“At first everyone in the family thought he was mentally disturbed, but he kept at it and everyone eventually came around,” said Vivek Bukka, a cousin of the farmer, Bussa Krishna. When Trump announced he had the coronavirus, it devastated Krishna. The farmer posted a tearful video on Facebook, in which he said: “I feel very sad that my god, Trump, has contracted the coronavirus. I ask everyone to pray for his speedy recovery.”
He stopped eating to show solidarity with his idol’s suffering from COVID-19, his family said. He fell into a deep depression. On Sunday, he died of cardiac arrest. Krishna’s devotion had made him into a minor celebrity in India, and he was the subject of headlines. His death made news across India. Vivek said his cousin had been physically fit and had no health problems or history of heart disease. There is no evidence linking Krishna’s death to his fasting.
There is no indication that the White House or Trump — who said he had recovered from the virus and felt “powerful” after being treated with a cocktail of drugs — was aware of his biggest fan in India. Many of the country’s urban intellectuals dislike the American president, and he is regularly mocked on social media platforms. But the president has support in other corners of Indian society. A February study by the Pew Research Center found that 56 per cent of people surveyed in India said that Trump would “do the right thing when it comes to world affairs,” up from 16 per cent when he was elected. Trump’s popularity in some parts of India is notable because the cult of personality he has tried to cultivate — an unapologetically brash figure leading the US to a bright new future while espousing “America First” — mirrors how India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, projects himself to his own supporters.
Krishna, a widowed farmer in his 30s who lived in the village of Konne in Telangana, had been a Trump devotee for about four years. He became a fan when the president appeared to him in a dream, his relatives said, and predicted that India’s national cricket squad would beat its arch-rival, Pakistan, in a match the next day. India won, Vivek said, “and from that day he started worshipping Donald Trump.”
But the farmer also admired the president as a leader, said Vivek, 25, who lives near Hyderabad. His cousin did not speak English, and the local news outlets where he lived paid scant attention to American politics. So he relied on Vivek to translate articles and videos for him.
Vemula Venkat Goud, Konne’s village headman, said that the young farmer had also been drawn to Trump’s “straightforward ways and blunt speech.” Neighbours did not know much about American politics and had no opinion of Trump, he added. But since Krishna was such a huge fan, they embraced his cause as a courtesy, even if it struck them as a little odd.
As Krishna’s devotion to Trump intensified, he began fasting every Friday in support, and he commissioned the construction of a shrine in his backyard with the life-size statue, Vivek said. He worshipped it with Hindu rituals for an hour or two each morning, as one might when praying to Krishna, Shiva, Ganesha or other gods. As for Krishna, he made a valiant attempt to meet his idol. “It’s really sad that his dream never came true,” he added. Venkat said villagers were discussing how best to maintain their neighbour’s Trump shrine.
The writers are reporters with NYT©2020
The New York Times