Say #MainBhiChowkidar, guard against Cong return

Say #MainBhiChowkidar, guard against Cong return

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, like his predecessors, is a political leader moulded by his own time and place in India’s history. But, he stands out for being India’s first 24/7 political communicator at his level, who also regards himself as a political brand that needs to be constantly reinforced by appropriate messaging.

The BJP’s new #MainBhiChowkidar campaign, launched by Modi through his Twitter account on March 16, 2019, is a characteristic example of the control he exercises over his message. The tweet, with an accompanying music video containing a mix of elements highlighting Brand Modi’s chief features, is crafted to look simple. But it's far from that.



The opening lines: “Your Chowkidar is standing firm & and serving the nation. But, I am not alone,” provide a glimpse into the underlying message of the entire tweet. Modi is not alone in circa 2019 as India goes to the polls, it says. But it intends to mean more than that. It says Modi may have been alone at one point, but is no more so. From here, it is a simple deduction as to who or what could have caused Modi to be all alone or singled out. In fact, in Modi’s script, there is just one answer to all questions that ask who has victimised him -- or India, by extension: the Congress, its cohorts including the ‘liberal media’, and of course, the Gandhi family.

So, here is Modi claiming now that not only is he not alone, but also that everyone who fights corruption, dirt and social evils is a chowkidar (watchman/guardian) just like him. Once again, the underlying messaging is that anyone who doesn’t support him is automatically in support of forces allied to the corrupt, the impure (a wider term that captures not just connotations of dirt as garbage, but also of dirt as lack of purity), and textbook-bad practices such as caste and gender discrimination/violence, perhaps. Here again, the message is that the Congress is responsible for creating this 'sinful' atmosphere and needs to be kept at bay.

A third layer is added with the introduction of the phrase, “Everyone working hard for the progress of India is a chowkidar”. Now we have the spectre of those who don’t want India to progress or those who want India to be, perhaps, broken into pieces, as the BJP likes to remind us from time to time. Phrases such as “breaking India forces” and “tukde-tukde gang” jump to mind.

And then finally, the kicker: “Today every Indian is saying #MainBhiChowkidar”. This, in Modi’s reading, would mean every Indian must guard India against allowing the Congress and its allies to return to power, just as an honest chowkidar would guard the house against being plundered.

But the tweet does more. It also establishes a direct connection between Modi and his voter/audiences. He is not just saying they are like him. He is saying, without expressly spelling it out, that they are him.

As the accompanying music video explains, Modi is working alone (akela), and those who, like him, are pledged to work for the nation are an extension of him ("...uski hi kataar hoon"). Like him, they too work to keep India clean from physical dirt or garbage but also from the moral dirt of corruption. They are of the same mind as the PM, who has imagined a new India of hard-working, small-scale entrepreneurs, homemakers, young and old from various strata, backgrounds and all walks of life. What is common to all these people is that they are able to distinguish truth from falsehood and cannot be fooled by those who spread lies about this grand effort to build a "new India". They are not just alert like a chowkidar should be, but are also the very assault of truth on the fount of falsehood, as lines in the music video indicate.

The video conflates the attack on falsehood with an attack on terrorism. Images that possibly refer to the Indian surgical strikes post the 2018 Uri terrorist attack appear on the screen as the song winds down to shots of Modi in international settings with the Indian flag in the background; ‘Namo Again’ T-shirts and people in Modi-masks that literally convert his supporters, for a brief while, into Modi himself.

BJP’s #MainBhiChowkidar is meant to be an answer to the Congress’ #ChowkidarChorHai campaign, a direct attack on Modi over corruption. The BJP campaign does well to turn the Congress' swipe on its head by suggesting that an attack on Modi is tantamount to an attack on all Indians.

Will it work though? That remains to be seen.

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