Donald Trump and Narendra Modi’s political ideologies are from the same playbook. However, unlike Modi, Trump comes across as collateral damage because he doesn’t have an Amit Shah. The US President’s obsession with handling any situation all by himself has made sure he continuously faces the brunt of public anger.
What amplifies Trump’s troubles is his frequent rant on Twitter, where he acts like a teenage lover boy who is extremely volatile and vocal. When the protests broke out in the US over George Floyd’s murder, Trump made incendiary remarks like “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” and “protesters would have been greeted with most vicious dogs and most ominous weapons.” Unsurprisingly, these only fuelled public fury.
For Modi, in times of crises that emerge out of public anger — whether it’s farmers walking hundreds of kilometres, the anti-CAA protests, students’ march, or the riots in Delhi — Amit Shah always comes to the rescue. The duo has an established format: Modi maintains his silence and behaves like a statesman on social media, while Amit Shah takes care of the role that has been outsourced to him — of ranting and lacing his speech targeted at Muslims with words such as ‘ghuspaithiye’ (infiltrators) and ‘deemak’ (termite).
And so, when the police in Delhi or Uttar Pradesh go after citizens in a brutal way, it’s not Modi but Amit Shah who comes across as the face of that brutality and a manager of public anger. When Shah coordinates in times of such crises, Modi takes the back seat. If only Trump had someone to play the ‘bad cop’ for him.
Art of managing a democracy
While Donald Trump has always expressed his admiration for Narendra Modi, he has not quite learnt the art of managing a democracy from him. Even after repeated criticism for not addressing press conferences and for maintaining stony silence over mob lynchings and riots, Modi continues to enjoy popularity among Indians. This is because silence is better than being abusive and ranting on social media or in a press conference — all those places where Trump makes public his inner thoughts.
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All of this can be avoided if Trump manages to find himself a loyal partner, someone like Amit Shah. Whether it is election campaigns or managing divisive policy moves, Shah always plays the ‘person at the front’ role, even if the photographs used in media and public advertisements are of Modi.
Whereas Trump targets everyone he dislikes in the US himself, in the Indian political scenario, it is Amit Shah, and not Modi, who goes all guns blazing at protesters, media, opposition and businesspersons, directly or indirectly. So, unlike Modi, Trump finds himself at the centre of every counter that comes his way for his reckless actions and remarks.
It is next to impossible for a police chief in India to call out Modi and ask him to “shut up”. Therefore, Trump needs an image shield, somebody who backs him up and cleans up the mess he creates, especially if he wants to come back to power. The next US presidential election is scheduled for November 2020.
Overcome his narcissism
Trump needs to stop being the ‘fall guy’ if he wants the public and the mainstream media to like and respect him. He needs to learn that in order to manage and control his narrative on Twitter, the President of the country doesn’t need to stoop low — he can get an IT cell to do that for him. This way, the vileness and the anger will remain intact, but direct blame will be avoided and might even give him an opportunity to project himself as the “people’s leader”.
Donald Trump comes across not only as a narcissist and sadist, but also an anarchist. It’s like Trump cannot even once take the back seat, or sympathise with people he seemingly keeps a dislike for. Who can forget him mimicking Black American Eric Garner’s dying words — ‘I can’t breathe’ — at a public rally in April 2016?
I'm just going to drop this here. 👁 Donald Trump mocks "I can't breathe" at rally.
— vlh (@coton_luver) May 31, 2020
His fallouts with his closest aides such as former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and former special counsel Michael Cohen throw light on his trust issues. This is one of the primary reasons why Trump has to fight his own battles, even the ones where he can easily avoid drawing public attention.
Modi, on the other hand, has always enjoyed the company and support of his closest aides — Amit Shah, Piyush Goyal, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Prakash Javadekar, Nirmala Sitharaman, Rajnath Singh, J.P. Nadda, Nitin Gadkari, S. Jaishankar and several other second and third rung BJP leaders who make controversial remarks and keep the Hindutva discourse alive.
As things turn worse in the US, with the police and protesters clashing, Trump cannot forget the other looming danger — the Covid-19 pandemic, which has already battered the US with close to 2 million positive cases and more than 109,000 deaths. Therefore, in times like this, Trump must understand that he does not have a “quasi-religious appeal” like Modi that would turn him into a demi-God for the US citizens. He needs a friend and a partner like Amit Shah. And it is not Mike Pence.
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