New Delhi: Why and how should an Indian fan of Donald Trump die of cardiac just because
the US President tested ‘positive’ for Corona ?
American elections are over. Americans voted in one of the most divisive presidential polls wherein Democrat Joe Biden challenged incumbent Republican leader Donald Trump. But the keenly watched American presidential polls left one or two interesting experiences in India as well.
A little known Bussa Krishna in Telangana made news, unfortunately though, in his death. Krishna’s worship of Trump was elevated to a different level when it was reported that the world’s ‘most powerful man’ Trump was hospitalized with COVID-19. Krishna shut himself in his room, refused to eat or drink, and on October 11, 2020, he breathed his last.
Well, fan following can be real madness. Was Krisha’s adulation locally in his hometown and the state of Telangana and in general sense in India viewed as normal? It is more often usual for Indians to see a God in their heroes; and there is no male chauvinism in it. There are a lot many ‘Goddesses’ too.
Many decades back, religion was described as the opium of people. This was a truism for all, it was a global phenomenon.
But when it comes to hero worshiping of ‘God and even living Man and Women’ and the blind admiration; South Asians and specially Indians can easily outdo others. No wonder, political ‘chamchagiri’ is a given minimum qualification in India!
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s admirers are mocked as ‘Bhakts – meaning diehard devotees’.
A ready reference to all these is the life and death of Bussa Krishna and the Trump phenomenon, otherwise the death of the 33-year-old man could have gone unreported. Several popular politicians and film personalities are worshiped, and even temples have been built for them in states like Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.
And, guess what; everyone is unfazed ! It is so normal. Krishna used to ‘regularly worship’ the statue and even bathed it with milk. Which American voter in the world’s ‘most powerful’ democracy can match such dedication and admiration?
The ‘hero worshipping’ and unprecedented dedication vis-a-vis film stars and other celebrities often make Indians ‘unique’. Among all, cine star Rajinikanth’s fan following in the southern state of Tamil Nadu is huge. Some years back, Rajinikanth had fallen sick and hundreds of his fans ate food from the floor with the belief that such a gesture would bring back the star to his normal health.
“A reason for people treating MGR and Jayalalithaa in Tamil Nadu as demigods is their ‘Robin Hood image’ – robbing the rich and handing over doles to poor like mid day meal scheme in schools, Amma canteens providing good lunch at nominal payment or issuing of cycles to female students and laptops to students and also television sets for poor,” says a senior Tamil journalist K R Sudhaman.
He further says, “In the 1990s, Jayalalitha admirers even printed life-size posters showing her as Virgin Mary, but when Christian community protested, the party cadres withdrew and removed those posters”.
The poor and hapless Indians, suffering civic indifference, poor health facilities, and living below the poverty line, often take film worlds and lifestyles of the celebrities, something like an escape route from the merciless slavery of daily existence. They can think of such a lifestyle as heavenly, and those who enjoy it are gods.
Perhaps this is why film heroes often are seen performing ‘extra-human’ antics on screen. With Rajinikanth, a scene using pistol fire to light his cigarette was such a big hit, and common people would clap in cinema halls, without ridiculing the gestures rationally.
Poverty is a major reason. For example, between the 1960 and 1980s, almost half of Tamil Nadu were constantly below the poverty line. Even in circa 2020, in some districts of Tamil Nadu, more than half of the population live below the poverty line—meaning not enough to have a full meal a day.
The social psychology of the Indian poor helps look at politicians as a demi-god.
Politicians or the ‘doers’ are seen as dream merchants. None other India’s current Prime Minister Narendra Modi used these people’s
aspirations as part of his political thought process.
In 2014, when Modi campaigned with a slogan: ‘Achhey din ane waley haen’ (Good days will be here soon) if he is elected to power. He and his party won with a thumping majority. And he was re-elected in 2019. People of India still gave him five more years to deliver the ‘good days’.
Perhaps, every Indian has been longing for good days for decades. They never had good days during the British colonial days and the dreams persist even in the new century.
The story with post-2014 days also remains the same. Indians are waiting for good days to come. In November 2016, when Modi enforced demonetisation, commoners had to wait in long queues to collect some Rs 2000 cash from ATMs and bank branches; yet common people did not punish their ruler. Modi’s popularity saved the NDA ?
With regard to GST, the uniform tax reform, Rahul Gandhi even called it ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’ – named after Hindi film’s worst known negative protagonist. Yet people think ‘Good Days’ are coming and they do not mind making these small or big sacrifices!
Coming back to our subject, the demi-God image helps politics. Tushar Bhadra, who lives in Modi’s parliamentary constituency of Varanasi says the ‘good days’ have “different connotations for different people”.
Having a Ram temple built in a controversial mosque site is part of that promised ‘good days’ to crores of Hindus, who believed that Islamic rulers had razed hundreds of temples over the centuries.
In many cases, the fan following actually crosses religious and caste barriers. Actress Khusbu Sundar was born Muslim but her silverscreen career both in Hindi films and in southern movies made her immensely popular.
Khusbu (screen name) retained her name and fame. Her fan following is so much that the pro-Hindu BJP is now banking on her popularity as she was given primary and active membership in the saffron party recently.
If it is a risk, it is definitely a well thought out strategy by the Hindu radical party. But there are anecdotes and events that actually throw up lessons for public figures.
In the 1980s, popular film star Amitabh Bachchan was handed over a piece of paper at a public meet. The missive was very very categorical, “I am your huge fan and so are my brothers, cousins and friends. But we do not approve of your joining politics”.
Popular mass leaders like Indira Gandhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee were humbled in elections for different reasons of course.
That Indira Gandhi was hailed as Goddess Durga, for leading a successful war against Pakistan in 1971 did not help electorally when her popularity fell due to the imposition of Emergency.
The communists ruled the state of West Bengal in eastern India with iron fist and populism for 34 years but in the same province the Communists Party of India (Marxists) were voted out of power in 2011 and could not win a single seat in 2019.
Are the same Leftists no longer important from an electoral point of view in this state for the battle of 2021? This was unthinkable even in 2011 !
Sports stars also face people’s indifference. In 2015 World Cup cricket, after India lost badly in the semi final match against Australia, cricket star Virat Kohli was ridiculed for his ‘love affairs’ with actress Anushka Sharma.
One Twitter message even said: “Kohli misunderstood skipper’s instruction… spend more time with sharma…. He thought of Anushka Sharma instead of batsman Rohit Sharma”.
Mental sickness and poverty can often make the suffering faceless Indians appear crazy by some definitions.
Now cut to Trump-Biden battle:
Some scenarios for the US Presidential polls are being presumed and analysed. One prediction is Democrat Biden winning the ‘war’ as he enjoyed a big lead nationally and smaller margins in Florida, Arizona, North Carolina, and Michigan and Pennsylvania.
Second possibility is Trump retaining the big office and winning a second term.
Of course, the key to his tale of success would be what the voters have done in hubs such as in Pennsylvania and Florida. Of course, this also means all surveys have failed.
Failures are the pillars of success – who said ? The dictum does not work for poll prediction makers and armed-chair experts both in the US and in vibrant democracies like India.