Mahatma Gandhi said that leadership is all about getting along with people and taking them towards a definite goal. There are many in India’s political circles who claim to be inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and regularly pay tribute to his ideals. However, the easiest thing to do with Bapu’s ideas is to pay empty tribute, and move on. The implementation of his words and ideas is the harder part, something that few are actually interested in.
However, if there is one leader who has carefully considered his words and lived out his ideas, it is Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Right from his days as a student and an RSS member, he has been known as an organisation man, a man of the people — something which reflects in his political life. Connecting with people and inspiring them to work for a larger purpose comes naturally to Modi.
For instance, take the negative tone that was being set by the Congress and its alliance partners. However, by saying “Main Bhi Chowkidar”, and inspiring others to say so as well, Modi has single-handedly created a social movement that is not about political messaging but about a positive call to action, to take ownership of the country’s development. Lakhs of people have said “Main Bhi Chowkidar” along with Modi.
Modi’s Twitter timeline keeps ticking regularly and it could have been just another tweet when he said, “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”. However, it wasn’t just another tweet. It was an inclusive call, just like the all-embracing “Sab Ka Saath Sab Ka Vikas” slogan of 2014.
This showed that Modi is not claiming the credit for any development that may have happened in the past five years for himself. Instead, he credited every Indian who is, in his or her own way, contributed to the development of the nation. If, as prime minister, Modi has fought a legislative and systemic battle against corruption, every Indian who has rallied social opinion against normalisation of corruption has fought the battle too.
Every Indian who personally believed in the cleanliness mission, and every Indian who fought against social decay, was being feted by none other than the prime minister — who has himself waged a long battle against issues such as corruption, filth and social ills.
Ever since his first speech from the ramparts of the Red Fort, Modi has invoked the spirit of Bapu’s emphasis on cleanliness. He also mentioned how it was Bapu’s wish that cleanliness becomes a way of life for everyone in India. This wasn’t empty rhetoric. In these five years, India has seen lakhs of villages getting declared open defecation-free and crores of household toilets being built. Despite this, there were some parties, such as the Congress, that ridiculed even a noble initiative like Swachh Bharat. The constant pessimism of certain political parties has made it clear to the people that an unstable, underdeveloped and weak nation is the goal of parties like the Congress. Because that is when their divide and rule politics can succeed.
But the people haven’t let such negativity affect them. They have taken ownership of the cleanliness mission, instead. There is a sense in every Indian that the cleanliness of our surroundings is our responsibility, and the people are playing the role of chowkidars of cleanliness with pride. “Main Bhi Chowkidar” has evoked this feeling of ownership and pride in Indians. With the kind of response this movement has seen, it is clear that the people are determined to removing obstacles that stand in the way of making India a strong, prosperous and inclusive nation.
Many decisions of the Modi government have played a role in curbing corruption that used to go unabated. But now, with every Indian opposing corruption at every level, India’s rise as an economic superpower is imminent. However, this cannot be achieved merely by laws, but through social movements such as “Main Bhi Chowkidar”. If every Indian continues to play the role of a chowkidar and ensures cleanliness, the gains for the nation in terms of health and hygiene, are tremendous. This frees the poor from health expenses too. It also ensures that the government can channelise resources into creating more avenues for socio-economic growth of the poor.
Thus, “Main Bhi Chowkidar” is not a political campaign at all. It is not even a reply to the Congress’s negative campaign of “Chowkidar Chor Hai”. In fact, it is a movement to strengthen social consciousness. Bapu’s clarion call to fight filth and untouchability had seen spirited volunteerism, like Vinoba Bhave’s “Bhoodaan” movement, that inspired common people to make voluntary land contributions of 44 lakh acres. This, too, is a movement that is inspiring people and rallying them for a greater purpose.
“Main Bhi Chowkidar” is a movement driven by Indians who are also doubling up as volunteers for a better India. The impact of this will be felt much beyond the elections of 2019.
The writer is head, BJP media cell, and Rajya Sabha MP