Prime Minister Narendra Modi calls himself a chowkidar. What he has done is tell the nation and the world the truth. Chowkidars exist mostly in Asian countries where poor men work as protectors of the rich. In India, only about 0.5% of the population have watchmen, who are called chowkidars. Only poor, lower caste people — Dalits, Other Backward Classes and Adivasis — take up this job, and that too when no other work for survival is available. That the job is tied to caste was evident in Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy’s statement. Mr. Swamy recently said that he cannot join the BJP’s ‘Main Bhi Chowkidar (I am also a watchman)’ campaign as he is a Brahmin. Being a chowkidar is a low-paying job with little job satisfaction — after all, a chowkidar has to stand at the gate of a rich man or woman’s house all day and protect it. No chowkidar serves the poor. The poor do not have anything that needs protection.
Protecting the rich
When I say Mr. Modi is speaking the truth, I refer to the people he has been protecting as Prime Minister — the rich, the top industrialists. Those who are trying to establish a Hindutva state and economy are doing so for the rich. The BJP/RSS Ministers and cadres have no hesitation in joining the ‘Main Bhi Chowkidar’ campaign. The BJP and the RSS have never believed in socio-economic equality. While it is true that BJP-RSS activists have always worked to help people during natural calamities, they have never worked for the upliftment of the poor. They have never organised the agrarian poor or the urban poor in order to increase their daily wages. Whenever there have been strikes by workers, they have sided with the management, never with the workers. Their student wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, has never organised seminars or conferences on how to improve the living conditions of the marginalised. Nor has it organised meetings for social and economic justice. It has, in fact, opposed progressive meets on campuses.
When the Indian economy was feudal, these activists mobilised support for the feudal lords. After it became mainly capitalist following the globalisation and liberalisation phase, they stood by the growing crony capitalists. Their only concern was that these crony capitalists should back the Hindutva ideology.
This is not to say that the Congress has not supported monopoly capital. But during the freedom struggle and till the 1970s, the Congress had some serious ideological relationship with the socialist welfare agenda. It wanted to build state capital. From Nehruvian democratic socialism to Indira Gandhi’s abolition of Privy Purses and bank nationalisation, the Congress engaged with the idea of some sort of social and economic equality. However, after Emergency, its credibility began to erode. When Rajiv Gandhi became Prime Minister, a slow pace of privatisation started. Once the P.V. Narasimha Rao government was ushered in, the privatisation process picked up, without giving up the idea of a mixed economy.
Through all these phases, the RSS and Jan Sangh opposed state capital; they opposed a mixed economy. It was only after Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency that they gained some credibility among the poor, and this was because they joined hands with the socialist leader Jayaprakash Narayan. Otherwise they never moved away from the rich. They never moved away from serving capitalist and feudal interests.
Disintegration of feudalism
Luckily for them, by the 2014 Lok Sabha election, feudalism got disintegrated. The crony capitalists were impatient with the Congress culture of slow privatisation. They found in the BJP those who could protect them.
Of course, some pro-poor policies are taken by the government too — for poor farmers and labourers. This is only because if this is not done, a revolution could break out. And if a revolution does occur, leave alone the chowkidars, even the police cannot protect their economy.
The 2019 elections will decide what the masters do. If the chowkidars come to power with their full backing, more decisions will be taken to increase the gap between the masses and the rich.
Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is a political theorist, social activist and author