Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday gave his first election interview, speaking on a wide range of topics with Republic Media Network's Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami, just two weeks ahead of voting in the first phase of Lok Sabha polls. A facet that has been ever-present in virtually all election since the 2014 general elections has been the Opposition's eagerness to use derogatory personal abuses against the Prime Minister.
Perhaps the most oft-cited and classist abuses that has been directed against him has been 'Chaiwala' referring to his humble origins, and it was with this that the Prime Minister started:
"As far as 'chaiwala' is concerned, I've been a Chief Minister. (I've been) Gujarat's longest serving Chief Minister but you never heard about 'chaiwala' or anything about my family. I kept myself far from such things. But when my candidature for the Prime Minister's post was announced, some people out of curiosity, tried finding out about my childhood. They had no wrong intentions, but some people declared awards saying that if someone who had tea made by Modi will be given these many lakhs in reward."
Adding that 'chowkidar' is a spirit and is an embodiment of Mahatma Gandhi's principle of trusteeship, PM Modi said he had to give it back to the Opposition when they targeted spirit of trusteeship using uncivilised language.
"It went to this extent. So when the chaiwala issue came up, I was a Parliamentarian, my party had announced my candidature for Prime Ministership, then the issue came up and suddenly people started abusing me for being a chaiwala. Then with pride I said, yes I come from a humble background, I am from a simple family. I spent my childhood selling tea. I had to say this and so I said it. Otherwise, when I was Chief Minister, neither did I ever talk about it nor did anyone ever raise it. It came up after so many years. As far as chowkidar is concerned, I used the word for myself and it was a part of my 2013 - 2014 campaign and in that chowkidar wasn't an institution, chowkidar is a spirit. Chowkidar doesn't mean cap, whistle and stick. Mahatma Gandhi used to talk about the principle of trusteeship, chowkidar in a way is an embodiment of the principle of trusteeship. It's the simplified word for trusteeship. That I will work according to the principle of trusteeship, I will work like a chowkidar. I am not the one to take bribes. It's that spirit and I was working with that spirit. That is why, when they tried attacking that spirit and used uncivilised language, then it became important for me to tell the country that, the reasons for which I am being abused, I am that. Now you decide," PM Modi said during the interview.
In a winning response to the Opposition's 'Chowkidar chor hai' jibe, PM Modi and BJP recently launched the 'Main Bhi Chowkidar' campaign, taking social media by storm as thousands joined in to add the prefix 'Chowkidar' before their names.