New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday took his party’s ‘chowkidar’ campaign a step further, saying he would wear “abuses hurled at him as jewels”.
Interacting with nearly 25 lakh security guards across the country through an audio bridge — in what was perhaps one of his shortest public interactions, but not without melodrama — the PM brought in Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s ‘chowkidar chor hai’ (the watchman is a thief) jibe, claiming that “people with vested interests” were sullying the reputation of everyone who is working to protect the country.
The dramatic pitch
The carefully curated interaction lasted for just around 23 minutes, during which the PM took three questions.
“I apologise to everyone who works to protect the nation — from the police to our forces — that in the last few months, some people with vested interests are hurling abuses without thinking. In a way, they have raised questions about all chowkidars,” Modi said in response to a question, adding that he wished they had attacked him using his name without dragging the entire community.
With the Lok Sabha polls due to begin on 11 April, the entire political discourse over the past few days has been centered around the ‘chowkidar’ narrative. This was something that Modi himself started in 2014, promising to protect the nation. Congress and its president, meanwhile, flipped the tale while alleging corruption in the Rafale deal, coining the slogan ‘chowkidar chor hai’.
To counter this, the PM and his party have raised the decibel level further, starting the #MainBhiChowkidar (I am a security guard as well) campaign over the weekend. Not just that, PM Modi and other top BJP leaders prefixed their Twitter handle with ‘chowkidar’.
“They will keep looking for ways to ruin the reputation of chowkidars. However, today the entire nation is taking the pledge of protecting the nation,” Modi said during his interaction.
Reiterating a pet line about how he as the ‘chowkidar’ will not sit in peace till things were put in order in the country, Modi used a new glitzy phrase — “Main gaali ko gehna bana deta hoon” (I wear abuses as jewels).
“Between 2014 and now, the office has remained the same, as have the officers. What has changed is ‘chowkidari’…I wear every abuse hurled at me as a jewel and carry on working with dedication,” he said.
Bringing in national security
As expected, the PM also did not spare the chance to talk about the Indian Air Force air strikes on terror camps in Pakistan’s Balakot last month and bring the spotlight on national security — expected to be a key poll campaign theme for his party.
“We should be proud of our forces and what they have done. The opposition parties’ attitude has saddened and shocked many. Those who support the tukde tukde gang (referring to those who want to split the nation) cannot digest the fact that our forces dropped bombs right in the heart of Pakistan. The war was against Pakistan but it made some people here ill, this is something people can’t accept,” he said.
Essentially, the PM is hoping to do a repeat of the 2014’s successful ‘chaiwallah‘ (tea seller) campaign and strike an emotional chord with the voters.
As part of this strategy, Modi attempted to connect with those asking questions during the interaction, even telling one of them how happy he was to hear that he, despite being the PM, was equated with ordinary citizens.
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