The Congress on Tuesday mocked the Bharatiya Janata Party’s #MainBhiChowkidar campaign, claiming that “Modi baba and 40 thieves” have been duping the people of the country.

Several leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party have changed their social media handles to prefix “chowkidar” (watchman) before their names. This is a response to Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s claim of “chowkidar chor hai” (the watchman is a thief), a reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Nowadays, the whole country is talking about the theft committed by a chowkidar,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said at a press conference. “The truth is that Modi baba and 40 thieves want to fool the people once again by adding ‘chowkidar’ to their names. But the people are saying, ‘Hai hai re Modi sarkar, kabhi paan pakode kabhi chowkidar’.”

Surjewala claimed that the propaganda-obsessed Modi-led government needs constant “branding and rebranding” to hide the prime minister’s failures.

Earlier in the day, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had said at a press conference that Modi will interact with people who have taken the “Main bhi chowkidar” pledge at 500 venues via video conferencing on March 31. The BJP leader claimed the campaign has turned into a “mass movement”, the Hindustan Times reported. He added that over 1 crore people have pledged their support for the campaign.

“But some people are opposing it,” Prasad said. “These are people who are born in affluence and are out on bail. They have things to hide.”

Opposition criticises campaign

In his press conference, Surjewala claimed that the Modi government keeps changing its slogans due to the fear of an imminent defeat in the Lok Sabha elections. “Modi has a habit of taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich,” Surjewala alleged. “The chowkidar who was responsible for the Rafale scam, for Vijay Mallya fleeing the country, that chowkidar is a thief.”

The Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, which are part of an Opposition alliance in Uttar Pradesh, also criticised Modi for the campaign. “After BJP launched ‘Mai Bhi Chowkidar’ campaign, PM Modi and others added the prefix ‘Chowkidar’ to their Twitter handles,” Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati tweeted. “So now Narendra Modi is chowkidar and no more ‘chaiwala’ [tea seller] which he was at the time of last Lok Sabha elections. What a change India is witnessing under BJP rule. Bravo!”

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav tweeted: “Is there any chowkidar to check the theft of fertiliser? Was the chowkidar punished for the theft of files from the defence ministry?”