The ‘Chowkidar’ row could arguably be called a new low in Indian politics, as BJP looks to reclaim the term from Congress, rather than address the growing skepticism around the image of the Prime Minister
- BJP is attempting to keep the growing skepticism at bay with an all-inclusive outreach called ‘Mai Bhi Chowkidar’ movement
- The theme is high on reverse psychology, as BJP tries to overshadow Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’ (Watchman is a thief) jibe
- Congress is losing the war of words against BJP’s clever and efficient propaganda team which is arguably it’s biggest strength
- The campaign is leveraging the growing patriotism and nationalist fervour in the country, by putting the onus on the masses
In a seemingly innovative ploy to win the elections through propaganda, Prime Minister Modi flagged off BJP’s ‘Mai Bhi Chowkidar’ campaign. The campaign attempts to reclaim the right to benefit from the trending term ‘Chowkidar’ or ‘Watchman’, in an Indian political landscape that is rapidly moving towards straw man politics.
Through the campaign, PM tries to garner the support of the nation as he keeps on with his goal of achieving ‘his vision’ for India. He calls on the common man to play his part in the ongoing national transformation. What started it was a heavily emotional and patriotic tweet where the PM mentioned:
“Your Chowkidar is standing firm & serving the nation. But, I am not alone. Everyone who is fighting corruption, dirt, social evils is a Chowkidar. Everyone working hard for the progress of India is a Chowkidar. Today, every Indian is saying-#MainBhiChowkidar.”
There is no doubt that the campaign is a major battle won for BJP in the ongoing ‘War of Words’ between India’s two biggest political parties. Congress tried to comeback with the hashtag #ChowkidarChorHai, but was unable to trump the rising emotional wave of the BJP campaign. Perhaps the national party needs fresher brains to tackle the ingenuity of BJP’s strategists.
However, the BJP campaign re-stresses on the public image of Modi instead of defending the integrity of the PM in the face of the allegations. It raises a point, that it is wrong to criticize the ‘Chowkidar’ of the nation, in an attempt to try and solidify his unchecked claim as the lone ranger in fight against menaces such as ‘corruption, dirt and societal evil’.
Making the campaign participatory, BJP ensures that it doesn’t have to defend itself. An emotional public with increased patriotism automatically stands up for it.
An attempt to convert the ‘post-Balakot’ pro-Modi undercurrent into a wave
There is no doubt that the Balakot airstrike was successful in generating a strong pro-Modi sentiment across the country. Analysts say that this movement has the ability to heavily fuel it into a pro-Modi wave.
The ‘Chowkidar’ image is a blatant yet subtle reminder to people who was responsible for the Balakot Strike. It aims to tell the people that, although it was the Army that gave shape to the operation, it happened because of Modi’s ‘strong man’ attitude in apparently keeping the ‘borders secure’ and ‘internal peace in the country’.
Over the past year, the opposition has upped its ante, questioning the integrity of Modi’s image as the ‘Chowkidar of the Nation’. Till now, the Congress campaign had been showing signs of influence and resonating with the masses.
The ingredients of the opposition campaign came from PM himself, who had widely publicized his image of being the ‘Chowkidar’ of India, in the 2014 elections. Modi’s image has remained intact in the face of a number of ongoing scam investigations in the country, albeit growing skepticism.
The campaign in itself is reminiscent of 2014 when the ‘Chaiwala’ comment from Mani Shankar Aiyar was flung by BJP in its direction through an innovative ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ campaign. BJP’s has credible expertise in such publicity have created massive campaigns that have been successful in turning the public perception in the past.
BJP’s comeback to Congress’s narrative has been successful in turning the sentiment in its favour. It has virtually served two purposes with one shot – diversion (from traditional campaign narratives for prospective governments during elections) and distraction (from opposition led allegations).
The campaign touched the sure shot publicity points for Modi of Swachch Bharat, Campaign against Black Money and ending threats to national security.
Or is the move attempting a distraction?
Right from Modi’s early foray into politics, his strategy heavily relies on garnering widespread support for his ideas and plans by bringing out pride and participation from the masses.
It has been reported that ‘Mai Bhi Chowkidar’ was started after extensive surveys and data analysis by BJP strategists. Findings showed that the Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’ campaign had not been resonating well with people and was instead angering them.
The BJP campaign aims at masked use of ‘Whataboutism’. It further aims to dispel the fundamental right of the opposition, which is to ‘oppose’.
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the campaign has become a “people’s movement” and took a jibe at the opposition for not supporting the PM’s campaign. He said:
“But some people are opposing it. These are people who are born in affluence and are out on bail. They have things to hide.”
Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala had opined that the ‘propaganda-obsessed’ Modi-led government had a need for constant “branding and rebranding” to hide the ‘prime minister’s failures’. He said:
“Modi has a habit of taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich. The chowkidar who was responsible for the Rafale scam, for Vijay Mallya fleeing the country, that chowkidar is a thief.”
Rejections for the PM’s campaign were echoed by the alliance of Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party. BSP Chief Mayawati was full of sarcasm in her tweet, in which she congratulated PM Modi for his campaign and transformation.
Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav raised questions on issues like the ‘theft of fertilisers’ and ‘theft of files from the defence ministry’. His comment was quick to recognize the fact that the BJP campaign was trying to distract audience from issues and questions being put forth by the opposition.
Analysts and opposition leaders have come out saying that this is evidence that skepticism about the authenticity of BJP’s publicized state of the country are gaining traction. BJP has been unable to answer questions around joblessness, discrepancies in the Rafale Deal, the case of loan defaulting fugitives, and now the newly exposed ‘Yeddy Diaries’, mostly throwing similar jibes back at the audience rather than answers to questions.
Straw Man politics and the unaware Common Man
What BJP’s move does is create a sly tactic where if the masses become ‘Chowkidars’, it would seem that the opposition jibes are not aimed at the leader (the Prime Minister) but the followers (Common Man) as well.
It puts the onus on the voters to ensure that they bring back Modi to power, but not on the back of his work over five years. It gives voters a false notion that if they love their country, they automatically fall into the team of the Prime ‘Chowkidar’.
BJP Politicians and common twitter users have come out asking the Congress to apologize for using derogatory slogans in poll meetings for the ‘Chowkidars’ in the country. This is can be termed as utter falsification as the Congress jibes were aimed solely at the PM and no one else.
This is disconcerting, because what the BJP campaign does is play Straw Man politics, not refuting the allegations and claims of the opposition, but instead refuting the right to allege in itself.
The takeaway for the opposition here is that it needs to tread more cautiously with the terms it uses during its criticism of governance. Remarks which have a derogatory connotation, can easily be overturned where the question gets hidden behind the insult.Built on fallacy, BJP’s campaign aims to create an uproar wherein criticizing the chowkidar becomes a matter of criticism itself. Haryana Minister Anil Vij went on to mock the opposition for its denouncement of the term. He said:
“We have added # chowkidar to our names and you have a problem with that. You should also prefix # Pappu to your names and we will have no objection.”
If elections are swayed by clever use of a single term that deceives a country of 1.3 Billion people, it surely presents an alarming situation.
More than the character assassination of the ‘Chowkidars’ of the country, such politics which deters people from asking questions is the ‘character assassination of Democracy’.
New #Congress Slogan📢
जब तक #मोदी चौकीदार है, पूरा देश पप्पू है । #चौकीदार की तानाशाही और बिना बात की वाह वाही।#ChowkidarChorHai@RahulGandhi @divyaspandana@rssurjewala #LokSabhaElections2019 pic.twitter.com/jkvLl0Jxib
— Deepak Kaistha 🅳🅺🅾🅳🅸🅽🅶 (@kaistha_deepak) March 22, 2019
- Opposition has come out with scathing remarks showing both disgust and sarcasm at the mockery and disillusionment of the BJP campaign
- Personifying PM Modi as the ‘Chowkidar’ who has delivered looks to distract attention from the real questions raised by the opposition
- The BJP’s stance that the criticism is disrespectful to the real ‘Chowkidar’ fraternity of India is a false claim and a diversion
- Right to question is fundamental to a democracy; objection to this signals the growing attempts by the government to mask its failures
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