Tacitus and Chanakya

Chanakya was one of the most quoted Indian thinkers of ancient India by Indian politicians in parliament and outside. But very lately perhaps Chanakya started appearing a little too much Indian, and may be some crancky ones might be thinking to color him saffron or Manubadi one day. Perhaps Chanakya was too much a known name to parliamentarians. As usual, they wanted to switch over some to all from Western history to impress the peers. And they did in last session of parliament. He was Tacitus.

“Interestingly, both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the leader of opposition, Arun Jaitley chose to spar in the Rajya Sabha recently with quotes from ancient Roman Senator and historian Publius Cornelius Tacitus. Most of their listeners had little or no idea who they were quoting from. Tacitus who? Some of the more curious MPs turned to the Internet and did a quick Google search to know about the man who probably figured in the Indian Parliament for the first time.”

“Interestingly, it was Google that provided both the PM and Jaitley with necessary ammunition. Their research teams simply punched “Tacitus quotes” into their computer and came up with a list of his famous lines, most of which are as relevant today as they were 1900 years ago when he penned his histories of the Roman Empire. Jaitley was the first to fire. Wrapping up a scathing attack on the Manmohan Singh government during the debate on the motion of thanks on the President’s address, Jaitley said, “A non-performing and a corrupt government can inflict huge damage to a country. This is best expressed in the words of Tacitus, an ancient Roman Senator who said: ‘They have plundered the world, stripping naked the land in their hunger… They ravage, they slaughter, they seize by false pretences and all of this they hail as the construction of an empire. And when in their wake nothing remains but a desert, they call that peace. ‘”

The PM has now a good team from media to help him. His media managers immediately switch on the computer. After a quick Google search, they came up with a stunning riposte to be used by their boss in reply. And Manmohan Singh hit back at Jaitley. “Since he is so obviously fond of Tacitus, I hope he will not mind if I quote some Tacitus back at him. Tacitus also said, and I quote: ‘when men are full of envy, they disparage everything, whether it be good or bad.’

Jaitley was taken aback by the quick-witted counter, enough to Google Tacitus quotes again. As reported, he’s found a response which he is saving to use on a rainy day: “To show resentment at a reproach is to acknowledge that one may have deserved it.” Clearly, there is an armory of Tacitus quotes to suit every occasion. Long Live Google!

I wish my readers may suggest some more names from ancient history to the parliamentarians to quote and to impress their peers and people. Are not politicians switching over to ‘foren’ for ideas? The country men wish them to be with Indians.

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