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7 reasons why Narendra Modi will long outlast Boris Johnson or Donald Trump

Author: Abhijit Majumder
Publication: Firstpost.com
Date: July 8, 2022
URL:      https://www.firstpost.com/opinion/7-reasons-why-narendra-modi-will-long-outlast-boris-johnson-or-donald-trump-10885111.html

Unlike the other two, Narendra Modi has so far achieved the rare, enviable feat of having charisma without being carefree

Every time a Donald Trump or a Boris Johnson falls, India’s liberal elite — many of whom live in the West in their heads although their voter cards show otherwise — wade into their favourite political fantasy. Like Trump, like Johnson, Narendra Modi will be soon gone.

It does not happen.

Not because there is some cruel, supernatural power at work. But because the liberal elite are as cut off from reality as the unruly-haired Boris was from the rules he himself had set.

Modi is a creature of a very different milieu, a dramatically opposite political trajectory; a man whose skill sets do not match any leader’s that the Indian or global liberal establishment likes to club him with.

Let us take a quick look at why Modi will politically long outlive his western contemporaries.

First, he comes from the lowest common denominator of society. From being a seller at his father Vadnagar tea stall, his journey has been that of wandering minstrel of Indian politics. Roaming, observing, learning, imbibing from the ground for decades till one begins to understand this land profoundly, better than all his adversaries.

In contrast, Trump was born into a multi-million-dollar empire, although he had some exposure to blue-collar life and aspirations while being groomed in the real estate business.

Boris Johnson got a scholarship to Eton, England’s most prestigious private school. He then joined the exalted Oxford University, where he became president of the union, a debating society known for grooming the UK’s top Conservative politicians. He also joined the Bullingdon Club, which has a reputation for the loud, drunken behaviour of its members.

Second, Modi has expanded an organisation at the grassroots. The expansion of the BJP under him has been spectacular. From Jammu and Kashmir to North East to Bengal to the South, the party has been building solid, durable bases in places it was non-existent.

Did Trump or Johnson determinedly and painstakingly expand their ideological base? No. And that is why, popular support for them has been mercurial.

Third, Modi has the RSS on his side. Neither the Right nor the Left in the US or the UK, has such an overarching ideological mentor organisation, built over decades of quiet, focused work involving millions of people. The RSS runs more than 100,000 projects in India and worldwide at any given point in time.

Fourth, Modi has the support of the people. His popularity over the last eight years, even at its worst, have remained nearly double that of his closest rivals. It makes him sabotage- and betrayal-proof within the party and with respect to his colleagues. Trump’s popularity had waned from its peak when he was voted out kicking and screaming, and Boris Johnson quit when his approval rating within the party fell to -15 points, lowest in his Cabinet. His rating as PM was at 34 percent, among the lowest in his tenure.

Fifth, in spite of the immensity of the challenge of a global pandemic and certain hiccups because of initially poor health infrastructure and a massive migrant population, Modi handled Covid quite well. India increased its capacity manifold, gave the world two extremely reliable vaccines, and vaccinated over a billion at a head-spinning pace. Death rate was way below most first-world nations, even adjusting for under-reporting.

Covid did Trump in. It did not spare Johnson either. The US and UK competed against each other in per capita deaths in the rich world. To top it, their irresponsible actions and statements further angered citizens. Modi did not make a single loose comment, kept his mask on, and led the nation on scientific advice.

Sixth, Modi is extremely careful with his words, more so when it comes to diplomacy. In contrast, Trump sporadically conducted diplomacy through what seemed like drunk tweets, hurting some of America’s closest allies like Europe, Japan, and India in its wake.

Boris Johnson, like Donald Trump, normalised shooting off his mouth. He wrote a poem imagining Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan’s sexual relations with a goat, accused the people of Papua New Guinea of cannibalism and chief-killing, and a lot more. A loose tongue is one luxury a politician cannot afford.

Seventh is the question of character. Modi is a monk-like figure whose personal life has been above reproach. He has treaded miles away from personal scandals.

In contrast, from the ‘grab her p****’ episode to woman after woman accusing Trump, rightly or falsely, of harassment has all played out in real time for the American public.

As a trainee reporter at the Times, Johnson was sacked for falsifying a quote, something he later described as his "biggest cock-up”. That was perhaps an early sign of his lack of integrity. With Partygate, Johnson cooked his own goose. Joining a party with staff when one has put Covid restrictions in place as the prime minister shows how he holds himself above the law, his critics say. The final humiliation was having to apologise for appointing Chris Pincher after complaints of sexual misconduct were made against him.

Politics can be unsparing. It toasts flamboyance till its conjoined twin, recklessness, turns the politician into toast. Modi has so far achieved the rare, enviable feat of having charisma without being carefree. At least two of his distinguished global peers have failed.

That is why India’s liberal elite should not prematurely cheer.
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