Lessons from Raj Dharma
Lord Rama during his discourse to younger brother Bharata touched upon various aspects of Raj Dharma which still hold relevance to those who hold the responsibility of governance today
We are the same people who pray to the flute-playing Lord Krishna but we are also the same people who idolise and follow the same Lord Krishna who carries the Sudarshan Chakra," said Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing frontline soldiers during his recent visit to Leh. Critical of PM Modi's handling the Chinese advancement on the Ladakh front, Congress leaders like Kapil Sibal advised Modi to follow his Raj Dharma and reveal facts about the reality of Chinese incursions.
The party expressed serious doubts about Modi's statements regarding China's role at the front and whether it encroached upon Indian territory. This kicked off a debate on the Raj Dharma. In this context, it may perhaps sound appropriate to know what Raj Dharma meant to Lord Sri Rama? Incidentally, PM Narendra Modi is an ardent devote and admirer of Lord Sri Rama.
When Lord Rama was in Chitrakoota hermitage in the initial period of his exile his brother Bharata, who was supposed to be the king-designate of Ayodhya, came to him to plead Rama to return from forests abandoning the exile and take over the reins of the empire.
During the conversation that took place between the brothers, Sri Rama touched upon various aspects of Raj Dharma which holds good even till this day, especially in the context of Congress leader Kapil Sibal demanding Modi to follow Raj Dharma. The appraisal of Bharata by Rama, whether as a king he was discharging his duties in accordance with principles of Raj Dharma goes like this:
"Are you keeping the people happy by listening to what they want you to do? Are you offering your salutations to the elders who are equal to your father and are elders to you? Are you serving your teachers? Hope your ministers are all knowledgeable. Have they studied the moral science? Are they equal to you in your IQ? Do they have control over their organs? Are they capable to assess a person by merely seeing his face? Are the ministers well versed in Shastras? Are they transparent when needed?
"Do you discuss secrets with others or with only one individual? If you share a secret with one person, he will tell it to another person who is in agreement with him. If you share it with 10 people one of them may tell it to somebody else. If they are of different opinions they may land in a quarrel. Whatever may be your thoughts, don't express them before they take the shape of action. Don't delay the work to such an extent that it spoils the work itself. The thoughts that your minister and you discuss should not be leaked to others. It is better to have one intelligent and efficient person with you than 1,000 fools?
"Hope you have appointed as ministers such persons who have genuine love towards you, those who practice truth in their talk, mind and actions, people who have clear and pure mind and those who can do superior tasks with superior quality. I hope you don't have in your team people who preach evil, who always complain about others, those who practice no dharma, those who have no fear of the King, and those who are greedy about money. Hope your Chief of Army has all the virtues. Does he have the required valour? Does he have the required guts? Are all the important leaders in your army individuals with strength, vigour and valour? Hope they have enough experience and are experts in the wars.
"As far as other Kings are concerned, did you appoint 18 Tirthas? The 18 Tirthas are, Ministers, Private Secretary, Prince, Commander-in-Chief, GateKeeper, Palace Controller, Superintendent of Jails, Revenue Collector, Judge, and Accountant General. Munsiff and Magistrate.
"Are you offering food grains to those who are tilling the lands, and those shepherds grazing the cattle? People are dependent on their daily essential commodities on these sections of people. Hope you are taking care of the people in trade and business. Are you helping the farmers, shepherds, trade and businessmen as they need the King's support? A King, according to the Shastras. should protect people from all the communities, are you doing that duty? Hope you are treating women with dignity? Hope you are not letting the secrets in their presence even when you are alone. They cannot keep a secret at a secret, as they are vulnerable.
"Are you present every day in the morning in the meeting for the people to have a glimpse of you? If you abstain yourself from the daily meetings, people may think that you are down with some ailment. If you are irregular in your daily meetings, even your servants will not take you seriously. But this does not mean you should not see them. Enquire about their wellbeing once in a while. Hope you kept an adequate supply of food grains, arms ammunition safe in the godowns and forts. Hope you are protecting the army personnel and the specialised groups.
"Hope your Kingdom's income is more than the expenditure. Hope you are not doing charity to those undeserving. Ensure that if there is a fight between a rich person and a poor person, your ministers with selfish interests should not support the rich. Don't become stingy while doing charity. Do you know it is a greater sin to punish the innocent than letting a criminal off the hook?
"Hope you are governing in accordance with the Dharma. It is mental delinquency to utter lies, getting unnecessarily angry on those who have not deserved it and in an unsuitable moment. There are 14 flaws that a King should not have. They include, not meeting the scholars even when they come to meet the king, becoming a slave to the mortal desires, thinking and taking decisions alone on several matters pertaining to the administration, waging war against several enemy countries at the same time, not executing the jobs already decided, having consultations with the undeserving, sharing every thought with the public, negligence in the auspicious ceremonies, etc.
"The work that is being done should be discussed with not less than three or more than four persons. Have individual meetings with them and then call for a group meeting. You separate well from evil from their opinions. If there is a difference of opinion, go with the majority. Whatever may others say, you should think all by yourself about the options and make a wise decision."
Sri Rama in his concluding remarks told Bharata that he should never, even at the time of losing his life, deviate from the path of Dharma and Raj Dharma.
The writer is the Chief Public Relations Officer to the Chief Minister of Telangana. Views expressed are personal