Trump­ism & Moditva: A Par­al­lax View of Past, Present & Fu­ture

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics -

tials for this). Both have rub­bished the sys­tems they in­her­ited; al­though Trump went too far in paint­ing a dark pic­ture of ‘Amer­i­can car­nage’, and Modi has lost no op­por­tu­nity to colour the Nehru-Gandhi dy­nasty and the Congress legacy in lurid hues. Both men have railed against the elites they want to de­mol­ish – Trump ver­sus the ‘in­side the Beltway’ ca­bals, and Modi ver­sus the ‘Lu­tyens Delhi’ denizens. At heart, both men are pop­ulists, quick to please their con­stituen­cies. Both men swear they will trans­form the lives of the poor. Trump spoke at his in­au­gu­ra­tion of ‘moth­ers and chil­dren trapped in poverty’, and Modi has be­come pro­gres­sively more stri­dently pro-poor in his agenda. He ham­mered this in again on Tues­day in par­lia­ment, say­ing “How­ever big you are, you will have to give back their rights to the poor, and I will not turn back from this path…I will con­tinue to fight for the poor.”

The dis­sim­i­lar­i­ties are in­ter­est­ing too. Trump is a ruth­less busi­ness­man who knows how to cut cor­ners in or­der to cut deals; Modi is a bat­tle­hard­ened politi­cian who had al­ready run a state gov­ern­ment be­fore mov­ing to the na­tion’s top job. Trump came from a priv­i­leged back­ground; Modi rose from a hard-scrab­ble past. Modi has pur­sued an as­sertively friendly for­eign pol­icy, even, ini­tially, with Pak­istan. Trump is pok­ing fin­gers in the eyes of both Amer­ica’s friends and foes. Al­though both men for power). They shook hands de­spite their ide­o­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences. They have for­gone their po­lit­i­cal ide­olo­gies for this. Mu­layam Singh has said so him­self that his son has for­sworn all prin­ci­ples of SP.

Akhilesh Ya­dav is seek­ing an­other term on the ba­sis of his de­vel­op­ment works. Does that pose a chal­lenge for the BJP? You should see the pub­lic re­sponse to ques­tions on their (SP’s) claims of de­vel­op­ment. Peo­ple re­ject those claims. I have also pre­sented of­fi­cial sta­tis­tics to dis­pel this false im­pres­sion. In­di­vid­u­als can tell a lie, but not those sta­tis­tics on growth rate, agri­cul­ture growth, and law and or­der re­lated crime sta­tis­tics.

Don’t you agree with Akhilesh Ya­dav’s claims of de­vel­op­ment dur­ing his term? Ab­so­lutely not.

Do you see the UP elec­tion as a ref­er­en­dum on de­mon­eti­sa­tion? I do not be­lieve that an elec­tion for Lok Sabha or as­sem­bly be­comes a ref­er­en­dum on only one is­sue or topic. Elec­tions al­ways en­com­pass many is­sues. Lo­cal is­sues also hold huge im­por­tance in as­sem­bly elec­tions. De­mon­eti­sa­tion, oth­er­wise, has been uni­ver­sally wel­comed. I get tremen­dous re­sponse in my ral­lies when­ever I raise the is­sue of de­mon­eti­sa­tion in my ral­lies.

Why has the BJP changed tack in this elec­tion to prom­ise pop­ulist mea­sures such as loan waiver? We are promis­ing what we plan to do. We are not giv­ing empty slo­gans. Per­son­ally, I speak about only those things that I can hon­our. Oth­er­wise, I will not prom­ise it. Cred­i­bil­ity can never be com­pro­mised.

How would you re­spond to your op­po­nents’ charge that the BJP is yet to ful­fil its 2014 prom­ise of ush­er­ing in ‘achche din (good days)’? That is the case in Ut­tar Pradesh, they mean. Ac­tu­ally, un lo­gon ne gra­han laga rakha hai na (They have eclipsed UP). That is why they can­not see it. One can­not see re­al­ity in times of eclipse. Pradesh sarkar ne gra­han laga diya hai were la­belled right-wing, Trump and his al­ter ego Steve Ban­non rep­re­sent the ex­trem­i­ties of a big­oted, xeno­pho­bic and pro­tec­tion­ist world-view, while Modi has ploughed a more in­clu­sive and glob­al­ized fur­row. Trump is now supreme in Fortress Amer­ica, while Modi is un­chal­lenged in an In­dia that is ea­ger to look be­yond the ram­parts as it com­petes in an in­creas­ingly po­larised and slow­ing global econ­omy.

There is an­other strik­ing sim­i­lar­ity be­tween Modi and Trump. Both men have is­sued ex­ec­u­tive or­ders that al­ter their coun­tries’ im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies. Trump’s or­der, is­sued a few days af­ter he took power, banned all im­mi­grants from seven mostly-Mus­lim coun­tries for 90 days and sus­pended all refugee ar­rivals for 120 days. Modi’s gov­ern­ment is­sued an ex­ec­u­tive or­der in Septem­ber 2015 grant­ing un­con­di­tional cit­i­zen­ship to il­le­gal Hindu, Sikh, Parsi, Christian, Jain and Buddhist im­mi­grants from mostly-Mus­lim Afghanistan, Pak­istan and Bangladesh. Trump has also said Chris­tians from the six tar­geted Mus­lim coun­tries can en­ter the United States. Both or­ders have been ques­tioned on their con­sti­tu­tional va­lid­ity. While a U.S. ap­peals court is about to rule this week on a fed­eral judge’s stay­ing of the Trump or­der, an In­dian par­lia­men­tary panel is wrestling with the Cit­i­zen­ship (Amend­ment) Bill, 2016, which has been pend­ing in par­lia­ment since Au­gust last year (the panel is due to sub­mit its re­port by the last week of the cur­rent Bud­get ses­sion of par­lia­ment). At is­sue is whether the In­dian bill will vi­o­late Ar­ti­cle 14 of the Con­sti­tu­tion, which con­fers equal­ity be­fore low to all re­li­gions.

This tricky ques­tion will rear its head when the BJP gov­ern­ment that won power in As­sam last year is pre­sented with the re­sults of the Na­tional Reg­is­ter of Cit­i­zens (NRC) some­time this sum­mer. The an­tecedents of mil­lions of Mus­lim im­mi­grants whose pa­pers are sus­pect are be­ing vet­ted by a huge team of of­fi­cials backed by data-pars­ing tech­nol­ogy. Pra­teek Ha­jela, the of­fi­cial head­ing the NRC mis­sion, told me over 50 mil­lion doc­u­ments have been ver­i­fied so far by his team, which works out to about 90% of the to­tal. About 350,000 doc­u­ments have been sent to other states to track down im­mi­grants, and 402 to other coun­tries. The NRC team is now pick­ing apart hun­dreds of thou­sands of fam­ily trees; 95% of that work is com­plete. In other words, the NRC should be com­plete by this sum­mer. At that point Modi and As­sam chief min­is­ter Sar­bananda Sonowal will be con­fronted by the Hob­son’s choice of what to do with those Mus­lims iden­ti­fied as il­le­gal im­mi­grants. It is easy to vow, as Sonowal did on the cam­paign trail last year, that the il­le­gals will be thrown back into Bangladesh. How will it all pan out?

All this tur­moil over in­clu­sion and ex­clu­sion re­minded me of Wil­liam Wil­son Hunter, the 19th cen­tury English bu­reau­crat who wrote, among sev­eral other books on In­dia, ‘The In­dian Em­pire: Its Peo­ple, His­tory and Prod­ucts’, pub­lished in 1892. Hunter saw a com­mon­al­ity be­tween peo­ples of dif­fer­ent coun­tries and con­ti­nents. “The fore­fa­thers of the Greek and the Ro­man, of the English­man and the Brah­man, dwelt to­gether in Asia, spoke the same tongue, wor­shipped the same gods,” he wrote. “The lan­guages of Europe and In­dia, al­though at first sight they seem wide apart, are merely dif­fer­ent growths from the orig­i­nal Aryan lan­guages, whether spo­ken on the banks of the Ganges, the Tiber, or the Thames.” Hunter, a prodi­gious ad­min­is­tra­tor who ar­rived in Ben­gal in 1862, is re­mem­bered chiefly for the nine-vol­ume The Im­pe­rial Gazetteer of 1881. Twelve years ear­lier he was asked to con­duct a Sta­tis­ti­cal Sur­vey of Bri­tish do­min­ions in In­dia, onethird of which were in the hands of hered­i­tary rulers. Al­ready by 1891 In­dia’s pop­u­la­tion was 288 mil­lion, which Hunter notes was more than dou­ble the peo­ple in the Ro­man em­pire at the height of its power. The Sta­tis­ti­cal Sur­vey filled 128 printed vol­umes ag­gre­gat­ing 60,000 pages.

Hunter also wrote about the po­lit­i­cal struc­ture in late 19th cen­tury In­dia: “[The] Gov­ern­ment, as suzerain in In­dia, does not al­low its feuda­to­ries to make war upon each other or to have re­la­tions with for­eign States. It in­ter­feres when any chief mis­gov­erns his peo­ple; re­bukes, and if need­ful re­moves, the op­pres­sor; pro­tects the weak; and firmly im­poses peace upon all.” In­ter­est­ing in­sights here in a co­op­er­a­tively fed­eral In­dia where states do feud with one an­other over is­sues like wa­ter, and are al­lowed to have ‘re­la­tions’ with for­eign na­tions if they prom­ise large in­vest­ments at events like Vi­brant Gu­jarat.

And talk­ing of in­sur­gent cam­paigns, the Aam Aadmi Party has just waged just that in Pun­jab and Goa. I be­lieve Goa is a bat­tle ex­er­cise for AAP’s Arvind Ke­jri­wal, and it will be a sur­prise if he wins there. But Pun­jab is an­other mat­ter; there, AAP and Congress are likely to split the anti-in­cum­bency vote, and the BJP and the Akali Dal both look like they are headed out the door. But why in­sur­gent? Es­pe­cially in Pun­jab, AAP has at­tracted the dis­pos­sessed, the dis­en­fran­chised and the dis­sat­is­fied from both the re­li­gious right as well as the dis­ap­peared left. If Ke­jri­wal in­deed emerges as the new leader in Pun­jab, at the head of a ‘full state’ rather than the clumsy hy­brid of Delhi, we will see in­ter­est­ing times.


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