9 chilling similarities between Modi and Turkish president Erdogan

Mohammad Behzad Fatmi
Mohammad Behzad FatmiFeb 21, 2016 | 20:48

9 chilling similarities between Modi and Turkish president Erdogan

1. Political career: Early years of the first decade of the 21st century brought Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan into mainstream politics. Modi became chief minister of Gujarat in 2001 and Erdogan became prime minister of Turkey in 2003.

2. Right-wing and modest background: Modi was an active member of India's controversial right-wing organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) before becoming the chief minister of Gujarat and Erdogan was actively engaged in Turkey's now-banned Islamist political party Refah Partisi or the Welfare Party before holding the office of prime minister of Turkey. Apart from their right-wing affiliations, both these leaders hail from modest backgrounds which are at the heart of their popularity among the masses of their respective countries. The mix of right-wing and modest past has significantly helped them to relate to the majority of the population.


3. Strongman image: Modi's “Pakistan kills our soldiers, yet we feed them biryani” remark during his campaign for the general elections 2014 and Erdogan's angry exchange, popularly known as “One Minute”, with Israeli president Shimon Peres during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in 2009 helped build a strongman image of these leaders. The supporters of Modi see a leader in him who “roars like a lion” against the “terrorists of Pakistan” and the admirers of Erdogan see a “Caliph” in him who can give an “Ottoman slap” in the face of the "Israeli occupiers".

4. Development plank: Apart from their strongman image, the two leaders have also been carefully and enthusiastically projected as leaders who are committed to the development of their countries and making them economically stronger. Their model of development, however, is largely seen as favouring crony capitalists and big corporates, and ignoring the marginalised sections of the society.

5. Ascent to higher office of power in 2014: After successfully serving almost three terms in their previous jobs, both of them were elected to higher offices of power in 2014 in their respective countries. Modi ascended to the office of prime minister of India and Erdogan ascended to the office of president of Turkey.


6. Animosity towards critical media: Both these leaders have shown intolerance towards critical media on various occasions in their political career. However, in this regard, it will be unfair to equate Modi with Erdogan as Erdogan's record on crackdown on media dwarfs most of the other authoritarian leaders' record and Modi has not gone that far yet.

But it does not mean that Modi has not shown similar tendencies. In March 2015, the Modi government banned the documentary India's Daughter which was to be aired on NDTV. In August that year, the Union information and broadcasting ministry issued show cause notices to three major television channels (ABP News, NDTV 24x7 and AajTak) for airing “disrespectful” stories on Yakub Memon's hanging. As chief minister of Gujarat, in 2007, Modi infamously walked out of an interview with journalist Karan Thapar when faced with tough questions on his role in 2002 Gujarat riots.

7. Legislating morality: Last year, the Modi government blocked access to 857 pornographic websites in India, only to reverse its decision a few days later. Turkey, under Erdogan, is more determined towards this cause. The country’s government has been maintaining such a restriction for years now.


Many would wonder what is wrong in that. True, some studies suggest that pornography promotes sexual violence, objectification of women and so on, but watching it nonetheless is a personal affair. It is not the job of governments to legislate on what people should or should not do in their bedrooms.

Moreover, it should not be forgotten that almost all authoritarian governments use banning pornography as the first step towards gaining significant control over citizens' lives. If they succeed in garnering support for the first step, they move on to the next.

8. Intolerance towards dissenters and declaring them anti-national: Modi government's recent brutal crackdown on Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) on the exaggerated allegation of anti-national activities there shows its intolerance towards dissenters. Not only has the JNU Students' Union (JNUSU) president Kanhaiya Kumar been arrested on sedition charges, but almost the whole JNU community has been declared anti-national.

Similarly, hundreds of academics in Erdogan's Turkey are facing allegation of treachery after signing a petition which called on the government to end war and engage in dialogue with the Kurds in the south-eastern part of the country.

9. Authoritarian similarity between India under Modi and Turkey under Erdogan captured on camera: A photo in which a groaning activist on the ground is seen surrounded by violent men in a court of law in the national capital of India is strikingly similar to a photo in which a protester in Turkey was seen being kicked by an Erdogan aide in the disaster-hit town of Soma in 2014. These images are shameful beyond expression and speak a great deal about the state of democracy in these two countries.

Last updated: February 21, 2016 | 20:48
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