At the same time that large swathes of American people are pulling out all stops to ensure Donald Trump’s defeat in the elections, a New Jersey–based Hindu Coalition of Republican supporters has gone all out to extend support to the candidate. The Republican Presidential nominee, who seems to have all but lost the elections, has claimed that he likes “Hindu” and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi for reforming our bureaucracy. But his invocations – given the candidate’s current predicament and the barrage of criticism he is drowning in – are unlikely to be certificates that Modi would like to flaunt.
“I look forward to working with Narendra Modi who has been very energetic in reforming India’s bureaucracy. I applaud him for doing so. Great man,” said Trump this Saturday at an event titled “Humanity United Against Terror”, organised by the Republican Hindu Coalition. As the chief guest of the function, Trump, true to form, trotted out bizarre and ill–informed statements, one after another.
First, the Republican nominee, who on numerous occasions in the past, has made public his contempt for fact–checking, this time exhibited his ignorance of basic facts about India. For instance, he appears to believe that the Indian Parliament is in Mumbai. Muddling up the two separate attacks on Parliament and on Mumbai’s Taj hotel, Trump said: “For all of the people in Mumbai, the attack on the parliament was outrageous and terrible. We will defeat radical Islamic terrorism.” The icing on the cake, widely reported in the media, came in the form of Trump’s statement: “I am a big fan of Hindu,” which, though music to the ears of organisers, was fodder for entertainment to most others.
Such ill–informed remarks are typical of Trump’s campaign and his scant regard for authenticity. But the organisers of the Saturday event were not looking for authenticity, which they perhaps feared, would cramp their style of propaganda. Keeping with the mood of the event, the host and Republican Hindu Coalition chairman Shalli Kumar, introduced Trump to the gathering with the lure of a promise that Trump would “help Indians obtain green cards faster.”
Not very long ago, the Hindu Sena, a little–known right wing group, had celebrated Trump’s birthday at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar. A report in The Indian Express in June said: “With a birthday cake, balloons and posters — including one showing Trump brandishing a gun, the group celebrated Trump’s birthday. The Hindu Sena called Trump the ‘saviour of humanity’ and the ‘messiah against Islamic terror’.”
This Saturday’s New Jersey event is part of the same kind of celebration, where Hindu fundamentalist groups eulogise Trump and Narendra Modi as one of a kind. What separates the two events is their timing. In June, Trump was just launching his campaign. Four months on, he stands stripped off the trappings he initially flaunted – the novelty of being the “outsider” to the system, challenging Hillary Clinton, who has served that very discredited system for more than three decades. Since then, there has been a tectonic shift in people’s perception of Trump. His image has taken a severe beating, losing even what little lustre there was in the summer. The series of recent exposes by media organisations, particularly The New York Times and Washington Post have now revealed him as a habitual sexual predator, a personality trait that does not seem to matter to the Hindu Coalition.
In Trump, members of the Coalition see an American version of their Indian hero – Narendra Modi. Both are hyper–nationalists, and that’s the only thing that matters to them. As Ben Smith, BuzzFeed editor–in–chief wrote in his article, “'Trump is 100% nationalist,” said Brijash Agarwal, a New Jersey accountant. “They’re both nationalists, that’s enough.'"