Modi not Brexit

Too many people are tying themselves in knots linking Trump to Brexit. A ready made example exists in India.

Modi not Brexit

Trump’s success is regularly likened to Brexit. The non-official Brexit leaders (Farage et al) have quickly sought to build a single narrative across the two. There are many similarities, however, the best off-the-peg comparison is the rise of Narendra Modi, the Indian prime minister.

Modi has spent much of the past decade as an international pariah. As the chief minister of the Indian state of Gujarat during some appalling religious violence in which he was implicated (although later found by courts to not be involved). As a result, he was unable to travel to the UK or the US despite the Gujarati diaspora being a large and successful immigrant group in those countries.

When he won the Indian general election with a huge landslide the diplomatic language changed. British prime ministers have made the pilgrimage to India to boost trade. Modi came to London and sold out Wembley.

In India, free speech is under pressure and religious tensions (and violence) are increasing. Modi has not fomented it, nor has he made much effort to stop it. For the sake of balance, it’s worth pointing out good things are happening too. Moves to implement a single, federal sales tax have tangibly progressed, the economy continues to grow, inflation is coming under control.

As with Modi, with Trump we have seen diplomatic efforts to reach out to him. If you want to learn how the system will respond to Trump, look at how it responded to Modi.

India Shining

From a campaigning perspective, it’s also worth look at an earlier Indian election.

Back in 2004, the BJP, a large Indian political party, was in power and entering a general election with a growing economy. It launched a campaign called India Shining. It was all sunny skies, bustling cities, beautiful seas and forests and mountains. It spoke of a confident, happy country with a bright future.

The BJP lost the election.

Its campaign failed to speak to the India which wasn’t improving. The villages without electricity or plumbing. Or the slum dwellers being evicted to make way for Mumbai’s latest skyscraper. Or those whose incomes couldn’t keep pace with India’s high inflation rate. The country was going quickly but so was the price of onions.

A lot of the rebuttals during the Brexit debate talked about the UK being the fastest growing economy in the G7. That’s great but it doesn’t speak to those whose incomes weren’t growing. You can’t talk about a strong economy to people who don’t feel its benefits.

Trump spoke to the disaffected. Hillary was a continuation. A continuation of Bill (during whose Presidency she was very prominent) and a continuation of Obama (in whose administration she was Secretary of State).

India wasn’t shining. The UK wasn’t shining. The US wasn’t shining.

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