Modi’s #MainBhiChowkidar versus Gandhi’s #ChowkidarChorHai—who won?

Three cheers for online wins.
Three cheers for online wins.
Image: Reuters/Adnan Abidi
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Can India’s 2019 elections be swayed by the internet?

Although 2014 was deemed India’s first social media election, 2019 is where the use of technology for electoral politics has come into its own, and now it can have a huge impact on the upcoming polls, according to digital agency and brand leaders.

Over nine in 10 respondents said voter perception can be altered by digital media, as per a recent survey of 163 digital media leaders by Gurugram-based influencer-marketing firm Buzzoka.

For instance, half of those surveyed believe BJP’s “Main bhi Chowkidar” (“I, too, am a watchman”) campaign has been effective.

Last month, prime minister Narendra Modi set the ball rolling on the campaign by prefixing chowkidar to his Twitter display name and other leaders, such as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, finance minister Arun Jaitley, and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, followed suit.

This campaign was in response to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s repeated digs about ”Chowkidar chor hai“(“The watchman himself is the thief”) in his speeches in the last year.

The BJP also called upon supporters to promote the “main bhi chowkidar” theme, ostensibly to fight graft and social evils for a corruption-free government.

Meanwhile, Gandhi initiated #ChowkidarChorHai in an attempt to make the phrase he coined a viral campaign:

Gandhi claimed that the prime minister was the chowkidar of fugitives such as diamantaires Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi, and former liquor baron Vijay Mallya.

The Congress president also alleged that Modi had gifted the business conglomerate Reliance Group’s chief Anil Ambani the Rafale deal, looting Rs30,000 crore ($4.3 billion) of public money.

This rebuttal by Congress, though, hasn’t worked as much. Over two-thirds of the respondents felt it was a miss.


As 45 million new, young tech-savvy voters take to the polls, social media campaigns could be a game-changer.

Both the BJP and Modi top the charts for being most active on social media, looking to reach the public directly. While both have had their fair share of hiccups, the Indian prime minister still has way more followers—46.8 million—than Gandhi’s under 10 million, according to Buzzoka’s findings.

Besides, the BJP also has other tricks up its sleeve to win in the digital space, including radio shows, TV channels, and web series.

Read Quartz’s coverage of the 2019 Indian general election here.