Modi and Trump: Agents of Change
Why there is so much interest in comparing Narendra Modi with Donald Trump? Even Andrew Whitehead, former chief editor of current news in BBC and honorary professor, Nottingham, Queen Mary, University of London, studied the two. Other political analysts in the US too have written detailed commentaries on how the two “newcomers” to national politics wrest power from the well-entrenched power elites.
They are indeed unique phenomenon in their respective countries, one the most powerful and the other the largest democracy in the world. Both had to fight the seniors in their own parties, apart from the Left and pseudo-liberals controlled media, and the dynastic opponents, the Nehru-Gandhi scion in India and the Clinton menage in America. And once in power both have shown their determination to set their own agenda and unmindful of the cliques and networks of powerful lobbyists and power-brokers—that India include media persons as well—have taken bold measures to achieve their objectives.
Modi gambled and announced demonetisation, Trump irked the Muslim world by banning people from entering the US from seven Muslim states, which meant 21 crore people. Naturally, they have aroused curiosity.
Tough Trump in combat with US Media
“Keep your mouth shut,’ the news media was tersely told by Stephen K. Bannon, a top adviser of Donald Trump. He elaborated, ‘The media here (in the US) is the opposition. They don’t understand the country. They still do not understand why Trump is the President of US”.
Such abrasive statement conveying to the US media, which is much more resourceful and free than the Press in any other country, that it does not understand politics nor the people who voted to make Trump, the US President, needed courage and readiness to take them on, come what may. It also signals that Trump and his team will not succumb to the hostile jurnos. India will be watching with interest the outcome of the Trump’s no-holds-barred feud with CNN and other mainstream media as it will have an impact on the jurnos hostile to Narendra Modi here.
Since 2014, when he, a chaiwala, and without the academic background of Oxford, Cambridge and not even St. Stephen, became India’s Prime Minister, the Leftists and Liberals, monopolising the media, have shown their dislike for Modi, through stinging commentaries and censoring reports favouring Narendra Modi and highlighting adverse reports. But this hostility of the media is now an old story.
The latest combat is in the US. The US media, much stronger and resourceful than in India, is so incensed at failing to get their favourite Hillary Clinton elected and worse failing to trip their ‘aversion’, who trod over them to become the 45th US President, is that if they could they would have Trump impeached.
The White House has not cowered—it is not in Trump’s nature—instead vowed to fight the news media over what it sees as unfair attacks. Earlier a joint statement of the mainstream channels and publications unequivocally told Trump that they will set the terms and agenda of their engagement with his administration. But they will, it seems take some time, before realising that Trump is not the run of the mill politicians. He epitomises change, and will not be bound by past rules, he could be the proverbial bull in the media’s China shop.
The pseudo-intellectuals have not accepted that times have changed, it’s the era of the Rights. Sudip Kar Purkayastha raised the issue “Is media demanding a veto power In A Democratic Polity? And he himself answered. There is a trend of rightist political parties gaining ground in France, Germany and Scandinavian countries. These ought to be warning signals to both the mainstream media and the pseudo-liberals.”
By going too far they may witness total forfeiture of their own credibility and end up fostering dictatorial tendencies in the elected governments they are opposing!
In India, we have seen a similar feud since the Left and pseudo-liberals’-controlled media failed to stop Modi becoming prime minister. They went after him and tried to discredit him by making up patently false charges, that he put police to spy on a young woman he was allegedly interested. Then prominence was given to the allegation by Rahul Gandhi, that he allegedly got Rs 40 crore from Sahara and Rs12 crore from Birlas.
But Modi or his PMO, unlike Trump and his team, ignored even libellous false charges and chose not to engage in any wordy duel. And that won the battle for Modi. While the detractors in the media got busy trying to damage him in every possible way, Modi went ahead implementing his schemes. The result is that after almost 30 months of digging grave for Modi, the so-called liberals have largely lost their credibility, the very reason for their existence.
The US media, blind with rage at the ‘audacity’ of Trump and his team to fight and not surrender to them, could cross all limits and incense the people who chose him, thus lose the power and influence they wield presently.
CNN for instance is continuing its relentless tirade against the new President, while, Trump is determined to “fix” the ‘fibbing’ press. And odds favour him says a commentator: ‘Fostered groups of pseudo-liberals who sought to suppress the values cherished by majority of Americans, facilitated the emergence of Islamic State, bled Syria, forfeited job opportunities, robbed common men of their affluence.
This is exactly what Trump said in his Inaugural address, and this understanding of what ails most Americans, is the basic reason for his success Bannon was right when he said the jurnos did not understand why Trump is the President. And Hillary is not. ‘Trump’s electoral victory reflects the deep dissatisfaction of majority of Americans on these scores.’
Based on his election campaign and post-oath taking speech, Trump ‘emerges as an ardent nationalist, who, his critics warned, would practise protectionism in trade and isolate America. But this fear seems to be exaggerated. There is no reason to imagine that a nationalist country would not engage in trade. Nationalism and international trade can very well co-exist.’’
The travails of Trump with the pseudo- intellectuals is what we can see Modi has encountered in India. The Left intellectuals were the most pampered and privileged in the regimes of Left to the Centre. They moulded policies and decisions.
But Modi put them in their place by just ignoring them. Gandhi’s non-ahimsa has made them almost irrelevant. Some have gracefully retired while some are hibernating waiting to spring back if Modi weakens and the likes of their pet, Pappu, develops some muscle.
In the US, however, if Trump succeeds to deliver what all he has promised, god save his detractors in the media. In either country the pseudo liberals refuse to accept that the winds of change have given rise to the Right.
The Leftists have has a long innings. If they clash with the likes of Modi and Trump, symptomatic of the changed times, they will be committing hara-kiri.
Modi is more than half into his tenure and prime minister of a developing country, Trump has just become President of the US, the most powerful country. What are, if any, similarities between them that propelled the two to the top? Does their emergence has any political manifestation affecting geo-politics in the region or on the US-Indo ties?
It does, Pakistan will, after Trump, banned citizens from seven Muslim countries albeit for a limited trial period has to be extremely careful, most terrorists so far have been from there or have had their training there. And if Trump and Putin get closer and Russia’s dependence on China decrease, Beijing will be a bit circumspect in pinpricking India. The comparison of the two is thus relevant.
Whitehead believes there are eight things common between Narendra Modi and Donald Trump. But most think that there is hardly any similarity between the two.
Whitehead wrote, “Narendra Modi is not India’s Donald Trump. Nor is Trump the American version of Modi. As their personalities go, both are the polar opposite of each other. While Modi whispers, Trump bugles across oceans. And unlike Modi who packs in subtle metaphors to make a point, Trump has no qualms about mouthing vulgar words (f**k and p***y).
“While Trump was an electoral greenhorn and a businessman, Modi had seen and won elections before and had been an ideologue, even though his ideology raises the hackles of many. ‘But there were many commonalities — I see at least eight — during the run-up to their respective campaigns for the office of the prime minister of India and the White House.”
Both had a message
Unlike their rivals, both Narendra Modi in 2014 and Donald Trump in 2016 had a message to deliver and an agenda to unravel to the voters. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was so busy rebutting Trump that she forgot to offer a meaningful to-do list of her own for the Americans.
Likewise, the leaders of the Congress and Modi’s other rivals spent most of their time painting him as a communalist who could only divide the nation. But undaunted, both Modi and Trump dished out what mattered to the voters: jobs for instance. They persuaded voters to give them a chance.
Both hated status quo
That’s what the voters adored about them. The Indian voters had no doubt that the Congress, if elected again, would offer them nothing more than the status quo as prevailed during UPA-1 and UPA-2 which, to them, largely meant scams.
And Hillary looked to be no more than the continuation of the Barack Obama legacy which left large sections craving for more. Trump and Modi vowed to shake up the status quo, promising a change and a better tomorrow, which was what voters in both countries wanted.
Even their victory tweets stuck to this theme of change:
India has won!
भारत की विजय । अच्छे दिन आने वाले है ।
-Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) May 16, 2014
Such a beautiful and important evening! The forgotten man and woman will never be forgotten again. We will all come together as never before
-Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 9, 2016
They spoke against corruption
During the 2014 poll campaign, one of Narendra Modi’s main chants was corruption, which he described as a termite that was eating into vital of the Indian system. He said the BJP “is for a mission and the Congress is for a commission”.
By repatriating black money stashed abroad, by simplifying tax regime and by expanding e-governance, Modi promised to reduce corruption. This seemed to make sense to many voters. Now they know they weren’t wrong.
As for Trump, he thundered at a rally: “Real change also means draining the swamp of corruption in Washington… If we want to make America great again, we must clean up this corruption.”
For the blue-collar white workers who think of the Washington-driven system as an epitome of corruption and wheeling-dealing, Trump seemed to be the man with a large broom to tidy up things.
Both are considered “outsiders”
A billionaire property tycoon who had never held an office, Trump is deemed to be an “outsider” to the system. So was Dwight Eisenhower who became the President in 1953. Washington Post writer EJ Dionne Jr said: “…Insiderism is unpopular this year. But, because of who Trump really is, his phoney outsider-ism is a far bigger threat to our country.”
Considering that Trump’s own financial reputation was not lily-white, many wonder whether he really is an “outsider” to the corruption that oils the American political machine. But the voters — at least half of them –thought he was. Better still for Trump, they thought he was an “anti-establishment rebel”.
Modi too is an outsider, at least to Lutyen’s Delhi. In an interview to Network18 Group Editor Rahul Joshi on 2 September, Modi said: “In Delhi’s power corridors, there’s an active group of people, which is dedicated to only a few. It could be because of their own reasons or personal gains…”
Dividers and disrupters
Modi was accused of having an agenda against minorities which his rivals said would divide India horribly. All that Modi spoke up against was the appeasement of minorities which, of course, was interpreted by rivals as the rattling of the communal sabre.
On the other hand, Trump openly spoke not only against Muslims but also included in his sweep of razor-sharp comments the immigrants, the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgander (LGBT) community and even women in a way that stunned the US and the world. Trump also promised to be a disrupter when he raved against trade and other agreements starting with NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement). Whatever the reason why each was called a disrupter and a divider, both Modi and Trump picked up votes.
Media abhors both
The media didn’t get along with both Trump and Modi in their respective countries. Forget the “liberals” who populate the American media, the press there has a lot against Trump: Xenophobia, misogyny, groping, cuss words, tax evasion, financial wrongdoing in his real-estate business.
But the Indian media hadn’t proven any allegations against Modi, at least as yet. If Modi got away with the Indian media, it’s also partly because the hostility is more or less confined to some English newspapers and channels. And Trump got away with a bad press because voters apparently didn’t care much for it.
Branding of voters
All those who voted for Modi were branded as communal. Similarly, all those who plumped for Trump are being called racist. The American liberals, be they in media or politics, are making the mistake of not investigating the real reasons why Trump got votes.
In the case of Modi, India’s liberals never asked themselves why so many people voted for a man whom they had portrayed as the personification of evil.
The ticking of doomsday clock
Trump-baiters were quick to announce after his election that the doomsday clock was ticking, as did the anti-Modi lobbies. Well, Modi is halfway into his term, and India is still in one piece. Though the man himself maintains a sphinx-like silence, the Hindu voice, both of the sane and insane kinds, is louder now, but India is not doing badly. He has just scrapped Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.
As for Trump, wait and watch
Apparently, Whitehead has researched very well. And he has logically proved his points, painting Trump as an American version of Modi. But there are also striking differences between them. A few instances:
While one of the USPs of Donald Drump in the US presidential campaign has been his open hatred for Muslims and the larger plan to remove Islam from America, Modi built his electoral agenda on the lines of ‘Sabka Sath, Sabka Vikas’ (Equal development for all).
While Trump inherited billions of dollars from his father, Narendra Modi sold tea on Railway platforms in Gujarat along with his father to make a living.
Narendra Modi lives the life of a recluse. He left his wife in his teenage years to seek Nirvana and attain his inner calling towards service to the nation. He has no children. Unlike Trump who has married thrice and has five children.
Trump has enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, Modi has lived on idli and dosa and khichdi.
In summing up one can say that India will change — it already has begun to — nor the US will ever be what it has been so far once Trump gets going.
Both owe their rise to winds of change, and they encashed on the dissatisfaction and deprivation of the core voter bases who were willing to try the ones who promised change.
Hillary in the US and the Congress in India paid for misinterpreting the basics of democracy. It is rule by majority. When you take the majority for granted, by not addressing their concerns, then its bound to blow up on the face.
Both Modi and Trump exposed the hypocrisy of the establishment and convinced people that they will bring about a change in their lives for the better. This is why it is Modi era in India and Trump’s in the US.
by Vijay dutt