‘I am Chowkidar’

Dr. Asangba Tzüdir

It is amazing that despite the intricately amorphous nature of Indian politics, it has not failed to keep the masses ‘entertained’ especially during election time, and is never short of unfolding ‘political dramas.’ Coined by Rahul Gandhi in 2015, the “Suit-boot ki sarkar” which was a populist attack on PM Modi for being ‘elitist’ provoked the latest slogan, ‘Main Bhi Chowkidar’ which also has a connection with the 2014 campaign on the “chaiwallah” or tea seller ridicule from senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar.

Soon after the launch of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Main Bhi Chowkidar’ campaign, he shared the following message in his twitter handle, “Your Chowkidar is standing firm & serving the nation. But I am not alone. Everyone who is fighting corruption, dirt, social evils is a Chowkidar. Today, every Indian is saying #MainBhiChowkidar.” This slogan is of course BJP’s attempt to blunt Rahul Gandhi’s offensive, “Chowkidar chor hai” to accuse the BJP of corruption ranging from irregularities in the Rafale Fighter Aircraft deal and also allowing corporate loan defaulters to flee the country. Former union Minister P Chidambaram also took to twitter who jokingly remarked that he was also forced to join the ‘Main bhi Chowkidar’ bandwagon because the Chowkidar he had appointed went missing who had reportedly gone looking for ‘Achhe din.’

On the counter-offensive, Narendra Modi instead blamed the Congress party for causing delay on the purchase of the Rafale Aircraft and because of which a desired response could not be met when Pakistani Aircraft bombed Indian fighter Jets over the ‘disputed’ border region of Kashmir. Congress can rejoice in the fact that their offensive has provoked a response from the saffron party.

Nonetheless, what will be more concerning for a majority of the voters will be food, shelter, education, jobs and employment, and their well being. The year 2004, the current Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Chandrababu Naidu lost the election and one of his proposals during election campaign was to bring Grand Prix to Andhra Pradesh.

Coming to the latest campaign slogan, soon the bandwagon took to their twitter handles joining the Chowkidar chorus. The Chowkidar message that ‘everyone who is fighting corruption, dirt, social evils is a Chowkidar’ has invited sharp comments. Swati Chaturvidi, a Delhi-based journalist gives a recap of some scams. The Bank loan fraudsters case where former Governor of RBI had sought a multi agency investigation into these cases but the name list were refused to be revealed despite numerous reminders from the Parliamentary Estimates Committee which was chaired by senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi. The 2G spectrum Scam, the case of which was collapsed in court resulting in acquittal of those 17 accused including the former telecom Minister, and at the end it was the judge and the Public prosecutor that had to share the blame. Then the Rafale deal that stirred huge controversy. She sums up by saying that, “the reality is that Modi is complicit in not taking action against corruption.” Further, the former Minister of State (MoS) for External Affairs MJ Akbar who too prefixed his name with Chowkidar had to step down due a number of sexual harassment allegations against him from numerous women who had worked with him. All these events give a contrary message to the intended Chowkidar message.

The recent stand-off with Pakistan diverted pressing concerns especially economic-underperformance towards issues of National Security which may draw a hasty picture of BJP romping home again. But whatever the result, the Chowkidar slogan has only provoked and undid their misdeeds. PM Modi is known for creating social movements like the Swachh Bharat but the current Chowkidar campaign seems to have caught him between the devil and the deep blue sea. The context of the campaign slogan is such that, the prefixing itself raises the question of the person’s ethical and moral credibility.

In essence, it has raised issues where the Chowkidar/s requires a counter Chowkidar/s to truly fulfil the spirit and meaning of the Chowkidar.

(Dr. Asangba Tzudir contributes a weekly guest editorial to The Morung Express. Comments can be mailed to asangtz@gmail.com.)