Trump is America’s Modi and Modi is India’s Trump
They are pompous, they are presumptuous, they are theatrical and they are narcissistic.
It would be fine if we were talking about a Hollywood or a Bollywood star.
Here we are talking about leaders of two great democracies in the world. One, who is holding the highest office in his country and the other, a hopeful for the most powerful office in the world.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Republican candidate for the US presidency Donald Trump have many, many personality traits in common. Trump and Modi are similar in style, content and in appeal to their respective constituencies.
Trump is America’s Modi and Modi can be described as India’s Trump.
To begin with, the anger of the American voters propelling Trump to the Republican candidacy is similar to the Indian voters’ rage that brought Modi to power. The objective conditions for a vote in favour of Trump in America are also somewhat similar to those that put Modi in power.
The conditions for Modi to win the election were prepared as a result of ten years of the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government under Manmohan Singh which had become hamstrung by corruption cases, economic decline, high inflation and policy paralysis.
Trump’s rise is predicated on similar conditions. During eight years of president Barack Obama, the US suffered the worst recession since the Great Depression, high unemployment and America’s perceived decline as the world’s greatest power and the consequent loss of face.
Modi found a constituency among the aspirational youth, a large disenchanted middle class and voters who thought India had become a weak nation under Manmohan. Trump has found support among the angry white lower and middle class Americans who feel let down by Obama’s weakness on the foreign policy front.
In his quest for power, a smart Modi grabbed the chance to become the prime minister, sidelining the BJP’s patriarch and hopeful LK Advani. As an outsider to the Republican Party, smart and clever Trump is forcing himself on the GOP elites who are just as befuddled by the voters’ response as Trump’s die-hard opponents.
Both Modi and Trump are great showmen, they are flashy and mercurial. They are demagogues par excellence. Through the play of their demagogueries, both Trump and Modi have successfully manipulated crowds and audiences.
During less than two years in office, Modi has displayed his showmanship at home and abroad in storied arenas in Tokyo, New York, London and Sydney.
In New York, the one-time ascetic RSS pracharak made an attempt to impress the Indian diaspora by quoting a line from Star Wars to actor Hugh Jackman “May the force be with you.” His upstart-like behaviour impressed few but Modi couldn’t care less.
Perhaps, British comedian and TV host John Oliver knew better. He wryly commented on his show “Last Week Tonight” that Modi was doing “weird and inexplicable things”. During Modi’s numerous visits abroad, TV viewers have watched him doing weird things. In another display of showmanship, Modi played drum in Tokyo to compete with a professional Japanese drummer.
Trump has always been a showman. He has converted the race to the White House into a show as no other presidential candidate has ever done. Theatrics, melodrama, play-acting are qualities Trump honed on an NBC reality television show running since 2004 aptly called “Apprentice”. The American audience, a large number of whom have become his cheerleaders today, watched Trump’s apprenticeship to the White House race on the reality show.
Trump and Modi are narcissistic to the bone. They are arrogant, boastful and believe they are uniquely gifted to solve all the problems facing their people on their own. They claim to be the know-it-alls.
“I’m so good looking that even the women who criticise me don’t attack my looks. My fingers are long and beautiful as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body,” Trump boasts.
Modi can match Trump’s narcissism. When he wore that Modi monogrammed pinstriped suit at a meeting with Obama, who could have thought the man was once an ascetic RSS pracharak? Modi’s penchant for taking selfies loudly speaks of his self-love.
Besides their shared showmanship and narcissism, Modi and Trump’s more troubling similarities are their love for unabashed hyper-nationalism and their hatred for minorities. Modi threatened to deport Bangladeshi immigrants in a speech in Kolkata and once said that only Bangladeshi Hindu immigrants were welcome in the country.
Once he said in an interview that he was pained by the Gujarat riots like one is pained even after a puppy is run over by a car. In a speech during the Bihar election campaign he angrily vowed that he wouldn’t let any reservation for Muslims to be implemented by taking away quotas from other categories.
Modi’s pet theme song during the election campaign was his promise to make India great, to restore the lost glory of its hoary past. He harped on pursuing a muscular foreign policy with respect of Pakistan.
Trump has spoken about preventing Muslims from entering America, about bombing the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists, their family members and even children. He has threatened to build a wall to prevent Mexican immigrants from entering America and make them pay for it.
Trump has promised all this and much more to make America great.
Trump has spoken high of Modi. During a trip to Mumbai after Modi had become the prime minister, Trump said, “He has done a fantastic job of brining people together.”
Only a divisive figure like Trump can sing paeans to Modi for brining “people together”.