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Has chowkidar barb turned into advantage-Modi or are real poll issues being sidelined?

main bhi chowkidar
Illustration by Soham Sen | ThePrint Team

With #MainBhiChowkidar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has turned Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’ barb at him into a campaign slogan for 2019 elections. BJP leaders and supporters added the ‘Chowkidar’ prefix to their social media names and now Modi will address 25 lakh ‘chowkidars’ on March 20 and March 31.

ThePrint asks: Has chowkidar barb turned into advantage-Modi or are real poll issues being sidelined?

BJP has the ability to convert its counter-attack into a national movement

Nalin Kohli
National spokesperson, BJP

The accomplishments of the Narendra Modi government over the past five years have been impressive. It would be patently unfair to say that real issues are being sidelined while campaigning today.

Let us consider the government’s performance on attacking corruption. From setting up the SIT on black money in the very first cabinet meeting to strengthening laws, chasing the corrupt like Christian Michel and bringing them back to face the law in India, or ensuring that the legal noose tightens around the likes of Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi — the BJP government has lived up to its promise of fighting corruption and those guilty of indulging in corrupt practices.

The Narendra Modi government has also implemented several welfare programmes for every segment of society, including women, farmers, downtrodden, youth and middle class among others. Schemes such as direct cash transfer and Ayushman Bharat to provide free healthcare, sanitation, financial inclusion and infrastructure development have been undertaken at a pace like never before. The fact that the Indian economy has grown at an average rate of 7.3% consistently over the five years and that India has become one of the most attractive investment destinations in the world are testament to the success of the Modi government on the economy.

Overall, the BJP has adhered and implemented an agenda of positive change.

At the same time, if we are politically attacked with fabricated and manufactured agenda such as ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’, then we have the ability to convert our counter-attack into a national movement. We have shown that not only is PM Modi a Chowkidar who protects the interests of the country, but also that citizens from across the country are joining the movement for a clean and developed India.

This is evident from the fact that #MainBhiChowkidar hashtag was retweeted by 20 lakh people with over one crore people having so far joined the campaign. This shows Indians are repudiating the false and fabricated agendas of the Congress party.

BJP’s campaign is defensive and proves Narendra Modi’s admission of guilt

Priyanka Chaturvedi
National spokesperson, Congress

Through his highly defensive campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has finally admitted that he has robbed the citizens of the country not only of the many things they have a rightful claim over, but also of the many things he had promised to deliver.

While in power, Modi has robbed people of their jobs, robbed them of self-dignity and empowerment. He has robbed farmers the double-income promise, robbed Indians of Rs 80 lakh crore worth of black money that he promised to bring back, robbed them of the promise of Rs 15 lakh deposit in every account. Not only that, he has also robbed the youth of this nation two crore jobs for each year of his tenure that he had promised.

A reduced cost of living and an economic growth story were also promised by the PM, but none of these have been delivered.

The dissent note from the defence ministry against the intervention of the Prime Minister’s Office in the Rafale deal showed that PM Modi has also compromised the country’s national security.

His rebuttals and campaign now only go on to prove that ‘Chowkidaar (Modi) hi chor hai’. This campaign is anything but advantage Modi or advantage BJP. If anything, it absolutely endorses Rahul Gandhi’s words about the chowkidar being a chor.

Opposition may keep hitting out at the government, it is not a winning formula

Dilip Cherian
Image consultant and political strategist

It takes a brave prime minister to take on a nasty allegation like the Congress’ ‘chowkidar chor hai’ barb at Narendra Modi. The move is brave because real ‘chowkidars’ come from a different background, and image analysts can hardly decide whether a ‘chowkidars’ is a move up from a chaiwala. Moreover, by bringing the chowkidar reference to the front, Modi has brought all the allegations against him into play. But that is not something Modi is ever worried about.

But in all of this, are major issues of electoral importance like jobs, economic growth, agricultural distress and the situation at the borders being buried swiftly under a range of attacks and counter attacks? It remains to be seen whether this is only a starting point and the government would soon turn its focus on highlighting its achievements and successes as the days go by. The hard fact about elections is that an incumbent government is bound to defend its track record, but the opposition always has the advantage of benefitting from the allegations it levels against the government.

While it may be convenient for the opposition to keep hitting out at the government, it is not a winning formula. The young electorate is looking for solutions and new hopes. And while their earlier hopes have come crashing down, Modi juggernaut won’t stop unless the opposition can come up with real solutions and realistic hopes.

Also read: The participatory campaign logic behind ‘Main Bhi Chowkidar’

BJP’s Chowkidar campaign won’t fetch it any votes that it didn’t already have in its kitty

Santosh Desai
Columnist, author and brand historian 

In a world where social media is playing an increasingly important role, I’d say that the Chowkidar barb may have given the BJP a mild advantage, just as any mobilising device serves as an advantage to a party.

That said, with the national elections less than a month away, I don’t believe such a campaign will give the BJP any incremental votes. It may be a show of existing strength, but no one had any doubt about the very committed cadre of the party to begin with. But besides that, it isn’t like this will fetch them votes they didn’t already have in their kitty. There is no real issue being peddled here.

I don’t think the move has backfired on the Congress. Within a small group of people, they may have been able to successfully sow a seed of doubt against the BJP. They may have been able to show that the BJP is not 100% incorruptible. So, in that, it is a limited win.

The BJP, on the other hand, has been able to convert this negative into a neutral. The Congress raised the issue of corruption against Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally for the first time, and the BJP has been able to somehow neutralise the impact. It is a bold strategy on the BJP’s part, but won’t have any conclusive impact.

By Fatima Khan, journalist at ThePrint.