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From Chaiwala to Chowkidar

As India gears for its seventeenth Lok Sabha elections in 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, On March 16, tweeted a fire brand campaign series with the hashtag #MainBhiChowkidar (I am also a watchman) and changed his Twitter handle to "Chowkidar Narendra Modi". The PM also called all those fighting corruption and social evils watchmen and asked them to participate in the campaign for a better India. Thus, the campaign video was accompanied by almost all BJP leaders and major public supporters prefixing their Twitter names with the same word 'Chowkidar.

Meanwhile, Targeting BJP's "Main Bhi Chowkidar" campaign, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati took a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for shifting his 2019 Lok Sabha (LS) election campaign to Chowkidar from Chaiwala, just two days after she accused PM Narendra Modi of changing his profile from Chaiwala to Chowkidar only to get votes in the LS polls. While the 17th LS elections will start on April 11 and continue till May 19, this year.

Moreover, she claims that it was worrying that the union government was not allowing the release of data pertaining to poor employment, growing joblessness, increasing poverty, distress among farmers and labourers, just for the sake of losing votes and safeguarding their image. “Does the country need such a chowkidaar?” she asked. In a series of statement, the 'BSP' supremo has mentioned that ever since the campaign (Main Bhi Chowkidar) was launched, people like Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath were in a fix on whether they should remain peoples representatives or become chowkidars.

At the same time, the Congress party president Rahul Gandhi, hit back with "Chowkidar Chor Hai" (the watchman is a thief) targeting Prime Minister over alleged irregularities in the Indo-French Rafale defence deal. Meanwhile, BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha, whose ties with the party appear to be all but severed, on March 21 described PM Narendra Modi's 'main bhi chowkidar' campaign as 'hollow rhetoric' that lacked punch. Shatrughan Sinha, who is expected to join the 'Mahagathbandhan' comprising the Congress and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) besides several smaller parties, came out with a series of statements (Tweets) decrying the campaign that is meant to be a riposte to congress president Rahul Gandhi's 'chowkidar hi chor hai" barb at PM Modi. India's opposition party has raised questions about Narendra Modi Governments ability to generate employment.

However, The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) on March 23 announced candidates for 39 of a total 40 Lok Sabha seats in Bihar for the 2019 general elections. Bhupender Yadav, BJP national general secretary announced the names of NDA candidates from Biha for LS polls. Meanwhile, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad will contest from Patna Sahib, the parliamentary constituency represented by Shatrughan Sinha (Shatrughan Sinha dropped).

Notably, The choice for LS candidates assumed that actor-turned-politician Mr Sinha was dropped from the list as he has been critical of the political quarters top leadership on various occasions in the past. While many experts told that, May be through this campaign, BJP government achieved a masterstroke. Many people missed the subtle message. If PM can be a watchmen, why cant your kids be watchmen. It is a great profession - a major upgrade from selling fried Pakodas. Why be a doctor, engineer or scientist? Be a watchman and make India proud.

More recently, PM Modi addressed over 25 lakh chowkidars (security guards) on March 20, via audio conference. However, Modi is a professional political leader in forcing opponents to commit mistakes and then heavily cashing on it. So the “Chowkidar Chor hai” campaign was dealt a sudden and powerful blow by this “Main Bhi Chowkidar” campaign. Meanwhile, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad claims that the campaign has become a “peoples movement” as the Main Bhi Chowkidar hashtag has been tweeted 20 lakh times and had 1,680 crore impressions.

Thus, the memories of people will be fresh to realize the fact that how PM Modi used the “Chaiwala” comment of Manishankar Aiyar again to his advantage and romped home in the 2014 general elections. In the 2017 Gujarat elections, the usage of word “Neech” by the same Mani Shankar Aiyar swung the battle decisively in favor of Narendra Modi as he again used it to his fullest advantage. And remains in 2019 LS polls, The PM changed his electoral campaign from 'Chaiwala' to 'Chowkidar'.

Earlier PM modi encashed on the 'Chaiwala gimmick' and now since Congress is calling him Chowkidar Chor hai, the PM has changed his title to Chowkidar.. May be by the such campaign, BJP government achieved a masterstroke and connect with chowkidars from nearly 500 locations across India who have joined his drive and are associated with the 'Main Bhi Chowkidar' campaign to boost the Lok Sabha Election campaign, this year.

Following the ET report, “Facebook acts as a bigger influencer compared to Twitter, considering its greater usage by the urban middle class and lower middle class population. When we look at the lower middle class demographic in smaller cities, the male members work and females largely stay at home and are active users of WhatsApp and Facebook. Thats a huge participant base over the last five years and a fresh audience. Theyre opinion makers now,”.

The report said that the Congress party accuses Prime Minister Narendra Modi of enabling the escape of fraudsters namely, Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi abroad. While the BJP replies that these crooks did nefarious things with impunity during Congress rule and are only now being acted against. Both Mallya and Nirav Modi look like being extradited to India to face trial, and the BJP is boasting about this. That still evades the question, why are crooks not speedily convicted and jailed? Jayalalithaa died of health complications before getting convicted in 2018 of transgressions during her 1991-96 rule. The verdict in the Lalit Narayan Mishra murder case took 38 years..

Despite all of this, The campaign, spread like a rocket with so many of the fire brand icons as well as social influencers rallying behind PM Modi and vowing to be Chowkidars. One of the several paths in which Social Media such as Twitter and other users extended their support to PM Modi was by attaching Chowkidar before their display name. It's nothing but simply seems like an LS election gimmick by the parson-party concerned. And yet the opposition lacks both a credible leader and sustained narrative that makes the opposition more than merely anti-Modi solidarity.

Author: Trilok Singh, MA in Political Science, Kirori Mal College, University of Delhi. Professional-Scholar and CEO at Youth Darpan Media, Indias Journal and IAS mind.

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