Modi's US visit: What Trump could learn from him
With each passing month, if not week, questions about Trump being able to continue in a way which does not harm his administration and the country are being raised by not only the opposition, but also the county's public, media and his own party.
The controversies include the relationship he and his close aides have had with a foreign power like Russia, which have already led to dismissals of senior officials, to allegations of Trump attempting at obstructing any investigation into such a matter.
It is under such circumstances that he is going to host India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the leader of the largest democracy in the world later this month. And there is a thing or two that the US President could learn from looking at Modi's political journey, when it comes to not only handling the politics of a democracy but also in how to govern a country after being considered a hugely divisive figure.
Why Trump should learn from Modi
For a leader like Trump who has acted and shown a behavior maybe of a level never seen by any democratic leader, at least not in the modern era and that too of the US. It could be easily said that he could learn something from most leaders in the world.
But the choice of Modi would be more apt than most other leaders, given the similar nature of not their countries or the diversity of the population in both, but also other personal similarities such as belonging to the Right of the politics and victory for both was thought to be impossible at a point of time, among other such points.
And a point which could be considered a difference between the two can also be seen as an important reason why Trump should look at Modi's style of leadership. The difference being that while the President has always been a businessman who has never before held elected office, the Indian prime minister is a career politician with huge experience in running a government.
So given Trump's track record there is no end to what he could learn from a leader like Modi, whose popularity seems to have grown since getting elected whereas Trump's has gone from bad to worse.
Difference between election campaigning and running a government
This point becomes important as both leaders ran an extremely aggressive election campaign, which could be related to the fact that they were fighting the tag of being outsiders to the conventional political world.
This makes the difference between political rhetoric used during campaigning and the actual art and policy of running a government, the first and single most important point Trump would notice if he took a look at Modi's political journey.
And while Modi was able to adapt smoothly from his avatar before elections to that more suited for the office of the prime minister, Trump seems to have been unable to do so. Though the transition includes features from the tone and tenor of the leader on all issues, especially in relation with political opponents, such a change is of utmost importance on the domestic policy front.
Modi, who was critical of schemes brought in by the previous government of his opponents before assuming office, he adopted them but has tried to improve and change them for better results. Schemes like National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREGA) and Aadhaar can bee seen as examples of this.
Continuity along with improvement are an essential part of running a country and while Modi seems to have learnt that lesson since taking over, this seems to have been lost on Trump.
He seems hell-bent on throwing the 'baby out with the bath water,' as he is attempting to totally reverse and throw out, decisions and policies that were brought in by his predecessor, Barack Obama. The President had attacked Obama's schemes such as the popular insurance known as "Obamacare," during campaigning and has now tried to repeal and replace it with his own version, which is highly unpopular as compared to that of Obama's, as it will take away health benefits from many.
These are just a few examples proving such a point when it comes to domestic policy, but sadly for Trump plenty exist on the foreign policy as well.
Foreign Affairs depend on the leader
Even if foreign relations with other countries are not totally dependent on the approach of the leader, and include the geo-political realities of the world and the needs of the country, the reality that Trump presidency has proved so far is that the leader matters more than other considerations.
Foreign policy of the US, the most powerful country in the world, under Trump at present can be clearly be described as a chaos leading to a violent departure from that of Presidents before him, as his policies not only at home but foreign too have brought it close to a breaking of a harmonious relationship with countries considered US's long term allies. This, like changes on the domestic policy front, seems to have been brought about by Trump's agenda of reversing every step taken by Obama.
These include his statements on NATO and the role the US plays in it, to pulling out of the Paris agreement on climate change, which had brought all the countries together on fighting the menace, with the his country leading the way.
Other European powers such as Germany, France among others that had once not only looked at the US for leadership but had welcomed it too, are now looking at other avenues when it comes to international alliances. The idea that such a change has followed soon after his taking over does not bode well for Trump's leadership qualities. Especially as he has continued on the criticism that he unleashed against foreign leaders such as Germany's Chancellor, Angela Merkel, among others.
Though Modi too has his critics on foreign policy, even they would find it difficult to fault his attempts to reach out to other nations and their leaders. Such an approach though clearly not the final step in cementing strong and meaningful relations can definitely be considered the first in the right direction.
While he has gone on to develop a personal relationship with leaders in order to develop better relations between countries, Trump has let his campaign rhetoric come in the way of his county's foreign policy and how he has dealt with the heads of other countries.
It would be beneficial for not only him as President, but also his country and the world that he adopts at least some aspects of Modi's approach of reaching out to other countries, which would be even more beneficial in the case of US given it's importance and standing in the world.
Social Media and the leader
The world has changed, and so have mediums by which leaders communicate with the people of their country and those around the globe. Social media platforms like Twitter play an increasingly important role in it.
Both Trump and Modi are the examples of leaders who have adapted to such a change. Modi, who was one of the first ones in the country to do it, has used it effectively to talk about important matters and stay directly in touch with the people, in particular the youth.
Trump's use of Twitter, on the other hand, has been one of the leading causes behind controversy's that have engulfed his administration. With the President time and again publishing tweets that his aides have found difficult to defend.
With early morning posting on it by him with gaffes like the recent "covfefe" tweets or those criticizing senior officials or commenting on policies have landed him in trouble time and again.
The old saying that "in politics, perception is reality" seems to matter little to him. As if he was not losing the real battle, he has almost certainly lost the battle of perception, which platforms like Twitter play a big a part in building, and even more so in a country like the US with an extremely high number of users of the platform.
The idea that social media is supposed to be a way for the benefit of the public and the leader, and Trump instead of reaping benefits from its usage has been able to convert it into another way for giving the media and the people to showcase the failures of and under his leadership.
And he would do well to learn from Modi's example of how the medium, can become a way of not only communication but also maintaining and increasing a following. As can be seen by his ability of changing his perception, from once being treated as a pariah post the 2002 Gujarat riots controversy, to now being seen as a mass leader among all ages of people including the internet savvy youth of the country.
A change in Trump's way of handling such platforms can still ensure a change on how he is perceived, as Modi's emergence as a leader has shown that such tools can be used effectively to emerge out of controversies instead of getting into them.
Though such a list could go on, it would be deemed fit to stop here as the reality is with Trump being Trump, it is hard to imagine him accepting a fault in his approach and willingly wanting to make a change. It would also be hard for those around him to argue for such a change with him given the success he has had in his career being who he is.
And his attempts at changing his image is even more difficult given that while Modi came to power on the back of a majority not seen in the country for decades, Trump won the presidency even though he lost the popular vote.
As the leaders of the most powerful and the largest democracy's in the world meet, while Modi would try to get what is best for India in terms of relations between the two countries, Trump would do well to take a sneak into the prime minister's playbook and steal a few steps from his game plan at tackling the situation that he seems to have found himself in.