Capital’s security guards gave BJP its latest poll watchword

Security guards at Pusa institute, where the BJP had organised an outreach programme between March 1 and March 8 to seek feedback on its manifesto.

Security guards at Pusa institute, where the BJP had organised an outreach programme between March 1 and March 8 to seek feedback on its manifesto.  

chowkidar Chaukanna Hai slogan came up at Delhi Ke Mann Ki Baat meetings

The genesis of Bharatiya Janata Party’s ‘chowkidar Chaukanna Hai’ (the watchman is alert) election cry, reiterated multiple times by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at several speeches, lies in the sprawling vicinity of central Delhi’s Pusa Institute of Technology.

The institute was the first among eight locations in the Capital where the party organised an outreach programme between March 1 and March 8 to seek feedback and suggestions for its Sankalp Patra or manifesto from a focus group composed solely of security guards.

The slogan was discovered during an interaction with the security guards, said senior leaders of the party.

“When we asked the chowkidars about their opinion on the Opposition’s ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’ [the watchman is a thief] comment against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the group said ‘nahin, hamara chowkidar to Chaukanna hai’ [no, our watchman is alert],” said Arti Mehra, convener of Bharat ke Mann ki Baat programme in Delhi, where it has been dubbed Delhi Ke Mann Ki Baat.

Ms. Mehra said the exercise, which lasted over a week, was conducted at the Pusa Institute of Technology, Safdarjung Enclave, Qutub Minar, Unity One Mall, Old Rajendra Nagar, Janakpuri West Market, Videocon Tower, Jhandewalan, and a municipal park at Inderpuri where 1,200 watchmen participated and 1,000 suggestions were recorded for inclusion in the party’s manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections.

The Hindu interacted with the institute’s security guards on Tuesday at Mela Ground where they assemble daily for a briefing about shift changing time.

A majority of those interviewed said they “feel more appreciated” since Mr. Modi and his Ministers began using ‘chowkidar’ as a prefix on their social media profiles.

Mixed response

Though most said they were appreciative of the work done by the Modi government as well as policies such as demonetisation, a few said they felt let down by issues such as lack of development in the rural belt and “not many solutions” for farmers in debt.

“A chowkidar is always alert. People who call themselves chowkidar automatically imply that they are Chaukanna [alert] and this is also the case with him [PM Modi]. This is a good slogan and I feel it has furthered our image in society. We feel more encouraged doing our duty now,” said Kiran Kashyap, a resident of Dwarka who is employed as a security guard at the institute.

Mahavir Rai from Bihar’s Muzaffarpur, who has one son in the Indian Army and another preparing to join it, said he supported the Balakot air strikes but also hoped for more toilets in his home district Sakra.

“That [the air strike] was exactly what Pakistan deserved after the Pulwama attack. I have been a security guard for 16 to 17 years to support the dreams of my sons. I trust someone like the Prime Minister with the lives of my sons,” he said.

Sonu Kumar from Uttar Pradesh’s Kasganj said issues like the Ram Mandir were not of much consequence to him. “Even if there is a masjid there, it is fine. Stop giving water to Pakistan and give it to Rajasthan. I also feel UP needs farm loan waiver. It looks like Mr. Modi will make it again because he has delivered 80%, if not 100%, of what he promised,” he said.

Raju Singh from Tilak Nagar said he supported demonetisation. “Someone who takes decisions on his own is worth being called a good Prime Minister. He took the demonetisation decision on his own. Even B.R. Ambedkar was a proponent of notebandi every five years to keep black money out of the system,” he said.

There was some unhappiness too. “Kahan hai vikas, sab hai bakwas [where is development, it is all rubbish],” said security guard Ram Khilawan (50) from Bihar’s Madhubani who stays in the city with his wife and two children. He said after he lost his job, he started working as a security guard not by choice but due to circumstances as he had to feed his family.

“I earn just ₹11,500 per month. I have no social security or medical facility. If I die, what will happen to my family? Mr. Modi might be taking pride in calling himself a chowkidar but I never wanted to be one,” said Khilawan.

Another security guard, Neeraj Sharma (33) from Bihar’s Rohtas, said he was in a contractual job but the contractor failed to pay him regularly. “I took the job of security guard around six months ago because I have to support my family. We are nothing for the government because Mr. Modi works for corporates. I have not witnessed any difference in my financial status in the last five years,” said Sharma.

Ravinder Kumar (55) from Ghaziabad said a chowkidar is a very important designation. “I want the Modi government to come again because demonetisation and GST were the best things that the government did during its tenure. It is a matter of pride that Modi called himself a chowkidar,” said Kumar.

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Printable version | May 28, 2020 7:37:07 AM |

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