By R. Raj Rao
SUKETU Mehta, author of Maximum City, the influential book on Bombay, and Associate Professor of Journalism at NYU, was on NDTV 24×7, commenting on the storming of the US senate by President Donald Trump’s supporters on Thursday. Mehta was tempted to compare what happened in America with what might potentially happen in India, should the BJP, under Prime Minister Modi’s leadership, lose the next general election in 2024.
What was shocking, according to Mehta, was that everyone thought that the Republicans, even if they wanted to protest against the election results, would protest digitally, using the various social media platforms available to them. No one imagined that they would resort to hooliganism, breaching security, leading to the death of four people.
“What happened in Washington DC today can easily happen in New Delhi tomorrow,” Mehta said.
Mehta sincerely hoped that the end of a regime that endorsed White supremacy in America and discriminated against racial minorities signalled the end of India’s Hindutva regime, which similarly discriminated against religious minorities. The Black Lives Matter protests in America can easily be compared to the CAA and NRC protests in India. But Mehta is not the only one to suggest that India needs to see the writing on the wall and be forewarned. There are many others who see parallels between America and India, given India’s “hardened polarisation”.
Mehta was asked if the end of Trump’s tenure as US President also meant the end of right-wing politics in America. He answered the question using scatological symbolism.
“Trump is like what is flushed down the toilet bowl, but keeps bobbing up again,” Mehta said. The implication was that right-wing politics exist in all the world’s major democracies today, and cannot be wished away that easily. But the American electorate had shown the way. A beginning had been made.
Trump has been temporarily blocked by Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The Republicans themselves are divided over the aggression, with Vice President Mike Pence declaring that he isn’t a party to the protests. Is such a split within the ruling dispensation possible in India? After all, the Congress has split up several times, especially when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi got too big for her boots. What guarantees that this will not happen to the BJP?
Narendra Modi is amongst a host of world leaders from countries like the UK, Canada, France, Germany, Australia and even China who have condemned what happened in America. However, let us not forget that in spite of Trump’s regressive policies, Modi was a great ally of Trump while the latter was in power. There is no gainsaying that Trump and Modi are bosom pals. First, there was the Howdy Modi event in Houston. Then there was Kem Cho Trump in India last year, even after corona had made its appearance in the country, and outsiders should not have been allowed to enter. And how can anyone forget Modi’s favourite slogan, Ab ki Bar Trump Sarkar? Here was an Indian Prime Minister campaigning for a foreign President in a foreign country, using the very slogan that had brought him to power in 2014! Nothing of the kind had ever happened before.
Likewise, in April 2020, during the early days of the Covid 19 pandemic, Modi sent nearly 36 lakh tablets of Hydroxychloroquine to Trump at the latter’s behest, even though the drug was needed to treat patients in India.
In hindsight, Modi’s uncritical bonhomie with Trump is something that should worry the BJP, given the current turn of events. Most Indian-Americans, who Modi thought were in favour of Trump, actually voted for Joe Biden.
Trump’s recent aggression, his refusal to accept defeat, can be described in a single word: spoilsport. Once the dust settles, Trump’s actions are sure to be a great source of embarrassment to him. He is bound to regret what he did. As such, Trump remains one of the very few American Presidents to have served for just a single term. It is probably this humiliation that provoked him to get his supporters to march to Capitol Hill in the first place.
But the word ‘spoilsport’ can be applied to Prime Minister Modi as well. He has made the farm laws issue a prestige issue, and refuses to repeal the three problem farm laws that have upset our farmers, many of whom have lost their lives in the ongoing agitation. Then, Modi hasn’t reigned in UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath for his unconstitutional ‘Love Jihad’ law, in spite of the best legal minds in the country proclaiming that the law is ultra vires the Constitution. Some Muslim men have been languishing in jails for no fault of theirs on account of the law. The law, like fungus, has now spread from UP to MP.
Back in America, there is talk of the 25th Amendment being invoked. By virtue of this, Trump can be removed from office even before he completes the last 12 days of his tenure as President, and Vice-President Mike Pence can be asked to take over.
A more sinister fear, however, is that pushed to the wall, to what lengths can Trump go? Will he press the buttons of all the nuclear bombs that are under his control?
Let us wait and watch.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer
- Dr. R. Raj Rao is an internationally known Indian English novelist, poet and critic. He was Professor and Head of the Department of English at the University of Pune in Maharashtra. He has also been a Visiting Professor at universities in Canada and Germany
Be Part of Quality Journalism
Quality journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce and despite all the hardships we still do it. Our reporters and editors are working overtime in Kashmir and beyond to cover what you care about, break big stories, and expose injustices that can change lives. Today more people are reading Kashmir Observer than ever, but only a handful are paying while advertising revenues are falling fast.