Krushna and Karna



One of the most enigmatic episodes of the Mahabharata is Krushna’s conversation with Karna after the failed peace process.  Most people see conversation as yet another failure of that trip.  But in-fact, it was a master stroke of diplomacy on Krushna’s behalf. 


According to ancient Hindu scriptures, there are four main ways to achieve your goal. 
1) Sama – reasoning, negotiation, coming to an understanding
2) Dama – inducement, wealth, positive incentive,
3) Danda – threat, fear, punishment, negative incentive
4) Bheda – use "confidential" information, exploit emotions, create division amongst your enemy

You can't jump from 1 to 4 or vice-versa – it doesn't make for good politics. 

Krushna’s peace proposal went through the four stages before choosing to use Karna as an ace up his sleeve.

1) Sama - Krushna tried to negotiate peace with the Kauravas.
2) Dama – Financial incentives or inducements were not possible as the Kauravas had appropriated Pandavas immense wealth.
3) Danda – Showing the Vishwaroop in the Kuru court was a clear way to threaten them with dire consequences if they did not follow his advise. 

4) Bheda – When previous three methods had failed to yield results, Krushna chose to damage Kaurav unity by revealing secret of Karna's parentage to Karna himself.

Straight after the failed peace proposal was rejected by the Kurus – elders as well as Kauravas, Krushna asked Karna to come with him for a ride on his chariot.  In fact, Krushna invited Karna to his chariot twice – once after the peace conference and once just before the war when Karna refused to fight on the same side as Bhishma.  He did this publicly for two reasons - 

1) to say - look Duryodhan, I am friends with your bosom buddy. I command respect and friendship of even your most trusted people.  This would have caused pained Duryodhan.  It would have made him loose his focus on war strategy as he tried to figure out what Krushna and Karna were talking about.  No matter what Karna said, Duryodhan would not have believed him.

2) By doing this publically, Krushna was saying - I am acting openly and honestly.  There are no hidden agendas in my friendship with Karna

Knowing Karna, Krushna was 100% sure he would not defect to Pandava side no matter what was offered to him – kingdom, Draupadi or glorious linage.  No warrior would.  BUT, by telling Karna that Pandava were his blood brothers, Krushna managed to take the sting out of Karna's hate for Pandavas.  If you know someone is your blood relative, you are bound to go a little soft on them.  You will forgive them things you would never forgive a stranger.  Even if this revelation bought a slight change in Karna's attitude, it could help Pandavas win the battle.  If Karna's hand could be stayed - even once - against any of the Pandavas, Krushna was willing to reveal the most terrible of family secrets. 

Offering kingdom, Drupadi etc was just a way to egg him on, knowing full well, he would not take the bait.  BUT, once the barb was in place, it would gnaw at Karna's heart as "if only" question. 
If only he had been acknowledged earlier. 
If only he was raised as a prince. 
If only he had the powerful family allies in his life.
If only..... 

These questions would weaken his resolve to kill the Pandavas. 

Having laid the fuse, Krushna went to Kunti and asked her to light it.  He asked her to go and confirm his revelations to Karna in person.  That did the trick.  Karna promised to spare four Pandavas. 
Krushna had won a key concession. 
In the war, Pandavas faced mortal danger from only three people - viz Bhishma, Drona and Karna.
Of these, Bhishma and Drona had said they will annihilate the entire Pandava army, but out of love, they will never kill the Pandavas themselves.

Karnaa had boasted several times that he will kill them all and win the kingdom for Duryodhan.  By extracting Karna's promise that he will spare the lives of four Pandavas, Krushna had won 4/5 th of the concession.  By guiding Arjun's chariot, he made sure that the only chance of having the Pandavas killed was also nullified.  While Krushna was there, nothing could happen to Arjun.  So by winning the lives of four Pandavas, and protecting the 5th with his own life, Krushna made sure Pandavas would not be killed in the battle.

When war was inevitable, being an expert politician, Krushna traded in every ounce of advantage.  A skilled politician turns even a disadvantage into an advantage - and Karna's secret was one such delicate piece of info.  Had it been revealed to the wrong person(s), it could have been misused to washed out any advantage Pandavas had.  But by using it wisely, Krushna delivered a killer blow to Duryodhan's side without Duryodhan ever realizing it. 

Krushna had to sacrifice secrets to save lives and for that he had to risk causing acute embarrassment for his beloved aunt.  But given the choice between life or embarrassment, Krushna chose life, and succeeded !



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