Whatever PM Modi says or does, it trends. That’s the rule of Twitter in India. So of course, him launching a new campaign was bound to be talked about, no surprise there.
On Saturday 16th March, PM Modi launched a #MainBhiChowkidar campaign on Twitter by sharing a video and this message.
The video, which is basically a song with lyrics showcasing the government’s initiatives, racked up more than 50,000 likes and 19,000 retweets on the micro-blogging website. It ended with PM Modi appealing the people to join his “Main Bhi Chowkidar” programme on 31st March.
And that’s what the people did
Soon after, lakhs of twitterati also renamed their handles to chowkidar and tweeted positives about PM Modi using the hashtag. Not just this, but scores of BJP leaders also added the word Chowkidar to their official handles and tweeted “I am proud to join #MainBhiChowkidar movement.” This includes the likes of Piyush Goyal, Smriti Irani, Amit Shah, B S Yeddiyurappa, and Ravi Shankar Prasad.
If you want a quick look at what BJP supporters were tweeting using the hashtag, then MensXP has collated screenshots of different tweets.
The opposition reacted equally strongly
They attempted to break this trend by hitting out at the BJP campaign with their own hashtag. The Congress’s official Twitter handle tweeted with the hashtags #IndiaBewakoofNahiHai (India isn’t stupid) and #SuitBootKaChowkidaar (Chowkidar only for businessmen) saying “Everybody knows India is not stupid, you are the one & only Chowkidar only for businessmen”.
They also used these hashtags to accuse the Narendra Modi government of showing undue favour to industrialist Anil Ambani in the Rafale fighter jet deal with the French government and helping fugitive businessmen such as Nirav Modi, Mehul Choksey and Vijay Mallya escape the country after scamming Indian banks.
Of course, none of this really worked as loyal BJP supporters started supporting the campaign with even more fervour. But while Congress’s usual jabs at the BJP were failing…
The campaign sort of backfired
Narendra Modi’s official handle on Twitter fell prey to a goof up. The handle had turned on automated replies to those who tweeted using the #MainBhiChowkidar hashtag. Unfortunately, some of those tweets came from controversial/troll accounts that counteracted the campaign’s effectiveness. One such account was a parody account named after Nirav Modi – the business tycoon who is currently wanted in India for defrauding the Punjab National Bank of over Rs 13,000 crore.
An automated tweet from Narendra Modi’s handle tagged Nirav Modi thanking him for his participation in the campaign. This obviously came as a shock to loyal Modi supporters. The twitterati soon realized that it was a technical goof up and while they were busy laughing away, Mr Modi’s IT cell immediately deleted the tweet.
But the saga didn’t end there. Within the next few hours, a few other parody accounts received similar tweets from Narendra Modi. These included @AmbaniKaChela, Lalu Prasad Yadav (Parody)/@ModiLeDubega, and Jhoota Fakeer/@NehruKiGaltiHai.
This started a war of words between the BJP and Congress
The Congress used this as a golden opportunity to give back. Several Congress leaders started taking screenshots of Modi’s replies and tweeting them out with sarcastic captions. For example, on the Nirav Modi tweet, Congress’s official handle replied saying, “It’s great to see that Modi is still in touch with his buddies.”
The BJP, after deleting their automated tweets (that tagged fake accounts), acted like this blunder never happened. They, in turn, called the Congress “dishonest and deceitful” for putting out photoshopped images to demean the #MainBhiChowkidar campaign.
The Congress then targeted the BJP for flooding social media with indiscriminate, automated messages on more than one occasion. The party has often accused the BJP of using automated accounts — or bots — to give the illusion of popularity on social media. They also carved a new name for the BJP – calling it the Bot Janta Party.
The use of the word “chowkidar” dates back to the poll campaigning ahead of the 2014 general elections when Mr Modi had promised to work as a “chowkidar” to guard people’s money and their trust once elected to the top office. Since then, the PM and his robust marketing team have used the word on several, even more so in the past few weeks.