Chanakya’s Arthshashtra &Manmohan Singh Economist

Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s former media adviser Mr. Sanjaya Baru has provided free content and great business opportunity to the TV channels by publishing his book titled The Accidental Prime Minister: The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh at this juncture when the Congress is desperately trying to retain its numbers in the ongoing general election. There are vociferous apologists shouting at the author, questioning almost every bit of information contained in the book, alleging a Mr. Narendra Modi confidant behind it, the timing of the publication and release of the book when the election is in progress and not being qualified to comment on subjects like military affairs. There are others so livid that they want Manmohan and Sonia Gandhi to clarify the issues like the two centres of power or PMO files being approved by Ms Sonia Gandhi . The slanging matches go on in TV studios under the encouraging anchoring of the TRP hungry channels. Meanwhile both Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi keep silent. Sanjaya Baru is joined by the former coal secretary Mr. P.C . Parakh on April 14, 2014 by launching his book “Crusader or Conspirator? Coalgate and other Truths”. This book confirms the image of Manmohan Singh as an ineffective prime minister. It goes into details of allocation of the valuable energy resources like coal in an arbitrary manner. The coal scam (also called Coalgate) was exposed by the Comptroller & Auditor General of India, who had estimated the loss to the exchequer to the extent of Rs. 186000 crore. Parakh calls it conservative, meaning it is much more than that. The scam is under investigation by the CBI under the supervision of the Supreme Court of India. The government was so frightened by the investigation that it tried to tamper the investigation report and the Law Minister tried to settle it in order to protect Manmohan Singh and prominent Congress brass. The SC frowned at it and the Law Minister was made to resign. Now the CBI is making discreet efforts to block further investigation by making the then coal secretary PC Parakh as one of the accused to silence him. Parakh has returned the fire by spilling all the beans in his book. It paints a pathetic picture of Dr. Manmohan Singh as a non-functioning prime minister, whose writ did not run even in the council of ministers. What more does the media want? Debates, panel discussions, expert views, analyses, cartoons, articles have covered almost every aspect of governance, Manmohan government ,corruption, congress ,democracy, economy and expectations from the new government.

Many a time it looks very comical to watch the apologists and the critics of Manmohan Singh. It might surprise everyone that Manmohan Singh has not deployed any warriors to defend him. He is neutral, stoic and silent as ever! Some Congressmen have compared him with his predecessor, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. They have recently found in Atal Bihari Vajpayee a ruler guided by “rajdharma” (righteous ruler). Suddenly they find him weaker than Manmohan Singh, acknowledging that the latter is weak but comparatively less weak than his predecessor. His critics make similar mistakes by calling him weak imagining as if any other Congressman could have had the guts to stand up to Sonia Gandhi or the Congress Party. The Congress Party is not known to be kind to independent minded leaders. There is more comedy in this situation because everybody seems to be making the same mistake: the one underestimating him and the other overestimating. If anything, he has shown traits of an astute politician who stood to gain the maximum by skilled manipulation of the time, political network and smoothie personality. He achieved without much labour what others have tried and failed, and still more have been working for several months. In a democracy it is not easy to become a municipal councilor easily but Manmohan Singh became Prime Minister and also managed to remain on the throne for a second term. It could not have happened if he were a weak politician or incompetent individual. He is smarter than all his party men and political opponents. He has proved to be a Kautilya (another name of the legendary political theorist Chanakya).

Chanakya , the author of the classic called the Arthashashtra, was a revered political economist and statesman. His doctrine was meant to establish a system of government which served the people according to the established principles of law. He wanted to build a strong and prosperous nation. His treatise, the Arthashashtra, is a valuable source of knowledge for political-economist ruler. Many of the principles are practical tips for defending the nation and the ruler against external aggressors or internal insurgents. They might be found wanting on moral grounds but under the circumstances when it was written that was a necessity. In essence these principles advocate cleverness (kutilata, from which is derived the name Kautilya). A ruler and his ministers have to be clever enough not to reveal their mind to anybody who is not supposed to read their mind. Rulership demands application of mind at individual level and sealing of the lips. A ruler can’t make public his thoughts, plans, programmes, preparations or other moves. A ruler has to use corruption as an effective tool to exercise control over his advisers and lure his enemies to walk the trap easily. Kautilya has been criticized , like the Italian Machiavelli, by some people for these practical solutions to state affairs. Indian politicians are fully devoted disciples of both Kautilya and Machiavelli. Rather they have improved upon both of them. They number in thousands. A few thousand reside within a radius of 5 kilometers of the Parliament of India. They make no bones about having the first right to the office of the prime minister. Sonia Gandhi wanted to be the Prime Minister but could not make it. Rahul wants it though he is hesitant to make his ambition known unless his mother Sonia Gandhi puts him on the chair. Dozens of Congress and non-Congress politicians have been playing Chanakya (Kautilya) without success. They have been untiringly making efforts for not only their own installation but removal of others from the chair. Would they have allowed Manmohan Singh such a smooth run? Manmohan Singh could not have survived even for a minute had he not been a superior Chanakya (Kautilya) himself amidst all these Kautilyas. Manmohan Singh is an economist and Chanakya was a political-economist. His Kautiliya Arthashashtra has only enriched the economics of Manmohan Singh. Rest he has picked up from Machiavelli. Manmohan Singh learnt on the job application of the Chanakya-Machiavelli doctrines, from Late P.V.Narasimha Rao, prime minister, who deftly deployed these principles in similar circumstances. The reality is that there was nobody whom the prime minister could trust. He was conscious of the clever movements (kutilayi) of friends and foes in equal measure. His perceived weaknesses may really not be weaknesses. He must be feigning weakness, dumbness, powerlessness, but it was all clever protective gear. He did not want any controversies impinging on his honesty or integrity. He succeeded in achieving that goal.
His critics miss the point that Manmohan Singh has exposed everyone, like Narsimbha Rao. Sonia Gandhi has been accused of providing protection to the corrupt like Sheila Dixit, Kalamadi, Chavan, Robert Vadra (her son in law) and leaders of the alliance partners. Sharad Pawar has been painted as the minister responsible for price rise of all food commodities. DMK Chief M. Karunanidhi has been humbled to the extent of his dear daughter spending several months in jail in a corruption case and his wife summoned by the CBI for investigation. Lalu yadav reduced to a two member party in the Lok Sabha and routed from Bihar. Nitish Kumar made a laughing stock after breaking with the BJP and his aspiration to get the prime minister’s job frustrated with the threat of losing his chief minister’s job like Lalu Yadav. Ram Vilas Paswan cut to size, Mayawati kept under a tight leash, Mulayam Singh Yadav reined in and leftists destroyed for ever for crossing swords with him on the civil nuclear deal and other economic or policy issues. These feathers Dr. Manmohan Singh does not even pin to his pagadi (headgear), but speak for his deft moves. Blood sugar is called the silent killer. Smoothie and suave politicians are no less than that. Which other prime minister had succeeded in achieving so much politically in such a short time and that too silently?

How did he achieve that? By application of the Chanakya-Machiavelli doctrine dexterously. He allowed full freedom to everyone to work to fulfill or violate the oath of office and secrecy. Sonia Gandhi and her coterie wanted cabinet rank , pelf and privileges. He gave them more than that. The NAC (National Advisory Council) took birth to extend legal cover to the extra constitutional authority of Sonia Gandhi. The Ministers wanted full freedom to function as they wished. He never objected to that, which led to resignation of several ministers and jail to some. Sanjaya Baru and P C Parakh have expressed anguish that Manmohan Singh did not assert his authority or compromised the dignity of the PMO. The members of the cabinet should be conscious that the PM is prime among them and not their exact equal. The coalition compulsions led them to believe that they were equal to Manmohan Singh; some even erred to think them superior to him due to the strength of their MPs as was the case with the DMK (Dravid Munnetra Kazgham). The Kautilya in Manmohan Singh fed their arrogance until they had dug their own grave. He had learnt this game from Narasimha Rao, who had learnt it from Late Indira Gandhi, who might have learnt it from Jawahar Lal Nehru. DMK’s A. Raja had been to jail and Dayanidhi Maran might see difficult time after the election process comes to an end. The coal ministers are sure to suffer the consequences of their omissions and commissions once the investigation report gets submitted to the court. Rahul Gandhi will need to wait for long and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, his sister, may have to delay her entry in to active full time politics. On the intelligence and honesty scale, Manmohan Singh has proved that the Nehru dynasty has no match to take his place comfortably. Manmohan Singh created a number of committees where he appointed expert professionals of his choice, who naturally owed allegiance to him than Sonia Gandhi, who controlled the bureaucracy. Several chairman and members were accorded Cabinet rank or minister of state status. For a prime minister, this mechanism left enough scope for substantive work of a valuable nature. It helped him find solutions to problems he chose to handle and get the approval of the party high command whose understanding of such complex subjects was so limited that they felt happy to direct the prime minister to do what he thought fit in the best interests of the government. That is how prices of cooking gas went through the roof and onions sold for more than rupees 100 a kg. Manmohan did whatever he wanted to do but avoided coming in the spotlight by taking credit for himself. He gave all the credit to Sonia Gandhi (knowing well that the masses and the media knew how much she deserved). The government was criticized for the omissions and commissions of the whole cabinet/council of ministers and the party, Manmohan Singh never lost his good night’s sleep for such criticism. It is only the loyalty of bureaucrats, who feel bad about the hurt dignity of their boss that such sentimental books crop up. No bureaucrat, howsoever high he might be, knows full facts of the whole organization like the boss.

Manmohan Singh played his cards very well under the limitations of siege by the Kautilya-Machiavellis of the contemporary Indian politics. It is not public interest which has been served. It is private interest. We must be prepared to face still harder times. The reason is that the contemporary Kautilyas are a far advanced crafty version of the original and they are in power at state level and aspire to capture it at the centre. There can be no dispute about their role of king makers. They have strong support from their caste or community or crime-corruption syndicates. Still some more claim unflinching “loyalty” to the person or family. There is so much competition even among the sycophant class that not everyone succeeds in gaining the trust of the party boss. For them national or public interest always comes next only to the boss. They are immune to criticism. Such persons in authority have the power to make thousands of the most undeserving people VIPs in no time by dispensing favours almost on a daily basis. They abdicate their responsibility, even outsource it. They prefer building personal loyalties at the cost of law & justice. If bureaucrats, journalists, judges or the masses find it corrupt practice, let it be so. Their loyal bands display uncanny zeal defending all their acts of commission and omission. If the blame for all of India’s ills could be laid at some door, it is at the door of the Kautilyas of the democratic socialist secular republic of India. They have earned the reputation of establishing the jungle raj (rule of the jungle), which they have been trying severally and collectively to establish at the centre also. While breaking the states into more than one would be simply re-organisation of states, India as a nation cannot suffer another division. The days of one party rule are over for some years and politics of coalition is a crass reality. Highest standards of public morality alone can guarantee the territorial and sovereign integrity of India. Ignoring the public opinion or trivializing the expose by a Sanjaya Baru or a PC Parakh can never retrieve lost good-will. Nobody can rule long with a reputation for overt or covert corruption. “Paani gaye na ubre, moti manus choon”, wrote the poet long ago ( meaning the value of a pearl, as also that of a man, lies in its moral lustre).

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