Donald Trump calling Narendra Modi 'Elvis', 'Father of Nation' marks a shift in US president's outlook on PM, his leadership skills

Donald Trump's remark calling Narendra Modi 'Elvis', 'Father of Nation' was not a well-measured diplomatic statement from a US president but appeared to have come straight from his own assessment during his two-hour-long presence at the 'Howdy Modi'

Sanjay Singh September 25, 2019 19:03:15 IST
Donald Trump calling Narendra Modi 'Elvis', 'Father of Nation' marks a shift in US president's outlook on PM, his leadership skills
  • Donald Trump's remark on Narendra Modi was not a well-measured diplomatic statement from a US president but appeared to have come straight from his own assessment during his two-hour-long presence at the 'Howdy Modi'

  • The US president is no longer appearing to behave like a patron with the Indian prime minister appearing to be a docile younger brother

  • Many Indians would like to steer clear from Trump calling Modi Father of india, but Modi, beyond doubt, could be called a worthy son of India

  • The 'Howdy Modi' event in Houston was a manifestation of Modi's rockstar image, the India PM established during the 2007 Gujarat Assembly election

US president Donald Trump is right when he said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the “American version of Elvis Presley”, a leader who has proved his critics wrong and shown them his capability to deal with emerging situations.

This was not a well-measured diplomatic statement from a US president but appeared to have come straight from his own assessment during his two-hour-long presence at the 'Howdy Modi' event at NRG Stadium in Houston. He was not alone though as the NRIs who attended the event appeared to have come to the same conclusion long before Trump. It was also in sync with what a majority of Indian voters felt during the 2019 parliamentary polls.

Donald Trump calling Narendra Modi Elvis Father of Nation marks a shift in US presidents outlook on PM his leadership skills

Narendra Modi and Donald Trump at India-US bilateral meet in New York. Twitter@NarendraModi

Successive regimes in India have sought American intervention in taming Pakistan in one way or another as and when a difficult situation arose. It’s true that India has been an age-old policy of India that it does not allow any third party mediation, whosoever that maybe, on Kashmir, but back then the situation was different. India under Modi is aggressively pushing an initiative, it thinks is in the national interest, and is trying to make world powers, including the USA, endorse it.

The other noticeable aspect of the Trump-Modi meets, formal or informal, including the one at Houston and the bilateral in New York and other places, was this — the US president is no longer appearing to behave like a patron with the Indian prime minister appearing to be a docile younger brother, age of leaders notwithstanding.

Now consider what Trump said about Modi’s abilities and leadership skills and analyse them on merit.

First, Trump called Modi the American version of Elvis: "What the event (Howdy Modi) showed is how much I like the country of India and how much I like your Prime Minister. There was tremendous spirit in the room there. They love this gentleman to my right. Those people went crazy. He's like an American version of Elvis... like Elvis Presley has come back. That was quite something. (sic)"

Now turn to the 2007 Gujarat Assembly election when Modi was seeking re-election and was a prime campaigner for the BJP. That election saw the introduction of a new campaign tool — use and popularisation of the Modi mask. During the rallies, the crowd would respond to Modi's words as if they were listening to a rockstar and not to a political leader.

The 'Howdy Modi' event in Houston was a manifestation of this rockstar image of Modi.

Second, Trump also called Modi the “Father of India”: “I remember India before was very torn. There was lot of dissension, fighting and he brought it all together. Like a father would bring it together. Maybe, he is the father of India. We will call him Father of India.”

Many Indians would like to steer clear from Trump’s phraseology for it tends to make a comparison between Modi and Mahatma Gandhi. That gives rise of an avoidable debate. But Modi, beyond doubt, could be called a worthy son of India.

Third, calling Modi “a great leader”, Trump said: "I have great respect, I have great admiration and I really like him. He is a great gentleman and a great leader."

This is on account of Modi’s popularity and the way he has acted in the last five and a half years as the Prime Minister of India. During this time, he has not only proved his administrative abilities but also carried out the role of a social reformer, attempting to change age-old social practices like open defecation and the way women have been forced to cook using highly polluting fuels — the list would go on.

His last-mile delivery has been significantly higher than his predecessors. On the international arena, Modi has been accepted as a strong global leader (Islamic and western world included) with a great deal of mass appeal.

Fourth, Trump highlighted Modi’s ability to send a strong message to Pakistan on how India would deal with terrorism: "I think Prime Minister Modi gave a message to Pakistan loud and clear the other day [Sunday].... He gave a pretty loud message I am sure he will be able to handle that situation."

Modi had given loud and clear messages to Pakistan post the Uri and Pathankot terror strikes by conducting surgical strikes at terror camps in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir and airstrikes in Balakot. The swiftness and clarity with which the Indian government moved to abrogate Article 370 and 35A and bifurcate the then state of Jammu and Kashmir into two UTs is a further manifestation of Modi as someone who kills Pakistan’s nefarious designs.

Fifth, Trump highlighted Modi's "aggressive” way of pursuing his ideas and agenda to media persons before his meeting with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan: “I heard a very aggressive statement yesterday (at Howdy Modi in Houston). I don’t have to say that. I was there. I didn’t know I was going to hear that statement. But I was sitting there and I heard a very aggressive statement yesterday from India, from the prime minister, and I will say it was very well-received within the rule — you know, within in the room. The statement itself. That was a big room; there were 59,000 people.”

On this count, the audience gathered at Houston loved that aggressiveness of Modi.

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