POST TIME: 24 March, 2019 10:43:27 AM
From chaiwalla to chowkidar
The noose tightened around Mallya when a London court ruled that he should be extradited to India from the UK where he allegedly faces fraud charges
Kumkum Chadha

From chaiwalla to chowkidar

It was a tweet by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that kicked off what has now become a nationwide campaign. Heurged people to take a 'Main Bhi Chowkidar'pledge. The move is meant to signal that he, read Modi,  is not alone in the fight against graft and social evils. The Prime Minister has termed himself nation’s chowkidar who never allows corruption.  Modi had tweeted: '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'  Modi also posted a short video on his Twitter account, asking people to join 'Main Bhi Chowkidar'campaign.
The video begins with the PM addressing the people saying, “Your chowkidar is absolutely alert”. The video then moves into a song with visuals of people from across the length and breadth of the country, singing “main bhi chowkidar hun”as part of the chorus of the song.
It also shows the PM riding a tank just before it moves into shots of some jawans in the middle of an operation.
The video ends with the statement in Hindi roughly translated as there being a chowkidar in every Indian who is worried about the country.

As part of the campaign, PM Modi will interact with people from across the country on the evening of March 31.

He also  changed his twitter handle to Chowkidar Narendra Modi.

The tweet, aimed at launching the ‘Mai Bhi Chowkidar’ campaign,  is  a kick-starter for BJP’s campaign for Lok Sabha Elections 2019 beginning next month. Seen as Modi’s bid  to expand his self-designated “chowkidar” status, it is designed to be an all-inclusive one by involving people across the country.  

The BJP has claimed that the Twitter hashtag campaign  #MainBhiChowkidar, has been a massive online hit.  To quote Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad more than 2 million people tweeted with ‘#MainBhiChowkidar’ and it received 16 billion impressions; nearly 10 million people pledged support to the campaign on NaMo app.

Seen as a unique interactive campaign it is aimed at 1.25 billion Indians: bringing them together to help achieve the goal of New India: one which is free of graft and terrorism. While the Government’s post-Pulwama posturing against Pakistan has given Modi an upper hand and enhanced his image as a tough leader who can take on Pakistan, on fighting graft also he is on a strong wicket.

In this context alleged scamsters like Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi need a mention.

The noose tightened around Mallya when a London court ruled that he should be extradited to India from the UK where he allegedly faces fraud charges. A businessman turned politician, Mallya fled from India in 2016 after defaulting on huge debts. It is widely believed that Mallya’s extradition order is thanks to the back channel efforts between the Indian and UK government. The UK Home Secretary approved the extradition last month.

Fast forward to Nirav Modi, whose photograph with Narendra Modi at Davos had kicked up a storm.

Nirav Modi, the celebrity jeweller is wanted in a 13,000-crore bank scam.  He was picked up earlier this week from a metro station in London and is now in jail.

UK issued a warrant against Modi following India's request for his extradition. Even though extradition proceedings entail a long drawn process, the over zealousness of the Indian government turned the heat on Nirav Modi too:  "Government of India continues to actively follow up this matter with the authorities concerned in the UK, with a view to have Nirav Modi extradited to India at the earliest," the External Affairs Ministry said.

His arrest is therefore a shot in the arm for Prime Minister Modi. Hours after his arrest, PM Modi held a radio interaction and identified his role with that of a security guard in preventing “any wrong” from happening.

 Questioning the timing of Modi’s arrest, Congress’s Ghulam Nabi Azad said that the arrest is election related and post elections Nirav Modi will be let off the hook.

 In response to the chowkidar theme, the Congress has hammered Rahul Gandhi’s chowkidar chor haitheme . It may be recalled that Gandhi had used “chowkidar chor hai” slogan alleging malfeasance in the Rafale helicopter deal.

Earlier, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind  Kejriwal had tweeted asking people to vote for the BJP only if they want to make their children chowkidar and not doctors or engineers.

Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati too  took a dig saying that Narendra Modi is Chowkidar and no longer a 'Chaiwala' .

 In 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s campaign was based on his tea-selling stint, giving the BJP an advantage for projecting a poor man as Prime Minister.

Equally, the BJP is upbeat about the chowkidar campaign hoping that it would do in 2019 what the  chaiwala slogan had in 2014.  

 While that remains to be seen, Modi’s journey from a chaiwala to a chowkidar has been both consequential and rocky. Humility did get him votes but later the same chaiwala came across as arrogant and dictatorial. He also fell short of

fulfilling the achche din, good days, promise: yet another slogan of 2014. Modi had promised a new India to the youth of this country and promised them jobs.  The chaiwalaimage had run out of steam and there was need for yet another: Modi’s positioning himself as the country’s chowkidar came handy and his strategists lost no time in reworking the chaiwala into a chowkidar: the latter having resonance post Pulwama.   Ofcourse 2019 is not 2014: then Modi was untried and untested and people pegged their hopes on a leader who promised change. Five years down the line, there is a downslide: the chowkidar replacing the chaiwala hoping against hope that this time around a role change would work yet again.

 That Modi is on a high is a given because Pulwama did to him what five years could not. Both he and his trusted lieutenant Amit Shah believe that they have the Midas touch and despite reverses in the past in the state elections where Congress upstaged them, this time around the downslide has been arrested. It is this confidence that is making them run amock, so to say and doing things at will. A case in point is Shah replacing L.K. Advani as candidate in the forthcoming elections from the BJP bastion Gandhinagar: a seat the veteran leader has represented for five consecutive terms since 1998.

 While political observers see this as the end of the road for Advani in his sunset years, others see it as Modi sending a signal that the tide is in his favour and not only can he take risks but can kill at will.

The writer is a senior Indian journalist, political commentator and columnist of The Independent. She can be reached at: (kumkum91@gmail.com)