Lok Sabha 2019: Why the BJP's 'Mein Bhi Chowkidar' campaign could convert a Modi undercurrent into a wave

Uday Mahurkar
Uday MahurkarMar 19, 2019 | 14:10

Lok Sabha 2019: Why the BJP's 'Mein Bhi Chowkidar' campaign could convert a Modi undercurrent into a wave

The 2014 Opposition taunt of 'Chaiwala' turned into a political strength for Narendra Modi. The 'Chowkidaar' slogan could be a similar turning point.

No unbiased political analyst is denying that there is a pro-Modi undercurrent in large parts of India after the Balakot air-strike. Even before the strikes, most agreed that nothing particular was going against Modi despite the Congress charges against him in the Rafale deal. His image mostly remained intact.

But what is happening now has the power to trigger a Modi wave.


A series of intelligently designed short films by Modi’s behind-the-scenes campaign managers, titled 'Main Bhi Chowkidar’, are being released. This is a calculated move to allow citizens to take pride in Modi’s vision, based on transparency and transformation — at the same time, this is potent enough to destroy Rahul Gandhi’s ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’ campaign and instead focus on Modi’s attempts to clean up the system.

This can convert the pro-Modi undercurrent into a wave.

This is just how the ‘chaiwala‘ comment of Mani Shankar Aiyar in the 2014 poll campaign was flung by Modi in the face of the Congress through an imaginative ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ campaign.

In the present context, four films have been released so far by Modi’s campaign managers, out of which one is a long film of three minutes, while the others are less than a minute. These four films do not just give a strong riposte to Rahul’s ‘Chor-Chowkidar’ campaign but touch all the main areas of Modi’s governance — right from Swachch Bharat to his campaign against black money.


But what they do to Modi’s great advantage is to send out a clear message to the people that Modi alone can’t bring about this change. Each citizen has to contribute to the change by sacrificing for the country in a ‘Nation First’ spirit.

From the day Modi entered politics, his strategy and vision are both marked by a common trait — generating support for his ideas and vision by inculcating individual and national pride into the people. This campaign is one more example of that trait.

The theme enjoins people to come forth for a Modi-led national campaign and includes everyone in the ongoing national transformation. 

A member of Modi’s campaign team said, “This is yet another example of how the Prime Minister’s imaginative and innovative mind has repeatedly turned a challenge into an opportunity. What is more, the films are entirely the creation of Modi and PMO. But no big ad agency was involved in it.”

Where it all started: When Modi said the country has a 'chaukanna chowkidar'. (Photo: Video grab)

Powerful appeal 

The main three-minute film has a song with the punchline ‘Main Bhi Chowkidar’, which, without naming any of Modi’s schemes, encapsulates his vision, touching on his transparency drive.  


The film begins with the famous ‘Main Desh Ka Chowkidar Hoon’ remark of Modi in its footage. A powerful punchline also in the film is “Wo Akela Chal Pada, Main Bhi Katar Hoon”, connoting “he set out on the path of transformation alone but I am also with him”. 

If the song and its music are captivating, the footage — shot across Indian states — also sends an all-encompassing message.

One of the short films is on a conversation between a manager of a car company and a buyer. Implored to by his wife, the buyer wants to purchase a particular car. He tells the manager to accept payment in cash — but the manager refuses.

The buyer offers him a bribe for accepting cash payment but still, he refuses.

The buyer flares up. “You are weak at finance,” he says.

The manager shoots back: “I am not weak but truthful, a truthful chowkidar of the nation.”

The message: Don’t indulge in tax evasion.

The buyer relents and pulls out his cheque book to make the payment.

With multiple signatories, the campaign has indeed stoked people's patriotism. (Photo: Video grab)

The second film is on the importance of cleanliness for India to highlight the difference that Modi has made to the nation with his Swachch Bharat Abhiyaan.  

A family comprising a man, his wife and son are travelling in a car and eating roasted corn. When the man suddenly tries to throw the kernel of the corn out of the car window, he is stopped by the wife who furnishes a paper bag for him to put this in.

But he resists, asking why he should dirty his car?

The wife responds: Should we dirty the city then?

The kid chips in from behind.

“Mummy, are you a teacher?”

The wife quips "Chowkidar. The chowkidar of the nation is not alone. I am also with him."

 When the car stops, the wife drops the paper bag into a dust bin.

The third one is on the importance of hard work for the nation. The film subtly conveys the missionary zeal with which Modi is executing the task of transforming the nation. 

The film starts with a mother at home, calling up her doctor son in his clinic at 12.15 am and asking him when he'll come home for dinner.

“Are you the only doctor in the town (to work till so late ),” she asks.

The son replies: “ I am not a doctor alone. I am a chowkidar of our society’s health” and tells her that she and his wife should not wait for him but should have their dinner.

When a poor patient looks with astonishment at the doctor, he tells him, “Will the nation’s chowkidar (read Modi) alone work till late night? I too am with him”.

And the punchline follows — Woh Akela Chal Pada...

It's sabka saath: The video is all-inclusive — various states, various cultures. (Photo: Video grab)

Good public connection

Incidentally, the late-night phenomenon has a connection with Modi’s own iconic persona. He had announced demonetisation in the night and passed the GST law at the stroke of midnight. The surgical strike and the Balakot air-strikes also happened at night.

But more than that, the films are seen as terrific spurring agents for Modi’s campaign because their theme has a strong connection with people on the ground.

Most of Modi’s welfare schemes are seeing a delivery rate of 75% to 85% and even upto 90% in places, thanks to the sweeping away of middlemen from the system on account of tight digital monitoring and top-level commitment of the Modi government.

Will Modi's outreach be powerful enough to touch a variety of constituencies? (Photo: Video grab)

The DBT transformation

Such a high percentage of delivery has become possible only because of the Jan Dhan scheme, which made direct transfer of benefits (DBT) possible to beneficiaries. The difference between 2014 and 2019 can be sensed from the fact that when Modi came, DBT was being done in not more than three dozen schemes — today, DBT is being done reportedly in 500 schemes.

The Congress has responded to this Modi move by starting a Twitter handle "Chowkidar Chor Hai".

But Modi has plans to counter this with something that could decimate this totally.

Modi’s campaign managers are reportedly toying with the idea of making a film comparing the frugal living of his close, relatively unknown relatives and contrasting this with the lifestyles of the relatives of opposition leaders.

Clearly, if Modi turned the ‘chaiwala' remark onto the heads of Congress leaders in 2014, this time around, he is out to do the same with his “Main Bhi Chowkidar” campaign. And perhaps, more to follow.

Last updated: April 10, 2019 | 11:49
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