OPinion@The Hush Post| 19:40 pm |three-minute-read
India for long has been a country which has loved metaphors, analogies, and symbolism. The latest metaphor is the Prime Minister of India and his cabinet colleagues calling themselves ‘chowkidar’ on twitter. The good thing about the social media is that the fake and false can be called real. For example, you can wish Happy Diwali to your friend by sending a firecracker on social media, which may look like emitting celebratory fire but not really. You can send sweets or birthday cakes but you can’t eat those. And you can also call yourself a chowkidar while travelling in a chaffeur-driven Mercedes Benz protected by a cavalcade. The red beacons are gone but not the tricolour.
As long as the metaphors are used harmlessly it is all right. But if a metaphor is what political parties fight for in a democracy and try to influence voters, it may be far-fetched to call ourselves a banana republic but certainly not bewakoofbanana republic. Let’s understand how?
The real chowkidar guarding ATMs, banks, institutions, etc sit on a self-dusted broken chair mostly; seldom have rifles for emergency, and are beaten black and blue in the darkness good for crimes like theft and burglary. A few off-days from work to recover could mean loss of a job. This is the real chowkidar for you.
When PM Narendra Modi uses the metaphorical chowkidar for himself on Twitter, and his council of ministers — can we call them council of chowkidars — replicate it, they should know that a reverse side has a reverse side too.
So if PM calls himself the chowkidar, then the guards outside the ATMs can call themselves the Pradhan mantri or the mantris. But wouldn’t people laugh at the poor fellow calling himself one? And if they laugh at this ATM wala Pradhan Mantri, what would they do to the real Pradhan Mantri, who recently started calling himself a chowkidar. Or is there a graduation from being a chaiwala in 2014 to chowkidar in 2019 – the roundabout five-year promotion time in government and other services.
This metaphorical Pradhan Mantri gets paid through a contractor anything between Rs 5,000 to Rs 7,000 per month. Once the salary is given after getting the document signed, part of the payment is taken back. And the poor Pradhan Mantri, mostly outsourced, is left with little option but to continue suffering. By the way, outsourcing is done, to bypass and manipulate the system and to ensure that the Minimum Wage Act is not flouted. Technically nothing wrong, just as technical nothing may be found wrong with Rafale that brought the ‘chowikdar’ jibe into the political context.
This chowkidar ‘Pradhan Mantri’s’ first lady at home, never work as South Block Chowkidars like Nirmala Sitharamans and Sushma Swarajs. These first ladies work as maids, cleaning utensils, floors and clogged pipes at the houses of the real crony ‘chowkidars.’ They are mostly anaemic, and so are their children. In the meagre salary that the ATM guarding pradhan mantri earns, the family over eats the undesired carbs to ensure they don’t feel hungry and lasts them 12 hours; protein and fibre intake is precious little. The hospitals are far. Many a time doctors in their white jackets are too elitist to blurt out anything more than a monosyllable to them. The mode of transportation of these Pradhan Mantris and their first ladies is bicycle, which occupies no more than six inches of road width and a little graze of a four-wheeler means lifelong disability or death.
An anonymous man on Google rightly described the present economic-political scenario in India and the actual relationship between the new chowkidar and ‘Pradhan Mantri’: “Yahan malik bhook se marte hain aur chowikdaar aur sewak lakh rupaiya roz majdoori lete hain,” including the Anil Ambanis of the world.
The so-called mein bhi chowkidar movement went viral on twitter yesterday. After all, BJP remembers well that the 2014 chaiwala jibe of Mani Shakar Aiyar was picked up by BJP and paid off, it must have, quite heavily. BJP probably weighs the chowkidar jibe in the same breath as the chaiwala jibe and possibly wants to exploit it this time again. But there is a problem. With the chaiwala jibe there wasn’t any background except for the insipid Stephanian superiority Mani Shankar Aiyar carried with him without fail to TV studios and wherever he went (he comes from St Stephen’s College, New Delhi).
This time around there is a glaring background to the chowkidar chor hai jibe. In the Rafale deal, the choice of Anil Ambani, who escaped jail today in the Ericsson case, courtesy elder brother Mukesh Ambani was the government’s alleged choice over the more experienced Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL) for offset contracts. He gets the Rs 30,000 crore contract. And Rahul Gandhi has been able to exploit it well.
Now comes the counter-offensive by the BJP with all the ‘chowkidars’ who have been administered oath of office by changing their Twitter handles as mein bhi chowkidar.
Will it pay? It may, it may not. But the Indian political scenario is treading a dangerous line – a line of propaganda — where if you repeat a lie often enough it has the capability to replace the truth. Today, everybody is discussing the chowkidar narrative. And this perfectly suits the BJP and replaces what should have been in focus — the Rafale deal. The Congress has fallen into the trap and the use of chowkidar on Twitter by the BJP makes us look like a bewafakoofbanana republic.