The PM was at his desk at midnight, when a chill wind gusted and a figure materialised on the chair opposite—a man in dhoti and angavastram, tanpura in hand. It was Naradmuni.
“Prabhu!” The PM saluted reverentially.
“Who designs these things?” The sage shifted crossly. “If you can’t get even your chairs right, how will you ever ‘Make in India’?”
“Holy one, please guide me,” said Modi humbly. “I feel my path is blocked by enemies whichever way I turn.”
Narada’s gaze became spiercing. “What is this path?”
“My path for the country."
“Hmm... And where does it lead?”
“Sab ka saath, sab ka vikas,” Modi said without any hesitation at all.
“Shabash!” The sage clapped his hands. “Call it SKSSKV. How much time do you need to achieve it?”
Modi paused. His brain was swamped—the farm crisis, jobs, industrial recession.... “Ten-fifteen years,” he said hesitantly.
“That’s two elections,” Narada laughed. “How many voted for you two years ago?”
“Prabhu, 31 per cent,” the PM conceded reluctantly.
Another moment of truth. Support was dropping. Some opinion polls were even showing a small surge for the Congress. Narada had read his thoughts. “What of your Congress-mukt Bharat?” he asked sarcastically.
“It’s not fair,” Modi said bitterly. “My enemies....”
“But I’m not one of them, Narendra,” Narada said. “When you took your oath on the Gita, no one was more hopeful than me. But your party seems to be your worst enemy. At this midnight hour, it is still possible for you to awaken, to deliver SKSSKV. But only if you understand the Four Principles.”
“The Four Principles?”
“The first is the Arjuna Principle. When aiming his arrow, Arjuna saw nothing but the bird. So must you hold SKSSKV in your sight, animating your every waking moment, your every action.”
“But that’s what I have been trying, prabhu!”
“And how?” asked Narada. “By banning beef and hurting the poorest? By allowing your lieutenants to sow discord and fear among our Muslim brethren? Sab means all, Narendra. Have you observed that those who speak the loudest do the least? But they drown out whatever good you achieve.”
Before he could reply, Narada said, “Now, the Second Principle. Have you read Sun-Tzu’s The Art of War? He’d said, in your kind of one-liner: ‘The less you fight, the more you win. Pick your battles, Narendra. Bharat is full of problems. Why pick on Kanhaiya? Unbelievable!”
“But onward to the Third Principle. When Alexander the Great entered Gordium in 333 BC, he saw an ox-cart tied to a post by a knot so complex no one could untie it. Do you know what he did? He took up his sword and cut it. Now, what is your Gordian Knot?”
Modi realised this was no ordinary conversation but a deep Upanishad. He stilled his mind and the answer formed itself.
“The Indian bureaucracy, O sage.”
Narada nodded. “Exactly. I’ve wandered the three worlds, Narendra. Nowhere have I seen a creature like it. If you do not cut through it, forget 15 years, you will not achieve MGMG even in one yuga.”
“MGMG? What’s that?”
“Minimum government, maximum governance.”
“But how?” Modi burst out. “I work them day and night....”
“Narendra, free your mind. Could Alexander have succeeded with a cricket bat? A bat can never be a blade, even if it is Tendulkar’s.”
“You follow cricket, holy one?” But the PM saw the sage frown, and added hastily, “But what’s my sword?”
But Narada had risen to his feet. “And now the Fourth Principle, the one above all.” He plucked at a string of the tanpura. A note of inexpressible power filled the room. “And that is love. Love of this land, its people. In that alone is your redemption.”
Modi sat transfixed. “But Lord, you leave me with so many questions.”
“Yes,” said Narada. “Rahul said the same thing.”
The PM leapt to his feet. “Rahul? Rahul Gandhi? But, holy one....”
The sage held up the tanpura. “A strong enemy is your best ally. Sun Tzu again.”
And with that he was gone.
(Aroon Raman is an entrepreneur and the author of The Shadow Throne and The Treasure of Kafur.)