Donald Trump and Narendra Modi: Both take calculated risks, blame their predecessors

Are the two leaders cut from the same cloth? One made a fetish of Made in India and the other went straight for Make in America. Both have gone on record as wishing to clean the mess, wipe out the rot. Both want to make their countries great again but neither has told their people when exactly they stopped being great.

US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

US President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

That chauvinism was further reflected in giving government back to the people. If you remember, Modi made much the same sort of promise which he then underscored with his demonetisation blitz to create the divisive ‘them’ and ‘us’ financial categories for the citizenry. Both blamed the rich and the privileged for the corruption of the national soul with an equally evangelical zeal.

Trump pandered to the segments who felt they had been left behind and Modi did much the same for India’s marginalized societies pointing a flinty finger at the enemies of the state…as he perceived them.  In their self-deprecation is a touch  of narcissism.

Modi said he is there to serve the people, they are the masters, we the servants of the people. Trump said the same thing, this is you, I am only the face.

They effectively use a different speech content by projecting answers and solutions rather than simply stating standard questions and problems. Whether there is action to follow is a moot point but it grabs the attention in what is now called ‘insurgent populism’ or what is easier explained as ‘make the people feel empowered.’

Both have squarely blamed their predecessors for the collapse of the empire and built their foundations on the bones of the past. And they strum the same string of fear, doubt, suspicion in the common man by offering him the enemy on a plate.

Though Trump squarely belongs to the fiscal high end he deftly identified with the poor and Modi has done much the same these past two years. From toilets to housing to employment he has promised to narrow the gap. The ‘victory’ of defeating and bringing to book the hoarders and the blackmarketeers that Modi has sneeringly depicted as a major blow to the venal and the vile was echoed to perfection in the Trump speech, except he went a step further by blaming the political entities as the leaders of the feral pack.

That ‘Robin Hood’ analogy holds good for the leaders of the world’s two largest democracies.

Both Trump and Modi have taken a calculated risk in using the race and religion cards and whether it is a lie or the truth, the perception of the gulf widening between castes and creeds in India  has strengthened. In the USA it has spiked to a new high of uncertainty and suspicion. Trump’s inauguration showed a marked absence of African-Americans even as Mexicans began to hunt for suitcases and feared deportation. As many as 11 million are in that firing line.

Race in America may not have been so overt in the Obama years but as he himself confessed there is a lot more to be done. In India caste raised its ugly head and continues to be used to feed political wiliness.

While Trump is a misogynist and has shown a contempt for women here Modi might differ in that crudeness has not been part of his public persona. However, there is no move by either (certainly not the KKK types that fill the Trump cabinet)  to reduce prejudice against the LBGT groups, against those who look different or speak different and there is again in India that same sense of insecurity over attacks on women and girls as there is in US about not being white.

In both cases Trump and Modi choose not to blame the desultory or biased responses of the police to acts of sexual violence.  The two of them have set to music their affection for the armed forces ( the OROP ordeal notwithstanding) and use every opportunity to sing the praises of their generals and the men under their command.

Both have an adversarial relationship with the media what with Trump showing his dislike personally to specific organisations and individuals while Modi is a lot more subtle but no less ‘cool’ towards the fourth estate whom he does not trust.

The two of them share a passion for tweeting and talking directly to the public on inconsequential issues  while concealing the warts with clever oneliners thereby bypassing the mainstream media.  Their mindsets of being democratic despots in that ‘we know best’ are scaringly similar.

This modern version of the Roosevelt fireside chats, Modi and Trump believe their strength lies in establishing a direct contact with the people. They are both very religious and make a show of it. By that token the two also love to eschew protocol and engage in one to one with the people whether it is on social platforms or through chatty, folklorish speeches.

Both give the impression of being unforgiving, holding grudges and getting even. Trump a hair more aggressively. Finally, neither likes argument or resistance; either you are with me or against me.


Updated Date: Jan 21, 2017 15:49 PM

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