With the 2019 elections barely three weeks away, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown that turning an adverse comment to political advantage is his craft.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi who coined the slogan ‘chowkidar chor hai’ (watchman is a thief) now has a foot in his mouth as Modi has used the same jibe of ‘chowkidar’ adding it as a prefix to his name in social media handle, specially on twitter. This happened soon after Modi tweeted on Saturday with a tag ‘main hoon chowkidar’ (I am the watchman). Modi in his public speeches announced that this ‘chowkidar chaukanna hai’ (Watchman is alert).
Soon after, BJP political leaders led by Amit Shah, Piyush Goyal, Smriti Irani and a plethora of leaders including cabinet ministers and their supporters, followed suit and added ‘chowkidar’ as a prefix to their names which became viral. This is unprecedented and never in the history of social media have we witnessed this trend. Not to let this trend die down, Modi has gone hammer and tong by calling an interaction session on March 31 with people who have pledged their support to this campaign from 500 places across the country on ‘main bhi chowkidar’ (I am too a watchman). Several short videos on Whatsapp, facebook, instagram, twitter on this subject are already being flooded by the social media team of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and forwarded in groups.
In fact, twitter trend shows there have been over 2 million tweets over ‘main bhi chowkidar’ and it is still trending globally. ‘chowkidar chor hai’ received hardly 1,65,000 mentions which is less than 10 per cent of what BJP has mustered. This is arguably the first time that one is seeing excessive use of social media platforms to change the existing narrative. It is also being helped by political parties twitter or facebook army which works diligently round the clock to ensure that there is a constant bombardment of messages for their respective leaders.
During 2014 Modi was called ‘chaiwallah’ (tea vendor) by Congress leader Manishankar Aiyer who said “in this 21st century the chaiwallah can never, never become the prime minister of India, if he wishes we can give him some space to sell his tea”, which again fell flat when Modi used it for his own advantage by not only becoming the Prime Minister and then hosting ‘Chai pe Charcha’ (discussion over tea). This phrase became internationally known when President Barrack Obama, and Chinese President Xi Jinping also mentioned this in their speeches.
The entire campaign, however, has seen a clear division of the twitterati in India and those who have the prefix of ‘chowkidar’ are certified Modi followers and supporters. There is hardly any doubt on their political leanings. This has in fact led to many old time friends having differences. It is like a ‘caste system’ of the social media and the seeds for this divide are being sowed by the political parties for gauging the mood of the public.
Congress is now on the back foot and is touching core issues like jobs and unemployment. Congress Party chief Rahul Gandhi accused Modi of destroying one crore jobs in 2018 alone despite promising to create two crore jobs annually. Addressing a public rally in the Manipur capital Imphal on Wednesday, Gandhi said the job losses under the Modi government were to the tune of 30,000 per day through 2018. Slamming the NDA government’s demonetisation move of November 2016, Gandhi said it shattered people’s lives. The Congress on Tuesday took a swipe at the ‘Main Bhi Chowkidar’ campaign, alleging that PM Modi is trying to befool the people by pretending to be a ‘Chowkidar’.
Mayawati of the Bahujan Samaj Party has mentioned that Modi has graduated from the 2014 election as chaiwallah to chowkidar in the 2019 elections. Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday said that Modi wants the entire country to become ‘chowkidar’ and warned his listeners that if they want their children to become ‘chowkidar’, then they should vote for Modi. However, the Prime Minister is not going to leave this opportunity and will rake up the issue of ‘chowkidar’ yet again on March 31.