Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday apologised to security guards around the country, claiming that “some people” have started calling “chowkidars” a thief. He claimed that these people have raised doubts about the integrity of security guards, the Bharatiya Janata Party said in a tweet.

“We have to progress a lot,” Modi said, addressing 25 lakh security guards via video conferencing. “We have to ensure that our children become doctors, engineers, soldiers, even prime ministers. But we have to imbibe in our children the habit of guarding the country.”

The prime minister said the country is proud of its soldiers, who he claimed have avenged the killing of the jawans in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama on February 14. However, Modi said, people are shocked by the reaction of Opposition parties to the Indian Air Force’s strikes on Balakot in Pakistan.

Congress President Rahul Gandhi had used the term “chowkidar chor hai” [the watchman is a thief] while alleging that Modi allowed Ambani to secure the offset contract in the Rafale jet deal with France. Modi on Wednesday accused Gandhi of having insulted security guards, claiming that the word “chowkidar” has become synonymous with patriotism and honesty. Modi said his rivals lacked guts to either name him or directly attack him, and had instead resorted to attacking watchmen.

Without naming Gandhi, Modi said “naamdaar”, or dynasts, have a habit of spreading hate against those who believe in hard work and they will continue to insult them even if somebody becomes a prime minister, PTI reported.

On Sunday, top BJP leaders, including the prime minister, prefixed the term “chowkidar” to their names on Twitter. The party also started a #MainBhiChowkidar campaign on social media, urging people to join it. Modi claimed on Wednesday that the whole country has embraced the campaign.