Have you ever wondered whether US president-elect Donald Trump's words are more than a little familiar? Not only because he reiterates them enough times but also because closer to home, enough politicians have followed similar moves. Have you maybe compared his outright 'truthfulness' to the brashness of some Indian politician who probably had the same ideas regarding immigration?
Well, your intuition is correct. Donald Trump is the 'videsi' version of Mumbai's famous 'Tiger' Bal Thackeray — whose party Shiv Sena excelled in populism and xenophobia over four decades — or atleast that's what writer Suketu Mehta in his recent post in The New York Times, would have us believe.
Mehta, renowned writer and a professor of journalism at New York University, has spent a considerable part of his childhood in Mumbai and had interviewed the controversial leader, Thackeray, in the earlier years of his career. He once famously wrote on Thackeray, "The Tiger (Bal Thackeray) roars only from behind the safety of his guards." (There were 179 policemen guarding his heavily fortified mansion when he visited his house to interview him.)
In a study between the two characters — Thackeray and Trump — both hail from major metropolitan cities, Mumbai and New York, Mehta points out the similarities between them and their style of governance. He argues that both leaders have remained anomalies who managed to woo the electorate with their story-telling and their ability to sway the majority group of a particular demographic.
It is a well-known fact that Trump ran a campaign which was anti-immigration, especially anti-Muslim. He talked about building a wall at the US-Mexico border to keep the 'rapist' Mexicans from entering the US. Mehta points out that this is the same rhetoric that Thackeray preached in his speeches when he courted power in Maharashtra. Thackeray too talked about keeping non-Maharashtrians/outsiders away from the state and sought for a law where a visa would be required to enter the city-limits of Mumbai.
"Mr. Thackeray promised to restore their jobs, by threatening mob violence against industrialists who hired non-natives. He promised to make Maharashtra great again by reversing the clock: His idol was the 17th-century warrior-king Shivaji, who held the Mughal emperors at bay. He demanded the requirement of a visa to enter Bombay."
Thackeray was popular for his style and his ardent disregard of his enemies and other politicians. He openly mocked them and as Mehta points out, "He was a master of the art of the outrage, of politics as performance." This he argues holds true for Trump who often takes the opportunity to bash his opponents in an outrageous fashion. One incident comes to mind where he called his opponent Hillary Clinton 'crooked Hillary', making it a popular phrase used by Clinton opponents.
Mehta argues that if political history (in this case Shiv Sena's/ Bal Thackeray's leagacy) is closely studied, then it will become obvious that Hillary was never going to defeat Trump. The future of America in the hands of Trump is unknown to us, but a few passages from Mumbai's bloody history could teach a valuable lesson.
Updated Date: Jan 08, 2017 13:22:54 IST