While Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not achieved the degree of “state capture” that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has, he is also 11 years behind. And the path the two leaders are on is similar enough to invite comparison – and provoke concern.
Narendra Modi, a leader in Erdoğan's mould
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power 11 years after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, yet his approach to power has already struck remarkable similarities with his Turkish counterpart's, Indian politician Shashi Tharoor wrote in an article published on the Project Syndicate website.
Both politicians come from humble backgrounds that have become a trademark part of their political personas, and both have adopted populist tactics, harnessed their respective religions, and pit themselves against “established secular elites,” wrote Tharoor.
Further, both have adopted similar approaches to history, presenting citizens with a glorified past that they promise to return to, with Erdoğan turning to the Ottoman Empire and Modi vowing to revive the glories of Ancient India.
Helped along by a friendly approach to business – which according to Tharoor is another similarity between the pair – Erdoğan made use of the booming global economy when he came to power in 2003 to begin transforming the country.
According to Tharoor, he has made use of a “religious identity, triumphalist majoritarianism, hyper-nationalism, increasing authoritarianism (including institutional dominance), constraints on the media, strong economic growth, and a compelling personal brand” to cement his position of supremacy at the head of Turkey since then.
“Whether consciously or unconsciously, Modi has adapted Erdoğan’s formula to his own effort to reshape India,” wrote Tharoor. “He has sought to marginalize Muslims and reinforce Hindu chauvinism. Minorities in general feel beleaguered, as Modi’s nationalism does not merely exclude them, but portrays them as traitors.”
As a result, the pair have a similarly polarising effect on voters, inspiring in equal amounts adulation and revulsion.
With both leaders soon facing elections, Erdoğan on Jun. 24 this year and Modi in Spring 2019, and each country facing similar economic difficulties, the formula trademarked by Erdoğan and imitated by Modi faces a difficult test.
Tharoor’s is not the first comparison drawn between the two leaders; Kashmiri journalist Basharat Peer’s book titled “A Question of Order: India, Turkey, and the Return of Strongmen” examines the rise of both authoritarian rulers elected through democratic means.