No Indian leader arouses so many emotions as does Prime Minister Narendra Modi and no leader has been compared to so many other leaders, Indian and global, dead and alive.
A look at some of the comparisons that have been made in Modi’s career and also the recent US visit…
Mahatma Gandhi: US Secretary of State John Kerry surprised everyone by saying, “We want history to remember what Prime Minister Modi did for India’s development and what Mahatma Gandhi did for its freedom in same breath.”
Modi haters must really be squirming at that statement. One enthusiastic NRI also said out Madison Gardens on live TV, “If you want to know what Mahatma Gandhi is like, look inside!
When Modi visited Martin Luther King’s memorial, the Washington Post drew parallels between King drawing inspiration from Gandhi and the Obama-Modi partnership saying, “history seemed to come to full circle.”
Barack Obama: Many have compared Obama’s campaign of hope in 2008 and the “Yes we can” slogans with that of Modi’s 2014 election campaign. Both Obama and Modi are rank outsiders who stormed to victory on a campaign of hope.
Ronald Reagan: During the April-May campaign itself, a lot of foreign commentators compared Modi to the former US President. David Cohen, who served in the George W Bush administration went ahead and wrote a column saying, Is India about to elect its Reagan?
During Modi’s recent US visit, Republican leader Pete Sessions said that Modi would become “the next Ronald Reagan for the world.” This was featured in Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show. Modi made it to John Oliver’s show too meaning that Modi reached prime time in the US.
Sardar Vallabhai Patel: The Iron Man of India may have been a Congressman, but you could be forgiven for thinking he was from the BJP. First he was likened to BJP patriarch LK Advani. When Advani faded from the scene, many BJP workers started comparing Modi to Patel.
Indira Gandhi: Of course his detractors keep saying that Modi is more like Indira than Patel. That could have to do with the fact that Indira imposed Emergency and Modi is portrayed as an autocrat by Modi haters.
Margaret Thatcher: If Modi is compared to Indira and Indira was compared to the former UK Prime Minister then it should come as a surprise to nobody that Modi has been compared to Thatcher too.
In fact the list goes on and on. This has been happening throughout the year and the recent US visit only reinforced this.
Positively he has been compared with Chinese reformer Deng Xiaoping, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Singapore patriarch Lee Kuan Yew. All three are known for development in their respective countries and that is Modi’s calling card.
Negatively he has been compared with Slobodan Milošević (as he was charged with genocide), former US President Richard Nixon, Turkey hardliner Recep Tayyip Erdogan and even former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
For Modi critics he is a hardliner and someone who pays scant respect to human rights.
One innovative commentator even compared Modi to Ariel Sharon. The Sabra and Shatila massacre in 1982 saw the death of hundreds of Palestinians and Lebanese. Sharon was Defence Minister and he resigned but still made Prime Minister.
Similar parallels were drawn with Godhra.
Of course by far the most common comparison with Modi has been Nazi leader Adolf Hitler. Right from when the Godhra rights happened; opponents of Modi have been throwing the words Hitler, Nazi, genocide and holocaust with such alarming regularity, that even the Israeli embassy in India issued a statement condemning the linkage.
Irony reached its height when on a TV channel, an activist condemned Modi with a photo of Mao Zedong in the background in her home. Some historians have dubbed Mao the greatest mass murderer of the twentieth century and he may have been responsible for a whopping 70 million deaths!
If the Communist lobby ever called Modi a Mao, they would think that they were giving a compliment, though the other camp would see it as a huge insult.
Another ironic name-calling is “Fascist”, more so because his main rival Congress President Sonia Gandhi is from Italy and her father was part of Benito Mussolini’s Fascist set-up!
One is sure that if Modi was ever asked what leader he would want to be compared with and what he would like to be called, he would probably say, “Just let me be Modi!”
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here.