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‘Chowkidar’ PM addresses watchmen as authorities get hold of Nirav Modi in London

People watch Prime Minister Modi’s address to the 2.5 million watchmen on a mobile phone at the BJP office in New Delhi on Wednesday. (Pradeep Gaur/ Mint )Premium
People watch Prime Minister Modi’s address to the 2.5 million watchmen on a mobile phone at the BJP office in New Delhi on Wednesday. (Pradeep Gaur/ Mint )

  • The timing of the arrest is significant as India is in the midst of a high-intensity election campaign
  • The BJP credited the Prime Minister for the arrest of Nirav Modi, but opposition parties said the timing of the arrest was suspect

NEW DELHI : The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) election campaign—“Main Bhi Chowkidar" (I am a watchman too) got wings on Wednesday with Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing watchmen across the country on a day when diamantaire Nirav Modi’s arrest was announced in London.

The timing of the arrest is significant as India is in the midst of a high-intensity election campaign, where corruption is a key issue. Both the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and opposition parties led by the Congress are attempting to build a narrative around corruption in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections.

Over the weekend, the Prime Minister had launched the BJP’s social media campaign with the hashtag—Main Bhi Chowkidar.

This was in response to the Congress’s campaign, “Chowkidar chor hai" (The watchman is a thief), led by party president Rahul Gandhi to target Modi.

During an address to the watchmen on Wednesday, the Prime Minister said that he wanted to apologize for the campaign that is being run against chowkidars by “some people in the last few months for their vested interests".

Modi, who addressed 2.5 million watchmen according to the BJP’s estimates, sought to link watchmen with values of patriotism and honesty in his 22-minute speech.

“I have made it my life’s mission to convert abuses into jewels. I move ahead with determination and certification," said Modi.

The BJP credited the Prime Minister for the arrest of Nirav Modi, but opposition parties said the timing of the arrest was suspect.

“You can run but cannot hide from the chowkidar," Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad wrote on Twitter.

However, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad retorted: “They (BJP) had helped him flee the country. Now they are bringing him back. They are bringing him back for the elections, they will send him back after elections."

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala also accused Modi of “snoozing" on the issue.

Modi stepped up his attack on the opposition and wrote a blog on Wednesday morning saying that there was a contrast in the approach of the United Progressive Alliance government and the NDA government elected in 2014. “Indians were tired of our beloved nation being in the Fragile Five, where corruption, cronyism and nepotism made headlines instead of anything positive. India voted to shed the baggage of the past in pursuit of a better future," he wrote.

Modi also alleged that the Congress has always seen the defence sector as a source of income. “After 1947, every Congress government has seen multiple defence scams. They began with jeeps and then moved to guns, submarines and helicopters. Every middleman is linked to one family," said the blog.

The issue can play a key role, said political analysts. “In the run up to the elections, opposition parties used to target Prime Minister Modi over his failure to bring back those who had fled the country. It had become a key part of their election slogans. With Nirav Modi’s arrest, the BJP has got backing to use this in its election rallies. Though the process of bringing him back may take a long time, the arrest will boost the party’s campaign," said S.K. Dwivedi, an Uttar Pradesh-based political analyst.

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