New Delhi: Almost all the NDA alliance partners of the BJP have given Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s #MainBhiChowkidar hashtag campaign a skip.
Unlike most BJP leaders and union ministers, they have not joined his campaign by prefixing their names on Twitter handles with the word “Chowkidar”. At least one prominent Cabinet colleague of Modi – Sushma Swaraj – seemed as if she was refraining from jumping onto the bandwagon, until she too changed her Twitter handle on Sunday night. Rajnath Singh signed on well after most changed their handles. BJP president Amit Shah and railways minister Piyush Goyal were early adopters.
The general perception is that Modi is trying to counter Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s attack against him on corruption charges – especially in the wake of the Rafale deal and the flight of multiple Indian loan defaulters during Modi’s rule. Gandhi had been gunning for Modi with his own “chowkidar chor hai” slogan and campaign for a while.
On Saturday itself, Rahul Gandhi reacted to Modi’s announcement by asking if the prime minister was feeling a bit “defensive”.
As part of his counter, Modi prefixed “Chowkidar” (watchman) to his name on his Twitter handle – triggering a tsunami of imitation acts by almost all his ministerial colleagues and BJP leaders.
Just a search of the word “Chowkidar” on the Twitter search bar now reveals a whole list of Union ministers and BJP leaders who have sought to emulate Modi in prefixing the word to their names. This includes the party’s chief ministers.
Many also tweeted various reasons and aphorisms to stress why they saw themselves as “chowkidars”.
Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad wrote on his Twitter handle that “Every professional who is contributing towards making our country honest and strong is working like a Chowkidar against corruption.”
Likewise, Piyush Goyal wrote: “As Chowkidars of our nation, we are committed to creating a clean economy by using cashless financial transactions. The menace of corruption and black money has adversely affected us for decades. Time to eliminate these for a better future.”
But conspicuous by her absence from the ‘chowkidar’ campaign is Sushma Swaraj.
Swaraj last tweeted on March 15, when she tagged her special address on Modi government’s foreign policy.
But a bigger snub for the campaign came from NDA alliance partners. Ever since the Lok Sabha elections have been announced, they have showed little sign of playing ball the way the Modi wants them to.
And so, Union food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal did not prefix chowkidar to her name.
.@Akali_Dal_ marked the completion of 2 years of misrule of the state Cong by observing #VishwasghaatDivas today. Bathinda is not immune to the rage boiling over in Punjab against the Cong govt. Despite the discrimination of the state govt, I will continue to work for my people. pic.twitter.com/gtnjniEpHf
— Harsimrat Kaur Badal (@HarsimratBadal_) March 16, 2019
Likewise, other allies of the BJP, like Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal (United) also stayed away.
His page showed that he last tweeted on March 8.
बिहार शहरी आधारभूत संरचना विकास निगम की तरफ से 5 करोड़ रू0 तथा बिहार पुलिस भवन निर्माण निगम की तरफ से 2 करोड़ रू0 मुख्यमंत्री राहत कोष में अंशदान किया गया।https://t.co/DIZCt17rKr pic.twitter.com/XBFAiDskJ6
— Nitish Kumar (@NitishKumar) March 9, 2019
While Modi was not able to convince all his alliance partners to see merit in his arguments, the manner in which most of his party colleagues fell head-over-heels to follow him in prefixing their names with “Chowkidar” was a bit too much for his rivals to digest.
Rebel BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha tweeted, asking how the theft of Rafale files took place with so many ‘chowkidars” (watchmen) around.
The tweet has since been deleted.
Some journalists also tweeted questioning the level to which the discourse has fallen in the five years of Modi’s rule.
In five rousing years since 2014, here is where we have arrived:
Chai, Pakoda, Chowkidar!
— Sankarshan Thakur (@SankarshanT) March 17, 2019
Others on Twitter mocked the fact that BJP leaders and supporters who have taken the law into their own hands or supported violence have also added the word ‘Chowkidar’ to their names:
— Gafur khan (@igafurkhan) March 17, 2019
Note: The story was edited to take note of first Rajnath Singh, and then Sushma Swaraj, both signing on to Modi’s ‘Chowkidar’ campaign.