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Can India Produce A Donald Trump?

In reality, state elections can throw up divisive demagogues as powerful regional leaders. But a national level Trump? Very unlikely

Photo Credit : Reuters


Arguably, he will become the most talked about man across the world-in mainstream as well as social media- in 2016. Donald Trump is on verge of doing something that even his Republican Party members might not have thought possible in their worst nightmares: with a massive and thumping victory in the New York primaries, he is virtually all set to become the Republican candidate for the 2016 presidential elections.

His likely Democrat opponent would be Hillary Clinton (a prospect that torments many Democrats, but that's another story). Donald Trump has justifiably earned many dubious distinctions: he is an unabashed misogynist; he is an unrepentant racist; he represents the worst of Islamophobia; he thinks immigrants from Latin American countries are inferior and he seems to be convinced his sexual prowess would have overwhelmed even the late Princess Diana.

In normal times, Donald Trump as a serious presidential candidate would have been a bad joke. But millions of Americans, and people across the world are waking up to this grisly reality. More than Trump and his perpetually prejudiced rhetoric, his ascent represents the rot in American democracy. America is deeply divided, both socially and economically and the divisions are getting reflected in bitter politics. Since the 1980s, income inequalities have become glaring. Of course, America always had income inequality where billionaires were role models. But today, an average worker in a Wal Mart store finds it difficult to afford even the deeply discounted stuff that the retail giant peddles.

The aftermath of the 2008 Financial Meltdown has seen millions of Americans lose both their livelihoods and their homes. A large swathe of Americans has simply lost faith in the “system”. Add social and demographic divisions and things become even worse. Hispanics will soon be the majority in states like Texas, California and Florida. This is like a red rag for disadvantaged white Americans. Let's not even go into what African Americans face. It is is this toxic mess that has thrown up someone like Donald Trump as a serious candidate.

Can something similar happen in India? Well, it would be silly to compare the two countries but social and economic fault lines in India are as acute. Education and exposure through the information technology revolution has led to an explosion in economic aspirations of literally hundreds of millions of Indians. They will no longer be satisfied by doles, platitudes and promises. It is virtually impossible for any government to fulfill these exploding economic aspirations. Inevitably, there is a loss of faith in the “system”. Simultaneously, India is witnessing an unprecedented social churn. Hitherto oppressed castes and classes are simply not willing to accept status quo. The traditionally privileged are pushing back. Often, this churn is bound to become violent. To that extent, the conditions are ripe for a Donald Trump type of demagogue to rise in India.

But the chances of that happening are very very bleak. That is because the Republic of India is actually the United States of India. Each state and each region has its own social, economic and political dynamics. A Mamata Bannerjee might be the uncrowned queen of West Bengal. But would devotees of “Amma” Jayalalitha even give her a second glance? In reality, state elections can throw up divisive demagogues as powerful regional leaders. But a national level Trump? Very unlikely.

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