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Will “Trump Raj” in the U.S. and “Jungle Raj” in Bihar return?

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I do not know how justified it is to draw parallels between the U.S. Presidential election and the Assembly election in Bihar. I live in the U.S. but watch and read about Indian politics almost daily and thus the justification. Bihar’s population is about 145 million, about 40% that of the United States. Bihar was ruled by Lalu Yadav’s family for a long time, later known as “Jungle Raj,” because of Lalu’s chaotic style of governance, propensity for personal gains, and many scandals. This election contest is between the incumbent party, an alliance with Modi’s ruling party, and the heir apparent of Lalu dynasty with no prior political experience. However, no one should dare hold political inexperience against anyone since Trump won in 2016 who had neither the political experience nor a family history of being in politics unlike Bihar.

The election battle grounds are heating up and are in the final stretches in Bihar and the U.S. with Modi playing role in both. In Bihar, he has held rallies to protect and preserve his own political alliance where polling begins on October 28 in three phases and election results anticipated on November 10. A good friendship between Modi and Trump, at least politically speaking since Howdy Modi event in Houston, is influencing Indian American community to rally for Trump Raj. There is evidence that Modi government, directly or indirectly, has advocated for Trump Raj to return. I have raised the issue earlier if India is ready if Trump Raj did not return. I hope and believe that Modi has the knowhow and diplomatic skills to quickly build strong relations with the U.S. if there is no Trump Raj.

The election in the U.S. appears to be highly divisive, and perhaps toxic, more than ever before between the incumbent Trump and Biden who has been in politics for more than 4 decades. The U.S. goes to polls on November 3 although more than 50 million of 150 million voters, ( in fact it has gone to about 58 million on October 25) have already voted by mail (or early in person where permitted) partly due to the fear of COVID related infections because of overcrowding on November 3. Additionally, large number of people with leaning for Biden, have voted early to strongly counter the unsubstantiated conspiracy theory by Trump alleging fraud in mailed ballots. The unprecedented volume of ballots before November 3 must be counted only after the elections close which, in all probability, may delay the declaration of the winner by about a week to almost match that of Bihar on or about November 10. The election outcome being challenged in the courts cannot be ruled out particularly if Trump Raj does not return. President Trump has stated it more than once.

One major issue in the U.S. elections is the unprecedented challenges and over 224,000 deaths due to COVID 19. The number of people testing positive, rate of hospitalization, and deaths are surging daily what some call “October Surprise.” Biden has openly called out and challenged Trump about COVID 19. Trump continues to defy scientific facts about COVID although he, his wife, and the youngest son were corona victims themselves. As late as a couple days ago, Trump facing Biden in the Presidential candidate debate said that corona is turning the corner, a blatant distortion of the truth.

Biden has made the issue of Trump’s lack of leadership and poor handling of coronavirus calling it “Dark Winters” ahead under Trump Raj. It seems to be working in Biden’s favor. Even if we believe that death is inevitable on a predetermined date, the family emotions and mourning associated with death cannot and must not be minimized. Trump has shown no emotions, empathy or sympathy for the sacrifices people made, and never acknowledged. He continues to treat the “dead” merely as numbers and has been in denial that Trump Raj could manage it better.  When asked if he could do anything different/better, Trump simply refused to take the responsibility and emphatically said “no” for doing anything different. What a human tragedy of unprecedented scale in the most powerful democracy and richest country in the world under Trump Raj?

Bihar had Jungle Raj for a long time under Lalu and family which ended in the last Assembly election 5 years ago when Modi emerged on the scene. Under Trump’s Raj of about 4 years, at least about half of the population in the U.S. feel neglected, frustrated, and dissatisfied with his own style of governance. The human decency and dignity have disappeared in the White House. Trump has disparaged anyone and everyone who offered advice/comment against his own including his tantrums against White House press core and free press in general.  The American democracy, freedom, and Presidential decorum, which have stood the test of time for hundreds of years, became the things of the past in Trump Raj. It is uncertain that Trump’s political alliance with Modi will let Trump turn the tide among Indian Americans’ to vote for Trump Raj to continue. I personally don’t have a strong liking for either candidate, but I already voted and hopefully chose the “winner” and the better of the two.

Consider the impact of Trump’s latest statement in a public forum calling the” friendly” India filthy (“Look at India. It’s filthy. The air is filthy.”). I was totally stunned when Trump said it during the debate. In my view it was neither a smart act nor warranted to defend his own policy of withdrawing the U.S. from Paris Accord.  Let us not deny the truth of India’s pollution problems, but also not ignore that Trump as a leader or anyone else has no right to minimize another sovereign country. It may be a mere statement of fact but would the Americans like the U.S. labelled as “Murderous America” considering the rate of murders being one of the highest in the world. Trump should know better that Modi, his own friend, has been very proactive in enforcing better pollution standards and building a cleaner and greener India. I should not be too surprised knowing that Trump discredited the most respected scientist, Anthony Fauci, who served on his coronavirus team and many other Presidents with honor and dignity for public health issues. I hate to say but the truth is that Trump appears totally incapable of separating his persona (as a controller of Trump empire) from the role of the President of the United States. He neither thinks before writing and talking nor listens to the advice of his advisors what will serve him well as President. I wonder how much damage he has done himself to the possibility of his own dream of Trump Raj to be a reality.

The vaccine against COVID 19 has become another political football being kicked around whatever suits one’s political ideology. Trump has not failed in promising the vaccine being around the corner while the informed opinion of most experts, including those in his own administration, cautiously suggesting that vaccine may not be available until March/April 2021. Trump never talked about the importance of vaccine’s efficacy and safety to gain people’s trust and build confidence. If there was a miracle that the vaccine gets successfully launched as Trump keeps saying, fewer people may accept it as being safe. Biden, on the other hand, is following the advice of the experts about COVID 19 and the vaccine. However, he has pledged free COVID vaccine for everybody; who knows if it is just an election stunt or will become a reality in the end. The political leadership under Modi is also promising free COVID vaccine for all in Bihar elections to win favors from the voters at the ballot box.

Free and fair elections are the heart and soul of any thriving democracy which empower people to choose right over wrong and good over evil. Historically, India and the U.S. have done well on both counts except some “dark” periods now and then. In my humble view, India cannot afford Bihar to go back to the Jungle Raj of the past. We need Bihar development to continue for the greater good and not return to the anarchy, corruption, total failure of law and order and the family dynasty. In the U.S., it is my view that the Trump Raj has dumb downed our very foundation as a free society. President Trump has consistently shown the pathological behavior of not speaking the truth. According to one estimate, Trump has distorted the facts about the deadly COVID 38 times using phrases like it is going away; it will go away soon, it is turning corner etc. We must acknowledge that the U.S. under Trump Raj has done well in keeping the stock market up and thus helping the small investors keep their portfolios in good shape. However, it has made the rich richer and the tax concessions during Trump Raj have helped big corporations, like Trump’s own empire, get bigger.

I am not an Astrologer to predict the future nor want to second guess the winner in either Bihar or the U.S. because of the complex issues and an open and neck to neck contest. But both elections have the most serious issue and challenges associated with the deadly coronavirus pandemic which is not going away anytime soon. I am fearful that Trump Raj’s return will worsen things because of Trump’s total disregard for science and the experts and no long term public health policy.

Let the voters wisely make their choice in Bihar if they liked and want the yesteryear of Jungle Raj. Likewise, let the American voters, including those of us of Indian heritage, choose who would better protect the dignity of the White House and restore the U.S. image globally. Let us bet on the Best of America which it has been at home and globally and not just Making America Great Again. Let us hope that American democracy restores the DNA of decency and dignity and not disparagement no matter who moves in the White House for the next four years.

Finally, as responsible citizens of our respective countries with established democracies, we must honor and cherish the people’s will- whether it is the return of Jungle Raj, Trump Raj or xxx Raj.

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