Trump and Modi’s contrasting styles

Published: May 21, 2017
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump. PHOTO: FILE

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump. PHOTO: FILE

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump. PHOTO: FILE The writer is the editor and translator of Why I write: Essays by Saadat Hasan Manto, published by Westland in 2014. He is executive director of Amnesty International India. The views expressed here are his own.

US President Donald Trump made some sweeping promises during his historic campaign to win the election last year.

The most interesting was that he would ‘drain the swamp’. This meant he would clean up Washington [which is believed to have been founded on top of a swamp]. This claim today appears ridiculous because Trump does not appear to have any competence at all in governing or in politics. He was sold as a sort of genius. But his first months in office have shown him to be a clownish figure who is also vain, angry and unable to exercise minimum control over his administration.

This would otherwise not be visible, but Trump’s insistence on daily tweeting has amplified his erratic behaviour. He offers his opinion incessantly and in a state of great excitement [he is fond of using exclamation marks], and so makes things difficult for those in charge of maintaining his image.

Here Trump offers a contrast to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is also fond of using Twitter, but does so differently from Trump.

Both men have three crore followers and both use social media to reach their voters directly, because neither man trusts journalists. Trump believes he is being treated unfairly and that his genius is not recognised or appreciated by his opponents and the media. Modi thinks that his history with communal violence is used against him even though, according to him, he did nothing wrong.

Social media’s rise, which came after Modi took office in Gujarat, offered him the chance to eliminate the media layer and he has done this very effectively. Till the arrival of Twitter, he constantly got into squabbles with journalists [walking off from one interview with Karan Thapar on air]. This showed that he feels anger and irritation as much as Trump does, but he handles it very differently now.

The difference between the ways the two men use Twitter comes in the first instance from content. Trump offers his opinion on things frequently and is not afraid to show his anger or irritation. On May 18th, the US Justice Department launched an investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged ties with the Russians. Trump tweeted: “This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” He also compared himself to previous presidents and said he was not being treated fairly: “With all of the illegal acts that took place in the Clinton campaign and the Obama administration, there was never a special counsel appointed!”

Trump is also rude and does not hesitate to attack journalists or other individuals through his Twitter account. On May 12th, Trump tweeted: “The Fake Media is working overtime today!”

It could be said that he is being honest, but it is difficult to see how this sort of childish behaviour helps Trump in any way. This is where Modi is different. Although I said that both men feel the same way about the media, but Modi is extremely restrained when communicating formally. His Twitter feed is usually just a list of things he did for the day. For example, on May 19th: “Interacted with a delegation of the Nagaland Tribes Council today.” Or he wishes people, especially other politicians, on their birthdays.

Like this on May 17th: “Greetings to former PM and leader of farmers, Shri HD Deve Gowda ji on his birthday. May Almighty bless him with good health and a long life.” And this on May 19th: “Dear President @ashrafghani, wishing you a wonderful birthday. May you be blessed with a long and healthy life.”

Modi also advertises policy announcements, though he usually links the tweets to reports published on his own official website rather than that of newspapers.

It is impossible to assess what the prime minister of India is thinking by going through his Twitter feed, which is not the case with the US president. It has become easy for journalists to even learn which channels Trump watches, because after watching it he immediately tweets something in response.

Both Trump and Modi came into politics as outsiders promising to clean up the system. One has been on the job for a little over three years and the other only a little over three months. But already Trump is not only being linked to failure but being seen as an incompetent, by many including some of his own supporters. Modi, on the other hand, has also made mistakes and overpromised. However, his cautious and careful approach has insulated him from criticism.

Trump’s daily childish hysterics and breast beating about how he is being mistreated are working against him. It has become embarrassing to watch the holder of the world’s most powerful office.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 21st, 2017.

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Reader Comments (9)

  • Komal S
    May 21, 2017 - 4:36PM

    Modi has been a grassroots politician and was integral part of BJP for very long time. Meanwhile Trump is a billionaire. With no political background. Very little in common between these guys. Recommend

  • Myrna Minkoff
    May 21, 2017 - 5:14PM

    Modi did not come into power as an outsider. He is a career politician who served as the Chief Minister of a state for two terms, he is not an outsider by any means.Recommend

  • Lalit
    May 21, 2017 - 7:23PM

    Trump is turning out to be the Kejariwal of US politics.Recommend

  • Sunil
    May 21, 2017 - 10:05PM

    No comparison between Modi and Trump, although both know how to judge pulse of masses but Modi is way ahead of the curve. One of the strengths of Modi is absolute honesty, helps him to be miles ahead of his compitetors. Trump on the other hand is prodigy of capitalism, which is absolutely not bad as far as US is concerned, his problem is that he is reckless and that is what is going to bring him down. Modi on the other hand is extremely smart and try to provide basic needs of middle and lower middle and poor population. He knows how to keep balance between corporate India and Main Street India. He is bold and never shies away taking bull by the horn like Instant Triple Taqlaq and ignoring so called religious leaders and reducing them to ashes. His appeal runs across of releguous barriers:Recommend

  • ramanan
    May 21, 2017 - 11:15PM

    Modi will drain the lutyen swampRecommend

  • Pakistani
    May 22, 2017 - 4:50AM

    BTW, who is Modi?Recommend

  • Ashish soni
    May 23, 2017 - 12:36AM

    Seems like you are fixated on Modi. Every article you write is around him. While sometimesnyou write well but than your prejudice against Mr Modi will never let you be neutral.
    I am a businessman in india. This year i have increased my salary so i can show more white income.
    Since last week i am trying to convert white money into cash and not been able to do so because the number of fakes companies that existed to convert money have diminished. There is a subtle change in government from corruption to procurement. If you only have your eyes still stuck on your back you will have limited vision of present.Recommend

  • Rao
    May 23, 2017 - 2:05AM

    Don’t you know that he is Trump’s brother-in-law?!Recommend

  • gp65
    May 23, 2017 - 11:22PM

    “Both Trump and Modi came into politics as outsiders promising to clean up the system”
    Difference between Trump and Modi:

    1) Modi is a career politicians with 3 successful terms as CM of Gujarat while Trump had never been elected as even a mayor of a small city.

    2) Trump is a billionaire son of a billionaire father while Modi’s mother used to wash dishes in people’s home.

    3) Trump used to donate to Democratic Party and had even donated to Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign. Modi has been a lifelong member of BJP.

    4) There are major conflict of interest between official positions held by Trump’s family and their business. There is no conflict of interest in Modi’s case.

    5) Trump frequently buzzes of to his Florida club to golf at taxpayers cost while Modi works night and day for what he believes is national interest (which you could disagree with).Recommend

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