Social media has been abuzz with posts and comments that seemed to suggest that there are similarities between Trump and Modi. There was also a comment/post which made the following false equivalence – Trump’s inaugural speech sounds very similar to Modi’s “ache-din” speech. Now, anyone with even a basic knowledge and/or perusal of what Modi has been saying will know how hollow this sounds’ – even a simple fact-check on what Modi said during his inaugural address versus what Trump said, should clear this up but as is the case, nuance is not something our “perfumed-classes” (an euphemism for the Elitists amongst us) exhibit when it comes to Modi and Hindus. In this post on why Modi is not Trump, I argue why the comparison is not just facile or amusing but actually odious. Let us examine Modi and Trump on the basis of 4 parameters to see if this comparison has any substance:
Political Track record: Narendra Modi’s political experience of close to 5 decades, spanning multiple constitutional and political posts stands in stark contrast to Trump’s complete lack of any political experience and the false equivalence should be obvious to anyone . And then again comparing Kejriwal to Trump would make a lot more sense as they both share the common pedigree of having parachuted into politics and riding momentary waves to constitutional posts. However, it is too much to expect of our “perfumed classes” for whom Kejriwal is their pet poodle because he keeps snapping at Modi. When Modi’s long political experience is a matter of public record, why then this deliberate attempt by the Lutyens cabal of politicians, journalists, and regressive Leftists to arrive at a false equivalence?
Nepotism: One of the first things that Trump did as soon as he became the President-elect was to appoint his son-in-law Jared Kushner as his personal adviser and then bringing his family including his children into the inner circle of the White House. Uday Mahurkar writing in the online edition of India Today, profiled Narendra Modi’s extended family [The other Modi’s] “that lives in quiet obscurity, far removed from the circles of power and influence1” At a time when the Indian political landscape is littered with examples of dynasts and their children, reducing democracy to a new version of “democratic-monarchy” Modi by his steadfast refusal to let anyone from his family derive any political advantage stands out like a beacon but you hardly hear this aspect of Modi being discussed or presented as an example of how one should conduct oneself when in politics and public service. The closest example in an Indian context is Mahatma Gandhi but the moment you bring that up you will be accused of making a false equivalence by the very same people who now make that very same mistake.
Hindutva / Islamophobia: Another false equivalence that is constantly sought to be made is to equate the BJPs/Modi’s Hindutva policy with Donald Trump’s blatant Islamophobia. A careful scrutiny of Modi’s utterances during the last 2.5 years as PM and also prior to this period show no blatant bias towards Muslims. In fact during his tenure as PM he has been statesman-like and launched several programmes aimed at modernizing madarsa education, improving educational infrastructure, and enhancing job opportunities for Muslims and other minorities. Also, Hindutva cannot be equated to Islamophobia. In fact Hindutva is an acknowledgement of the “Hindu way of Life” which in its essence means acceptance of all faiths and religions as true. Trump on the other hand has been openly islamophobic in his messaging calling for a blanket ban on entry of Muslims into the USA and claiming that “Islam hates us…”
Inaugural Speech: Compare what Modi said during his inaugural speech soon after the oath taking ceremony versus Trump’s jingoistic “America-first” speech and his open call to wipe out Islamic terrorism from the face of the earth. Modi on the other hand was humility personified going down on his knees at the entrance to parliament and then touched all the right notes during his inaugural speech reminding his fellow MPs of the great responsibility placed on each of them and their duty to all the Indians whose hopes and aspirations they represent.
On top of all this, Trump is openly misogynistic and has made and continues to make the most outrageous comments against women, minorities, the press, and anyone who does not subscribe to his world-view. To compare such a person with Modi is not just facile but mischievous and a clear attempt at making a false equivalence. In short, Modi is a self-made man who has made his way to the top through hard work and determination while Trump is a lone ranger who has gatecrashed the political establishment in the US.