There is a very popular meme among social media supporters of Narendra Modi, which can give us a clue as to why the #MainBhiChowkidar movement has struck such an emotional chord and why it has been such an overwhelming success. The meme is actually quite simple. There is a picture of Modi, looking straight in your eye and alongside are written these words “In reality, they’re not after me. They’re after you…. I am just in the way”.
These pithy words would have not have continued to resonate, a decade after the Modi phenomenon first started rising at the national level, had there not been an intrinsic truth in them. The crux of the Modi phenomenon is about a silent, peaceful and structured revolt by the common people of India against an entitled, corrupt and nepotistic elite that ruled them for sixty years. When the people of India seemed frustrated with the dynastic politics, Modi’s emergence came across as a departure from the norm, with the qualities to stand up against the elite. What could some of these qualities be?
People wanted their leader to be the architect of India’s rise in the 21st century, instead of someone who only worked to protect his family’s legacy. People wanted their leader to work hard for their welfare. People wanted their leader to be non-corrupt. Seventeen years in elected office and not an iota of any proven corruption charge on Modi or on the cabinet he leads.
People wanted their leader to end nepotism at the top. The stories of Modi’s close family living the same lifestyle that they had earlier is an example that it can be done. People wanted an end from the regime of middlemen. They saw Modi dismantling the middlemen regime, both figuratively and literally. Institutionalizing welfare distribution through DBT further reinforced their belief.
People wanted their leader to see India deliver world-class projects too. They saw the speed and scale of Jan Dhan, Ujjwala, Mudra, Jan Suraksha, Saubhagya, Ayushman Bharat and PM Kisan. People wanted their leader to lead India’s economic resurgence. They saw India emerge as the consistently fastest growing economy in the world with the lowest inflation.
People wanted their leader to take risks for India’s sake. They saw GST rolled out before Gujarat elections, without fearing political loss due to initial disruption. People wanted their leader to be visionary. They heard Modi promise to send an Indian to space on an Indian spacecraft by 2022.
People wanted their leader to ignite the entrepreneurial culture in India. They saw more than 16 crore collateral free loans being distributed and an entrepreneurial culture being seeded.
People wanted their leader to make us believe that we could compete with China. They saw India overtake China in 2018, after decades, in attracting FDI. People wanted their leader to be assertive in protecting India’s strategic interests. They saw India staring down on China in Doklam and they saw India leading the world in rejecting OBOR.
People wanted their leader to change the way we deal with Pakistan. They saw Modi de-freezing our strategic thought after 30 years and striking deep inside Pakistani territory to send an unmistakable message.
People wanted their leader to help them collectively set the agenda instead of being forced to follow the agenda set by a few. They saw Modi institutionalise Jan Bhagidari through social media, Mann ki Baat and other such measures.
People wanted their leader to end the guilt-tripping about our culture, that they had been subjected to by the Nehruvian consensus. They saw Modi alongside international leaders on the Ghats of Varanasi, taking part in the timeless tradition of Ganga Aarti. People wanted their leader to be non-apologetic about his religion, merely because he was a believing Hindu. They saw Modi practice his belief and indeed make some others into newly minted Shiv Bhakts.
People wanted their leader to never be coopted by the ancient regime. Five years in office the adversaries of Modi themselves prove that he has lived up to his promise.
To think of why Modi evokes the reaction he does, think of a soldier who is on the frontlines battling our adversaries. He is there not fighting for himself. He is fighting for all of us, on behalf of us. If he wins it will not be his victory alone. If he loses, it will be our collective loss. Modi is that solider, who is fighting our battle at the democratic frontier against well entrenched aristocratic adversaries. If Modi wins, we win and we and our children will live in an India which will lead the world. If Modi loses, we lose and will fall back into the dark days that we witnessed during the years of UPA. So, when that regime, abuses Modi, it abuses not just that soldier fighting our battle, but it abuses all of us. Is it any surprise then that in times of a decisive battle, #MainBhiChowkidar is the collective war cry?
The author is CEO of Bluekraft Digital Foundation and former Director of MyGov India. Views expressed are personal.