US mid-term elections & Karnataka by-polls: Some similar lessons for Trump & Modi
Bengaluru, Nov 10: Two elections took place in two of the world's biggest democracies. None of them were full-fledged polls though. While the United States went to the mid-term elections, the South Indian state of Karnataka saw by-elections in five constituencies - on the same date of November 6.
Though mid-term elections or by-elections are not always followed closely, but in case of the elections in the US and India on November 6, political observers, media as well as the common people were keenly interested. The reason was nothing but to know how the mood is against the top leaders of the respective democracies - President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, before they face the electorate in a full-fledged election.
Mid-terms in US, by-polls in Karnataka gauged the public mood against powerful leaders
Though there are no mid-term elections in India as like in the US but the state elections and by-elections that come up time and again during an entire tenure of a party/alliance at the Centre constitute in a way the spirit of mid-term elections that gauge the mood against the national leadership. The Karnataka by-polls were once such test, especially after a few months of the Assembly election itself in which the ruling BJP was left licking its wound.
The mid-term polling in the US was a much bigger affair compared to the by-polls in five constituencies in Karnataka but the results on both occasions suggested something similar and that is: no matter how strong a leader/party/idea becomes, it cannot take itself for granted in a democracy which has its own invisible pressure.
Both Trump and Modi represent an overwhelming ideology in their respective countries that are majoritarian and leave very little for the minority or non-conformist voices. Their majoritarian rule serves them well and apparently, there is very little that their opponents can do when they are in full flow.
Be it through inciting nationalist sentiments or playing the victim card to win people's sympathy, both Trump and Modi have similar ways to keep their constituencies remain loyal and their Oppositions find very little option to match their personality cults. But yet, as these elections showed in the two hemispheres, even powerful leaders can face a serious test in a democracy for it is the people who have the final say and not always do the politicians can fathom the depth in the commoner's mind.
Trump lost House; BJP lost Bellary
In the US, the Republicans led by Trump lost the majority in the House of Representatives to the Democrats who were having a tough time for some years now. However, the Grand Old Party maintained its control over the Senate, the upper chamber. It means Trump will not face any impeachment danger but will have to live a tougher life as resistance will be more marked in the House.
In Karnataka, the bypoll results loss doesn't mean that Modi's end is near but it definitely means that the Lok Sabha election of 2019 will not be a cakewalk as many of the BJP's supporters had thought, provided the Opposition puts up a credible unity. The win in the BJP's fortress - Bellary - will certainly boost the Opposition. Just as the mid-term polls in the US throw some light on the presidential election of 2020, the Karnataka by-polls have emphasised on a model of Opposition unity which needs to be replicated nationally during the 2019 general elections.
The Republicans will bank on Trump to overcome the future challenges, just as the BJP will rely heavily on Modi. But at the same time, these elections showed that the two leaders also need to soften their respective political style and address things form a more inclusive point of view. Till they accomplish this essential task, both Trump and Modi will have some worry even though they continue to remain the foremost leaders of their respective nations after the latest round of polls.