Opinion

Why Donald Trump + Ted Cruz = Narendra Modi

The Indian prime minister sounds like one US presidential aspirant and thinks like the other.

After a sweeping victory in last week’s New York primary, Donald Trump will in all likelihood be the Republican Party’s candidate for the United States presidential election in November. As Trump readies for the race to the White House, much has been said about the similarities between him and his potential future counterpart in India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Both Modi and Trump are melodramatic and self-admiring. Trump puts his own nameplate in gold on everything he owns. He consistently proclaims himself as the smartest, brightest and richest.

Modi not only writes his name all over his suit, but his four favourite words are “I”, “me”, “my” and “mine”. Modi also takes his “style icon” role seriously. Both Modi and Trump work hard to depict themselves as alpha males and women are the bedrock of their support base.

Narendra Modi and Donald Trump also take good care to project themselves as outsiders and claim dubious but discernable records of being decisive and highly successful.

Similar personalities

Despite inheriting a fortune from his father and then claiming bankruptcy four times to wiggle out of financial trouble, Trump declares himself as a very rich and successful businessman. Similarly, Gujarat was relatively a developed and rich state in India before Modi became the chief minister. But he credited himself for everything the state has achieved while successfully concealing the ugly side of his development model.

Both Modi and Trump have tamed Twitter to circumvent the mainstream media. Trump’s Twitter handle has more than seven million followers, while Modi is followed by more than 19 million. Apart from the adulation, both enjoy attention an army of internet trolls as well.

Trump like Modi is equally relaxed about the obnoxious language that many of his social media supporters use against critical and independent voices. They even openly provide patronage and encouragement to their abusive “toadies”.

Modi and Trump are overtly xenophobic and uncouth while addressing the public and use it to their fully advantage to enthuse their political support base. Trump’s utterance about Mexicans matches Modi’s grandstanding on Bangladeshis. Trump boasts about building a “great wall” on the US’ southern border to stop “evil” Mexicans entering the United States. Before the 2014 general elections, Modi had similarly bragged, “You can write it down. After May 16, these Bangladeshis better be prepared with their bags packed.”

Lesser of two evils

However, unlike Trump, Modi has already become the elected leader of his country. At this point, Trump is only the top aspirant to be his party’s nominee and his presidency is still a remote possibility as he will have compete with the Democratic Party’s candidate, who will most likely be Hillary Clinton.

Since Donald Trump became a front-runner in the race for the Republican Party’s nomination, the American mainstream media has been preoccupied with the question of “What if he becomes President?” Besides worries over the survival of the Republican Party, questions are also being raised over whether America could survive a Trump presidency.

Despite these legitimate concerns, Americans should be happy and relieved that Trump’s main rival, Ted Cruz, is most likely going to be knocked out of the race for the Republican Party’s nomination. The prospect of Cruz in the White House is far more terrifying than a President Trump.

Donald Trump may be a boastful hypocrite, but he is also good at making deals. He is a businessman and knows how to negotiate and compromise. His philosophy of governance will not be governed by any firm ideological or religious principle. Trump is ignorant and impulsive, but has the ideological flexibility needed to govern a large, powerful and racially divided country. As former US president Jimmy Carter describes, Trump does not have “any fixed opinions that he would really go to the White House and fight for.”

Combination of traits

That makes Trump different from Modi and Cruz. Narendra Modi might have a Trump-like big mouth and a tempestuous reputation, but unlike Trump, he adheres to sharp ideological line. In this context, Modi is more like Ted Cruz, who is power-hungry, uncompromising, confrontational and a habitual exaggerator.

Cruz and Modi have poignant family history and both also manipulatively and repeatedly use the stories of their rise from humble beginnings for political gains. Both are ideologically indoctrinated. Not only that, they also have firm religious belief and political conviction on how their country should exist. Both also project themselves as anti-establishment and fighting against the privileged elites, and claim the victimhood of the liberal media.

Countering the comparison in public discourse between Modi and Trump, Modi supporters claim that Trump is not Modi and Modi is not Trump. And they are absolutely right. Modi is not Trump alone, he is Trump and Cruz put together in one package. On the whole, Modi sounds like Trump but thinks like Cruz. He ably combines Trump’s idiosyncrasy and Cruz’s dogma.

Whatever happens in its presidential election on November 8, the United States is never going to get both Donald Trump and Ted Cruz as its presidents. So the country and its well wishers not need not be very apprehensive over the election process and its outcome.

If Indian democracy can manage to keep itself alive with a Trump and Cruz combination in the form of Modi, American democracy certainly can withstand one of them if needed. Moreover, the United States has more to celebrate, given that a Ted Cruz Presidency is becoming a very distant possibility. Trump would be easily manageable in comparison.

Ashok Swain is professor of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University, Sweden.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

Relying on the power of habits to solve India’s mammoth sanitation problem

Adopting three simple habits can help maximise the benefits of existing sanitation infrastructure.

India’s sanitation problem is well documented – the country was recently declared as having the highest number of people living without basic sanitation facilities. Sanitation encompasses all conditions relating to public health - especially sewage disposal and access to clean drinking water. Due to associated losses in productivity caused by sickness, increased healthcare costs and increased mortality, India recorded a loss of 5.2% of its GDP to poor sanitation in 2015. As tremendous as the economic losses are, the on-ground, human consequences of poor sanitation are grim - about one in 10 deaths, according to the World Bank.

Poor sanitation contributes to about 10% of the world’s disease burden and is linked to even those diseases that may not present any correlation at first. For example, while lack of nutrition is a direct cause of anaemia, poor sanitation can contribute to the problem by causing intestinal diseases which prevent people from absorbing nutrition from their food. In fact, a study found a correlation between improved sanitation and reduced prevalence of anaemia in 14 Indian states. Diarrhoeal diseases, the most well-known consequence of poor sanitation, are the third largest cause of child mortality in India. They are also linked to undernutrition and stunting in children - 38% of Indian children exhibit stunted growth. Improved sanitation can also help reduce prevalence of neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). Though not a cause of high mortality rate, NTDs impair physical and cognitive development, contribute to mother and child illness and death and affect overall productivity. NTDs caused by parasitic worms - such as hookworms, whipworms etc. - infect millions every year and spread through open defecation. Improving toilet access and access to clean drinking water can significantly boost disease control programmes for diarrhoea, NTDs and other correlated conditions.

Unfortunately, with about 732 million people who have no access to toilets, India currently accounts for more than half of the world population that defecates in the open. India also accounts for the largest rural population living without access to clean water. Only 16% of India’s rural population is currently served by piped water.

However, there is cause for optimism. In the three years of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the country’s sanitation coverage has risen from 39% to 65% and eight states and Union Territories have been declared open defecation free. But lasting change cannot be ensured by the proliferation of sanitation infrastructure alone. Ensuring the usage of toilets is as important as building them, more so due to the cultural preference for open defecation in rural India.

According to the World Bank, hygiene promotion is essential to realise the potential of infrastructure investments in sanitation. Behavioural intervention is most successful when it targets few behaviours with the most potential for impact. An area of public health where behavioural training has made an impact is WASH - water, sanitation and hygiene - a key issue of UN Sustainable Development Goal 6. Compliance to WASH practices has the potential to reduce illness and death, poverty and improve overall socio-economic development. The UN has even marked observance days for each - World Water Day for water (22 March), World Toilet Day for sanitation (19 November) and Global Handwashing Day for hygiene (15 October).

At its simplest, the benefits of WASH can be availed through three simple habits that safeguard against disease - washing hands before eating, drinking clean water and using a clean toilet. Handwashing and use of toilets are some of the most important behavioural interventions that keep diarrhoeal diseases from spreading, while clean drinking water is essential to prevent water-borne diseases and adverse health effects of toxic contaminants. In India, Hindustan Unilever Limited launched the Swachh Aadat Swachh Bharat initiative, a WASH behaviour change programme, to complement the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan. Through its on-ground behaviour change model, SASB seeks to promote the three basic WASH habits to create long-lasting personal hygiene compliance among the populations it serves.

This touching film made as a part of SASB’s awareness campaign shows how lack of knowledge of basic hygiene practices means children miss out on developmental milestones due to preventable diseases.

Play

SASB created the Swachhata curriculum, a textbook to encourage adoption of personal hygiene among school going children. It makes use of conceptual learning to teach primary school students about cleanliness, germs and clean habits in an engaging manner. Swachh Basti is an extensive urban outreach programme for sensitising urban slum residents about WASH habits through demos, skits and etc. in partnership with key local stakeholders such as doctors, anganwadi workers and support groups. In Ghatkopar, Mumbai, HUL built the first-of-its-kind Suvidha Centre - an urban water, hygiene and sanitation community centre. It provides toilets, handwashing and shower facilities, safe drinking water and state-of-the-art laundry operations at an affordable cost to about 1,500 residents of the area.

HUL’s factory workers also act as Swachhata Doots, or messengers of change who teach the three habits of WASH in their own villages. This mobile-led rural behaviour change communication model also provides a volunteering opportunity to those who are busy but wish to make a difference. A toolkit especially designed for this purpose helps volunteers approach, explain and teach people in their immediate vicinity - their drivers, cooks, domestic helps etc. - about the three simple habits for better hygiene. This helps cast the net of awareness wider as regular interaction is conducive to habit formation. To learn more about their volunteering programme, click here. To learn more about the Swachh Aadat Swachh Bharat initiative, click here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Hindustan Unilever and not by the Scroll editorial team.