Nitish Kumar, the Bihar CM, once compared Narendra Modi, the Indian Premier to Donald Trump then fighting a primary contest to secure nomination of the Republican Party for the presidency of the United States. That spoke volume about the limits of Nitish’s understanding of either the persona of Donald Trump or the US politics.
With the conclusion of the Republican Party convention on July 21, 2016 and Donald Trump winning the party nomination, I all along mused Donald Trump was analogous to "our" Lalu Yadav in ways more than one.
Just as Lalu was degraded after his involvement and frequent incarceration in the fodder scam; and for a variety of other reasons, it was believed, the people of Bihar wouldn’t listen to him again, Donald Trump was also not given due consideration by the political pundits to begin with. Like Lalu, Donald was presented as a political entertainer. Every one said he would not win. But, one after another, this reality TV personality left sixteen of his rivals behind, many of whom were accomplished governors, senators and party establishment candidates.
From bankruptcies in real-estate business to controversial Trump University, Donald’s image, like that of Lalu, was soiled. However, in the voice of their respective followers, the pet answer was: "So what? All politicians are the same."
As a crowd puller, both Lalu and Donald exploited the emotions and sensitivities of their constituents with their demagoguery: Blue-collared whites for Donald and Yadavs for Lalu.
In the Republican Party, Americans wanted a leadership different from the traditional mould. They had genuine fear of illegal immigration, unemployment among the non-college whites, off-shoring of industries, budgetary-deficit, and use of drugs or terrorist violence. Donald Trump, with no experience in public office, was successful in arousing that fear multifold and presented himself as an alternative candidate who had solutions to all the problems.
In a similar vein, Lalu was able to accentuate the fear of his base in Bihar by presenting a picture that if the BJP came to power, they would be engineering communal riots. Much more effective than this was his admonition to Other Backward Castes (OBC) that the reservation they enjoyed in government services or the ascendancy of power they had over the Forwards since the 90’s would be taken away by the BJP-led coalition government.
Like Donald’s in a different context, Lalu’s relentless hammering that it was a fight of the Backwards against the Forwards worked. The opponents of Lalu and Donald both had their due contribution in the building up of that scenario too.
Another very interesting comparison between Lalu and Donald was with regard to their offspring. Lalu has multiple kids from his one wife, Rabri Devi. Donald has five kids from three wives. Donald took intense interest in the education of his kids and trained them by his own side in multiple Trump businesses. Professionally qualified, his two sons and the elder daughter Ivanka proved to be very helpful to Donald in his business and the presidential primary campaign.
Ivanka, with her grace and charm, presented a softer and much more acceptable image of Donald Trump. She eventually introduced her father on the final night of the party convention where Donald made the acceptance speech. Ivanka’s appearance was received well.
In contrast, the story of Lalu’s two sons and the eldest daughter is grim and depressing. Whereas the sons, with all the privilege of a viciously pampered politician father, couldn’t go beyond the 9th grade, the daughter could manage to acquire an MBBS degree through all questionable means. She didn’t know what to do with that undeserved title. It fell on the haplessly wretched father to set his kids up on a career path that is now paid for by the public money and supported by the majority of Lalu’s caste who are credulous, vulnerable and easily enticed.
The offspring of Donald will have to find time to do politics, whereas Lalu’s three kids will have nothing to do if removed from politics.
Lalu Yadav stole fruits of the works of a relatively well meaning CM, consolidated the Muslim-Yadav-Koeri-Kurmi majority and called for almost an ethnic war against the rest; Donald is also getting the disgruntled white majority voters behind himself against the minority Hispanics and blacks.
How can the two be the ideal role models for the people of their respective two countries? One may continue to wonder!
In the end, the Biharis share one inglorious reputation with the Republican primary voters of the United States of America: The Biharis are chastised nationally and internationally for bringing back Lalu at the helm in Bihar politics, the Republicans are laughed at all across the world for electing Donald Trump as their presidential candidate.
A court-convicted felon Lalu enjoys the courtship and good offices of the Chief Minister; Donald, a real-estate tycoon is at the doorstep of the White House.
Dr. Binoy Shanker Prasad hails from Darbhanga and currently resides with his family in Dundas, Ontario (Canada). A former UGC teacher fellow (at JNU) in India and Fulbright scholar in the USA, he has taught politics and authored conference papers, articles and chapters on Bihar in previously published books in the United States, India, and Canada.
Dr. Prasad administers a facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/OverseasBihari and has sponsored “Aware Citizenship Campaign” at a micro-level in his home-town.