and incompetent of regimes of all times, beating even Mohammad bin Tughlaq and Mohammad Shah Rangeela in terms of eccentricity, corruption, debauchery, turpitude and general incompetence. For all the problems that Mrs Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv faced in the north-east, they never let the situation get out of hand like this regime. And they had no powerful home ministers to tom-tom their successes about town.

Mrs Gandhi was her own Chanakya and Rajiv's Chanakyas were his trusted bureaucrats rather than any politicians who formulated accords in both Punjab and the north-east that brought lasting peace to the regions. Indeed, that is what Chanakya was at the end of the day, wasn't he – a royal advisor, the role that bureaucrats should be playing quietly behind the scenes in the modern idiom of a liberal democracy.

So we should stop equating the current regime with the qualities of Chanakya for I know a modern-day likeness of the diplomat and politician that Chanakya was who has ever been better at the game and started the downfall of this regime – Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar. He has successfully stalled the attempts by all the modern Chanakyas to displace the Maharashtra government, feigning friendships with those who are obvious threats to the state and keeping them close and confused. Now that I consider true Chanakyaniti, far beyond anything the central regime may understand or comprehend.

But if you ask him, he will deny he is or was ever a Chanakya because he has had so many failures on his stated journey to the ultimate goal of his life that it is an insult to Chanakya to think the writer of the Arthashastra would not have achieved his targets.

In any case, a Chanakya plays a significant role behind the scenes, not on the throne and makes himself indispensable to the ruler. Those infused with the qualities of Chanakya today are not content to be the powers behind the throne, they believe they are the throne, or at least capable of gaining the throne themselves. Therefore, they are no Chanakyas and that is why they are spectacular failures, every which way, in the modern world today.

(Views are personal)

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