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Trump is not Modi: 6 lessons Donald could have learned from his Indian friend

Donald Trump could have played war hero saving the US from Covid.

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There is much liberal hand-wringing around the world about how Donald Trump did not lose by the wide margins people thought he would. Trumpism continues to be a reality we have to deal with.

We are told that Trump won the counties worst affected by Covid, yet it cannot be denied that Trump’s undoing was his handling of the pandemic. The trouble was not just with the 2,30,000 lives lost until Election Day, but also an economy left ravaged by the pandemic.

Trump himself acknowledged this when he said in battleground Pennsylvania in October: “Before the plague came in, I had it made. I wasn’t coming to Erie. I would have called you and said, ‘Hey, Erie, you know, if you have a chance, get out and vote.’ We had this thing won!”

Donald Trump was certain to win the election until Covid struck. The unemployment rate was at a historic low. Wage growth was high. The economy was booming. Trump couldn’t stop reminding people to look at the stock markets. Then, a once-in-a-century pandemic struck. The stock markets fell reminding people of the Great Depression.

When Covid reared its ugly head, novelist Orhan Pamuk had been busy researching for a novel set in a pandemic. With that knowledge, he told us in April: “The history and literature of plagues shows us that the intensity of the suffering, of the fear of death, of the metaphysical dread, and of the sense of the uncanny experienced by the stricken populace will also determine the depth of their anger and political discontent.” The United States and the Indian state of Bihar are following this script.

Yet, Trump did not have to lose this election. He could have won hands down. All he had to do was learn from a politician far smarter than himself, his friend and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The comparison is also instructive in telling us why Modi isn’t Trump, and why Modi remains popular despite Covid having taken a high toll in India and ravaged the Indian economy as well.


Also read: Trump’s final days in Oval Office could see efforts to make governing difficult for Biden


1. Crisis is opportunity: Leaders across the world panicked when Covid struck. Both the US and India, like Europe and Brazil, bungled their initial response. Asian countries adopted the test-trace-isolate strategy and thus contained the virus. India and the US failed to adopt this strategy early on, hence the virus spread into the community and Covid went out of hand. Yet, once the problem became clear, Modi took to the crisis in the way you expect strongmen politicians to: A Churchillian resolve to defeat the enemy. 

Modi did not manage to defeat the enemy, but the optics was right. Not his fault, his voters can say. He did the best he could, imposing a national lockdown. Trump went into denial mode, which cost him his credibility among some of his own voters, especially older male White voters who were most prone to the virus. Trump should have treated the virus as a 9/11-like moment, acknowledging the fear in people’s minds and answering it with resolve for a rally-around-the-flag effect. His Covid denial instead made him look like a president not taking a war seriously. In 2016, Trump spelt out the enemy and showed a path to defeat it: the immigrants, the Muslims, the Chinese taking away jobs, the trade policies and so on. In 2020, Trump came across as taking the enemy (Covid) in a manner most un-presidential.

Trump privately knew Covid was “deadly”, but he made a wrong narrative calculation thinking it would help him to downplay it. Instead, he should have overplayed it. Modi, by contrast, compared the fight against Covid to the Mahabharata war. Strongmen leaders yearn for big crises to play the saviour. Trump could have won big if he had done that.  


Also read: No, Donald Trump isn’t the ‘Republican Jesus’


2. Pass the buck: Once Trump realised he made a mistake in his Covid narrative, he could have passed the buck. That’s what Narendra Modi did. As India’s lockdown failed to wipe out Covid, Modi started to pass the buck onto the states. He started doing endless video conferences with state chief ministers, letting them speak at length and take responsibility. 

Donald Trump, by contrast, kept coming across as silly in his Covid denial, not wearing a mask, holding rallies, insisting it wasn’t so bad, opposing lockdowns. All he needed was to shift the responsibility. With the festive season in India, the Modi government has already shifted responsibility further to the people. If Covid spreads, it will now be the people’s fault for not taking Modi’s warning seriously. Ask not what your prime minister can do for you but what you can do for your prime minister.

3. Strategic silence: No matter how big the noise over an issue, Narendra Modi won’t speak on it if it doesn’t suit his narrative. It is difficult to make Modi speak on lynchings or unemployment or demonetisation. He does so rarely, only when he is forced to, after a lot of noise, when it’s too little too late, the issue has lived its life in the news cycle, and no longer poses any narrative or electoral risk to him. 

Trump, however, kept speaking about his biggest weak spot, Covid, saying it will just go away and is not a serious threat. When you know you have failed on something, don’t speak about it. But Trump couldn’t help himself, because he must stick to his tried-and-tested offence-as-defence strategy. If Modi was Trump, he would have been endlessly defending himself for forgetting about migrant labourers before imposing a lockdown.


Also read: Trump may lose, but Trumpism has arrived in US – it’s more about populism, not performance


4. Distract and rule: The Modi government made sure people have something else to talk about so they don’t talk about the failure of the lockdown, the economic crash, mass unemployment and Indians being pushed back economically by years. The Modi government, with the help of mouthpiece media, used the alleged suicide of a Bollywood actor to spin a long yarn that went into relationships, drugs, intrigue, even murder allegations. India didn’t even care about devastating GDP figures that came out in that period. Trump needed his own Rhea Chakraborty to distract and win. 

5. Be a populist for real: It is high time we should stop describing Donald Trump as an economic populist, because he didn’t turn out to be one. He promised to spend money building infrastructure but didn’t actually do it, partly because he gave corporates a tax cut instead of raising taxes to fund infrastructure. Just before the election, he didn’t sign a second stimulus deal with the Senate because of pressure from his party, which is ideologically opposed to giving out cash to people. 

By contrast, Narendra Modi who was supposed to ‘less government, more governance’ gave farmers Rs 6,000 a year for free to win his 2019 election. 

Imagine a politician who doesn’t put cash in people’s pockets before a pandemic-time election. Now imagine such a politician being called a populist. 

6. Polarise to reduce opponent’s votes: Nobody knows polarisation better than Modi and the BJP. But polarisation succeeds when it increases your votes, not the opponent’s. You don’t polarise when you run the risk of counter-polarisation. So the BJP polarises against 14 per cent Muslims to try and unite 79 per cent Hindus in its favour. It seeks to create a sense of consensus, real or false, around hard-hitting issues such as Kashmir and Ram Mandir. Donald Trump’s insensitivity towards violence against African Americans helped fuel the Black Lives Matter movement. Yes, Donald Trump won a large number of votes, but the Democrats won even more, because Trump’s polarisation increased turnout on both sides.

The author is contributing editor to ThePrint. Views are personal.

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70 COMMENTS

  1. Nice fun to read the article.. Such articles think that all Modi voters are either dumb, or rabid fundamentalists, or prone to get swayed by rhetoric.

    So the article basically smells jealousy and helplessness ..

    What many Modi voters do? Read the article, get charged up, resolve to ensure to go and vote next time.. but biggest fun? Switch on left leaning channels on election results day and enjoy the show..

  2. Author of this article feels that all the supporters of Modi are dumb incapable of analysing the data, incapable of thinking what is good for the nation and that they are prone to get swayed just by rhetoric of Modi & BJP or they are fundamentalist right wingers.
    He should come out of his deep slumber to say the least.
    It’s immense fun to read such biased articles, go & vote for Modi with more resolve and then enjoy the day of election results with a cup of tea, watching the specific Modi hater news channels and analysts.

    Modi will be defeated once voters will have an alternative. Someone who will be seen as equally strong, honest & nationalist leader to counter him- from congress or any other party. Till then, this entertainment continues..

  3. Shoe I am “THE STUPIDO ”
    work load has increased.

    Suddenly his ” VERY VERY SMALL BRAIN ” will have to think about TRUMP as well as THE PRINCE.

    MAMMAMIA !!!!!

  4. Modi is with deep state establishment so nobody is their to challenge him or check him, while Trump went against the deep state thus establishment along with all media and govt. missionaries went against him and his short comings and failure where high lighted while Failure of Modi are covewith sensetional issues like shushant sing suicide or kangana security etc

    • Deep state is the left/communists & Islamist’s in India!! In Ex Hindu-stan; Bakistan, it’s the military & Islamist’s!! If anything, deep state in India needs to be eliminated!!

  5. That is a pathetic and poorly researched article. Your article focus more on Modi and blame the short sighted ness of people for choosing them. TRUMP IS one of the most polarising figure and he lost because of his inability to handle the pressure of Covid and his failed policies. You are blaming the people for choosing Modi for polarising politics and helping the farmers which is stupid. Also one should understand that dealing with the country of 130 crores is not easy. And yes,the responsibility also lies with the people. But the main reason we still see the NDA in power , despite failing policies is because of the poor opposition, especially the Congress. Their inability to see beyond Rahul Gandhi is primary. Without a good opposition, people are left with no choice other than to trust Modi.

  6. Trump was not a politician, he acted like a business man. To many people in history have hurt Nations by being politicians. If only Trump has political maturity he could have survived for one more term.

  7. The difference is that in India a PM can stay quiet and become non accountable to a mediocre press and a population without any basic knowledge of democracy..

    • Ha!! Ha!! You seem to have learnt the definition of democracy in Bakistan’s Islamic hole or leftist/communist China!!

  8. Vij has complimented Modi – in a backhand way, but still it is an objective analysis of why Trump could not win a second term.

    What Modi and Trump have in common is fascist instincts, and divisive nature. But Modi is shrewder than Trump, there is no question about that, as explained by Vij. Of course, it is at the expense of Indians, but then Indians are mostly low IQ Hindus who cannot figure out about demonetisation and Modi’s incompetence over Covid.

    The funny thing is that although Vij has explained that Modi is shrewder than Trump (and therefore why Modi was successful in winning a second term), the Hindus here are ranting about liberals, pseudo seculars etc.. They feel Vij is actually saying that Modi is a worse low-life than Trump, despite being shrewder – which of course is also correct !!!

    These Hindus who are raging against Vij know he is correct, but they do not know how to refute him !!!

    The frustrated right wing Hindus rage against liberals but they always read what the liberals write. They cannot igonre them, and stick with their right wing channels. The frustration is because the Hindutva Hindus’ dumbed-down narratives are not accepted by liberals and intellectuals, at the same time the Hindutva Hindus do not have the intellect to refute the intellectuals, so they resort to personal abuse. They have an inferiority complex.

  9. Trump is not Modi: 6 lessons Donald could have learned from his Indian friend.

    Issues is USA is not India. USA is pre-dominantly uniculture. It is multi-racial , but nevertheless uniculture. In contrast nehru & co. tried to make uniculture India, based on predominantly Hindu population, into multi-cultural state. so multi-culturists are getting backlash.

    • The main difference is the US has a percentage of dumb whites but not as many as dumb Hindus. They are better educated and their institutions are stronger and have survived as they do not have a RSS. The US can recover, India cannot. You also know it. A nation run by dumb Hindus will unravel. The economy is gone – for good.

    • @Harry: WHY should any majority sacrifice their civilization & rights for minorities especially those who themselves create hegemonic majority states in the name of their cult and kill/convert minorities??!!

      WHY should anyone support the leftists & theeir woke culture which tells white Americans to be guilty & even ashamed of their white skin color??!! Same thing is happening against Hindus in India?? What is this sickness of mind & political culture if not an effort to disintegrate social & civilization fabric so that only fraudster capitalists like Soros/Google rule the world??!!

  10. A left handed compliment to Modi. These liberals have divided the country like none else starting with Shah Bano case. They don’t know when to stop talking or writing.

    • But a compliment nevertheless – so why do you feel divided ? Trump is gone but shrewd Modi is still there and Vij explains why he will still be there. India’s economy is gone for good, but so what ?

  11. Another crap bigot piece of writing , wire and republic are at the core level equally impotent and biased , one anti and other pro govt narratives ..such an imaginary piece of writing and deluded to the core .. to be honest wire is such a crap that sometimes you even feel that do they even think about India at all , one question who would you like us to vote ?? Rahul , Mulayam , AK , Mamata and u will get ur answer right their and than ..Modi govt might have to tie some strings here and there but they are the most decisive action driven govt I have seen , whether it’s internal or external matter and Dnt even compare lockdown , Modi govt polices enabled the decisive testing infra and barring delhi, covid numbers are dwindling all across , recovery rates are highest in the world and mortality rate lowest .. these are facts which you can’t deny .. so stop
    Calling your thing as journalism ..

    • @Anurag: You aren’t unaware that #CCP China has infiltrated India & the global media where 95% of media & tech giants are controlled by them to create a false narrative against nationalist governments!!

      While I find Trump a repulsive leader, he has done things and articulated vital truths for instance the menace of Islamic terrorism & #CCP communist China!

      How is it that the leftists or so called progressives couldn’t see such obvious truths for the last few decades, neither n India, nor in America?? Were they not promoters of the same??

  12. The print

    The puppet of China and left liberal congress .

    The person who wrote this article has shown his congress and China bhakthi.

  13. Come on Shivam vij you never talked about the labour reforms ,agrireforms coal FDI reforms the new bpo reforms space sector reforms ,get ,new pay policy or nep in recent month truth to be told Modi is able to impress everyone one who wants reforms like me ,poor who wants money through jam trinity and Hindus through hindutva .think of it why should I vote for anyone other than BJP..

  14. Terrible article…people with such hatred for Mr.Modi are given a free hand at dishing out such unfair, biased articles with no basic facts to back them up…pathetic piece of journalism

  15. So typical “liberal/left” article. Lacks substance. Other than point #1, rest appears to be a rant more than anything.
    I think the thing that made Modi in this pandemic was “Jaan hain to jahan hain”

  16. Shivam as usual missed the most imp point. US has far more smarter people than India – they mobilised, called out Trump for his mistakes and the media wasn’t as partisan there as it is here. Trump did a lot of things right as well- every American family got $2000 into their account for expenses. BPL Indians got ₹500, rest is us only lost wages – got zilch.

    Meanwhile here in India everything is Rahul Gandhi or J Nehru or somebody else’s fault. Indian people lap it up – no wonder Modi wins every election. Sit back, help out your Gujarati fabulously wealthy business mates and blame it all on the opposition – dead or alive. No questions asked! No wonder all opposition politicians are queuing up to join the BJP.

    • There it was pure whites vs others here it is all about castes. If you stich your caste combinations right you go on winning unless your supporting caste people get tired. Till now that hasn’t happened. Pappu is Pappu because he has no caste at present to back him.

  17. This article is a hog wash copy paste from NBC, NYT, WP. The discredited media in America. We all watched election. Trump won hands down. Then the last swing states controlles by Democrats startes illegal votes (only mail in). While Trump lead by a lakh votes in PA when mail in started counting ALL of them were Biden. Hahah until it crosses trumps and they called it a day. America knows it was a scam. We know it was a scam. It was a majot voter fraud where more news is in of dead people voting for democrats. Research mate! And dont be afraid.

  18. its usual sarcastic rant of a Leli journalist. however, trump could learn several things from modi
    a) that climate change is real
    b) believe in science
    c) be respectful to women and to ur opponents. (except in the time of elections) .( i know modi too crossed lines some times, which he shouldn’t have)
    d) be true and sincere to your religion. Modi is greater practicing Hindu than Trump being Christian.
    e) dont go full guns blazing in first term. stabilise build slowly and but steadily execute . be a test player not a 20-20 player
    f) dont fill up your work group with your family members. does any one even know modi’s family members
    g) this is n’t business or profits…. its about building a nation serving the people.
    h) first gain experience of being a premier for a state for some time…
    The last two are beyond the realm of Trump….. to be devoted to one’s country…..and only to country in your teens, 20’s,.. 30’s..,40’s,…50’s,…60’s,…70’s….

  19. The author says – “If Covid spreads, it will now be the people’s fault for not taking Modi’s warning seriously. Ask not what your prime minister can do for you but what you can do for your prime minister”. Firstly, a person being careful and taking responsibility for their life so that they do not get covid is NOT for the prime minister, it’s for THEM first and foremost! Secondly, it makes no logical sense whatsoever to blame Modi or for that matter any CM, for the spread of a virus that is so contagious in a country that is as densely populated as India! Also…get real! India’s crowd cannot exactly be called disciplined and “law abiding” by any stretch of imagination….people do as they please and that’s just how people in India are. Despite that, Modi did an excellent job in repeatedly warning and guiding people to wash their hands, maintain social distance, wear mask and be cautious. This was truly an unprecedented situation and given the amount of internal attacks by mouthpiece media of opposition party, attacks from Pakistan and China, a crazy population to deal with, Modi did great and ALWAYS continued to impart hope to his citizens never making them feel lost and hopeless. Stop framing Modi…seriously. People are not fools.

  20. This article sounds more like an anti modi hate comment in a youtube comment section than an objective analysis. Although the writer of this fiction tried his best to cover up his biases and sound objective, his hate for Modi was very very evident. Republic doesn’t represent 100% of Indian media. There is a vast section of anti modi mediahouses and journos in india who could have used this opportunity to highlight other issues but instead they chose to take sides in the Republic tv game and made bigger fools out of themselves. They call out Arnab for being a biased journalist but have they looked at themselves in the mirror?

  21. You think you and Shekhar Gupta and others of your like are most intelligent people in this world. Is Sonia paying you guys to write all non sense? Please I want to join you, I am retired and can write better non sense than you are writing. If you give me the idea about how the system works in your side I will be glad and highly obliged.

  22. The print , “plz remain unprinted”. Your contents are senseless and divisive as usual. I feel sorry for your childish behaviour.

  23. Although everyone knows that ThePrint and TheWire are two mouth pieces of Congress and Left party. Still you uttering that BJP polarised the media to gain votes.
    You are already sold to congress, shame on you.

  24. Shivam Vij have no respect for democracy. He will never see 70million vote trump got or Modi win two election with absolute majority. He feels Indian voters are fool who have given clear mandate to Modi without analysing his work. The only dream he see day and night is how can Modi loose election. Mr Vij, the reporter need to have balance approach. You have right to high light failure but also have guts to praise good work of same person.

  25. Trump failed because of one Cardinal sin. He failed to attack China which unleashed its biological weapon that killed over two lakh people in the US and devastated their entire economy. He should have taken the battle into enemy territory. He should have declared the Covid as an “act of war” and held Xi as a “war criminal”. He should have ordered massive first strike and crippled the Chinese hardware. Had he done that, he would have emerged as a National hero. He was bragging too much without any strategy. Or he should have egged on India with massive aid and financial assistance to take on China. He did not do that. It was this failure to convert threat into opportunity that cost his presidency. Trump is a classic case study of Leadership failure. If he had got good showing in the husting, despite his defeat against a weak opponent, he was able to polarize the blue color whites against the Black.

    • @Pattabiraman A K: Well said!! Trump turned out to be lame leader!! More broadly, as many Republicans & democrats now say: Trump’s diagnosis on China was right while his prescriptions were all wrong!!

  26. Leftist liberals, it shoudl be wake up call for you how strong the right is, Media shoudl be principle dirven , not agenda driven. Don’t demonise your oppoenents, listent to them, 70 Million vote went to Donald Trump and they are saying something that you are not willing to listen,

    • You are wrong! They are ready to listen to the 70 million voters who voted for Trump. In fact the president-elect Biden says it is his foirst priority to unite the country.

      • @Rohit Desai: If you watch carefully what this leftist Biden says and does, you will find a valley deeper than Galwan!! This man is a carrier politician who has been selling his nation to #CCP communist China & Islamist’s along with that African Obama!!

    • It is amusing that bhakts still miss the fact that an even larger number voted for Biden. If there is a wake up call for anyone, it is for blind bhakts.

    • These leftist bigots & Islamist’s have to bring Modi & Hindus into everything to satisfy their leftist & communist masters abroad & traitors inside!!

    • In Print, voters do not count as much as the so called leaders. Besides, it is easier to psychoanalyse individuals than a group of people.

  27. 7- Lesson- Bow to China…..as wonderfully done by …Despite land invasion & occupation by PLA Modi refused to even acknowledge the Chinese intrusion !!!

    • To regain the land donated by your great grand father Nauru will take time. At least protect what you have. That is what Modi is doing. Appreciate, when due. Look BJP is winning all hands down in all places. Your looser party is is becoming insignificant day by day.

      • Kili being kili
        Defending the indefensible
        Always using taqyia, masquerading as a liberal,
        A true jehadi at heart,
        Ever wanting destruction of India and Hindus
        But are smart and seek through your thin cloak

  28. Please get your facts right. The SSR case was only bloated by the media. Did Modi or Amit Shah ask the reporters to harangue the people accused? Truth is you guys cover a report for your gain hoping for attention. Why did not you highlight the important causes? We only hear news reports what you show. Every news media took one side or the other. Why? The NCB would have done its job with or without the media trial that you had. Press is free in India and you can choose what you want to show. Stop finding ghosts in Modi and for once be more analytical.

    • Only when these leftists sisters, mothers & wives are pregnant, they don’t blame Modi & Hindus!!
      For everything else, Hindus & Modi are always there!!

  29. As usual you are on the spot. Yes they are same but not the same! At least Modi showed some compassion and empathy towards people who are affected. Modi tried to unite people (may be it is cultural issue and more fear for disease among public) right from the time covid hit us. That also we got to admit.

  30. Very well written article, was very funny too. But dont put all the blame on modi alone you(media) are equally responsible for not highlighting all the burning issues.

  31. I started reading the article without looking at the author’s name. By the time of second para I understood that it was written by Shivam Vij. That is called consistency.

  32. Two related thoughts crossed my mind as I was reading the article. (1) How much did Covid help the Govt to fizzle out the CAA protests (2) How much did the Chinese help to divert the attention and hold the nation together .

    • We saw no protests against Islamist atrocities against Christians, Hindus, Sikhs.. in India!! No one blamed the Islamic states of Pakistan, Bangladesh & Afghanistan and their inhuman ideology, they seem to call religion!! The Islamist & leftist bigots and criminals were protesting against a law which was protecting them from these very inhuman Islamist’s!!

  33. On a serious note…
    I think print should sack this guy…who writes childish immature nonsense all the time…brings the level of journalism to trash..
    Y us the print humouring him….if the print wants to balance a anti modi narrative..they can hire a better person with little more maturity….

  34. Is this journalism? What a pathetic piece. Most commentators in US are saying that Trump lost precisely because of these reasons. Shivam has a problem with Modi and that venom is so palpable in his writing.

  35. Suleimani killing was his Trump card undone by pandemic. But he tried to face the pandemic bravely to keep the livelihoods going but ultimately Covid damaged his prospects.

    • The Chinese virus was used by the leftists to do voter fraud with the help of their #CCP Chinese masters & sold out the trilogy: Big Money, Big Tech & Big media!!

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