In 2014, Narendra Modi swept aside the opposition and came to power in India, a feat he improved upon in 2019. In 2016, Donald Trump became the President of the United States of America and he very well may return after the elections later this year. Last year, Boris Johnson returned as UK’s Prime Minister with a thumping majority relegating the Labour Party to its lowest tally since 1935. Why does the “Right” win easily? How are they rallying the masses into voting for them despite openly campaigning on hate, distrust, or in the very least dislike?
The Hindus believe in idol worship and in Narendra Modi they have found an idol “worth worshipping”. For his devoted cadre, he can do no wrong. Every Indian achievement and victory are his and every misstep is either Jawaharlal Nehru’s fault or characterized as the agenda of the “anti-nationals”. Even the more balanced supporters of Modi defend some of his policy decisions as those requiring time and being works in progress with no data to support their assertions. While there is some resentment and unease at how the economy is performing and how little the government is doing to buoy it, it has failed to so far reach the zenith of a mass movement against Modi’s BJP. The agitation against the Citizenship Amendment Act, 2019 is the closest Modi has come to a pan-India agitation on one issue against the Government.
Modi is seen as a tough administrator, a visionary, a man of the people, an international celebrity. But his silence on key issues often speaks louder than anything he might say. Modi has not addressed a single press conference and is very comfortable in reciting scripts. He does not have an answer or even an admission qua the economy. Jammu and Kashmir remain drenched in “normalcy”. His silence on mob-lynching across India in the name of cows is deafening. Equally conspicuous is him being missing-in-action while students and police clash across India.
Yet when Rahul Gandhi or the Indian National Congress do not speak about an issue or are not as “woke” about an issue as a certain group of people would like, we see a clamor from the people and the media – including liberals and those on the left of the spectrum – about their silence or the flaws in their position.
While the “Right” votes single mindedly for a person or a party, the “Left” is too busy critiquing its candidates. The liberals are a divided house and the LGBTQ voters’ ideal candidate is not necessarily the feminists’ ideal candidate and so on and so forth. No one candidate is woke enough for the entire Left. The “Right” on the other hand employs the tried and tested formula where an identifiable enemy is found and then held responsible for most ails. A fear is created in the majority, often in the name of religion or ethnicity and more and more in the name of the type of views the minority may hold. For Modi that identifiable enemy is Pakistan with the subtext it carries – Muslims.
In India, a critique of Modi or his BJP is easily labelled anti-national. The students protesting on the streets are labelled paid protestors or jhola walas by the milder trolls. The more aggressive trolls will doctor videos and share fake news about how the entire gamut of protestors are Muslim, anti-nationals, and must go to Pakistan. Some will even call for their lynching and mass rapes of them and their family members. The place of protest is used to discard the validity of the protest – Jamia Milia and the Aligarh Muslim University. While the police and students clashed and Jammu and Kashmir remained “normal”, Modi was campaigning in Jharkhand and simplistically asking the Indian National Congress to declare that it would give citizenship to every Pakistani. Each time Pakistan is mentioned as the enemy, the core constituency of Modi feels surer in their support of him.
The Trump Card
Donald Trump is a rare kind of political animal. He does not care about what he does. He does not understand most things as per his own staffers. He does not appreciate first principles of propriety such as conflict of interest, blind nepotism, or even consent. He does not see a problem in flexing the United States of America’s international muscle for domestic political and personal economic gains. Impeachment be damned! Trump 2020 could be a very real thing.
Donald Trump wants to build an actual wall between United States of America and Mexico. He believes immigrants are stealing American resources and jobs and are the hindrance in “Making America Great Again”. His tone is anti-immigrant, almost anti-poor, and borders (no pun intended) on the offensive. His identifiable enemy is Mexico and the imagery of thousands of immigrants crossing the border to take every American resources and jobs. A significant number of Americans are anti-immigration and think of even naturalized Hispanics as part of the problem let alone first-generation immigrants and refugees. Strangely a large number of Indians living in America who themselves were beneficiaries of America’s immigration policies today stand with Trump and his dear friend Modi.
Yet his supporters defend him as a maverick who is trying to break the status quo. A person from outside the system cutting through the nonsense and trying to achieve results for real problems. In one of the many John Oliver episodes about Modi, a lower level Republican National Committee is seen as defending Trump on the Ukraine-Biden issue by arguing that President’s make deals and Trump flexing the muscle of the White House to buoy his chances of getting re-elected by sidelining a major democratic challenger is fine. Today as things stand, the most serious Democratic challenger to Trump is Biden – a two-time presidential loser.
Boris Enters, Britain Exits
Boris Johnson is hardly a statesman or a mass leader. Born in New York and educated in Brussels as well as Eton College, Boris studied classics at Oxford. His political moves earlier this year were stalled by the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom leading to a considerable amount of allegorical egg on his face. An early tell of Boris’ future was when he was fired by The Times for falsifying a quotation. Today, Boris is quoted across the world as Her Majesty’s Prime Minister but what he is saying has very little to do with the facts inasmuch as Britain’s exit from the European Union is an idea destined to doom Britain. Yet Boris found his identifiable enemy in Europeans and how British money was being spent to fund Europe and Europeans were coming to Britain and stealing British jobs. The Labour Party collapsed under the sheer weight of this narrative.
A small island nation, Britain is no longer the mighty empire it once was on which the sun never set. It lost America in 1776, Egypt in 1922, South Africa in 1931, India in 1947 (which included Pakistan and Bangladesh), Sudan in 1956, Ghana in 1957, Namibia in 1960, Kenya in 1963, Singapore in 1965, much of the Caribbean in the 1960s. After the Suez Crisis, Britain was essentially reduced to a missile base for America. Eventually with the fall of the Soviet Union, it became a steppingstone into Europe. By slowly integrating with the European Union and the common market, Britain gave itself in some part what it had lost with its empire – resources it could not generate or create to fuel its economy. In return for having a titular superpower within the Union, Europe let Britain keep its own currency and passports. By association, Britain seemed powerful. Today, as it stands on the verge of exit from the European Union based on the propaganda of the Conservatives, Britain is surely heading for disaster with trade likely to suffer the most as well as the economy inasmuch as the immigrant population for eastern and southern Europe was also the population working at the lowest rates.
Law-Making or Law-Breaking
The ‘Right’ as is enshrined by Modi-Trump-Boris is playing Jenga with the Constitution and constitutional norms. The manner of making constitutional amendments or legislating in a reckless manner with support of their base are hallmarks of the trio. On some occasions, the judiciary has stood up to them and struck down said laws in whole or in part and given some succor to the minorities and the affected persons. But ultimately, in a constitutional setup, once the legislative branch and the executive branch are in tandem, it is very hard to stall it from implementing the leader’s agenda. Sadly, these agendas are not of inclusive growth or progressive development. These agendas are of further polarization and compartmentalization which always begs the question: Why does the right win easily and how do we stop it?
Naman Joshi is a practising advocate in Delhi. After graduating from National Law University, Delhi in 2014, he worked with Karanjawala and Co. In 2017, he set up his own practice.
Disclaimer: The views or opinions expressed are solely of the author.