Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday used his interaction with 25 lakh private security agency guards over audio bridge as part of BJP’s “Mein Bhi Chowkidar” campaign to lash out at Congress president Rahul Gandhi over his “Chowkidar chor hai” jibe against him.

When one woman private security guard from Uttar Pradesh Renu told Modi that she and her colleagues were looked at with suspicion at their workplace ever since the “Chowkidar chor hai” remark was first made, the Prime Minister apologised for the hurt allegedly inflicted on them.

Without naming any party or its leader Modi said: “…some people for their petty selfish gains call people names without rhyme or reason. They called all “chowkidars” “chor”. Had they called me so directly it would not have hurt you. But they dared not do so.”

The PM said he had learned to wear “galis” (curses) as “gahana (ornaments)”. He said let all others do the same and move ahead with pride. He said none could stop the country from moving ahead.

Earlier, before beginning his interaction with security guards, Modi exhorted people to take a pledge to be a “Chowkidar” and continue their fight against dishonesty, filth and dynasty. He expressed his Holi greetings to the security guards and called upon them to continue to do their work diligently.

Modi said it was unfortunate that such language (“chor”) was being used. He said it showed the Opposition’s desperation. He said people were hell bent on giving a bad name to Chowkidar when, in fact, the word Chowkidar had become a synonym for “desh bhakti” (patriotism).

Hitting out at the “Naamdar” (dynasts), Modi said they were giving a bad name to “Kaamdars”. He exhorted the guards to help their siblings become doctors, engineers. He also told them to keep alive in them the spirit of a Chowkidar.

Responding to the query of a security guard from Andhra Pradesh on Balakot airstrike by Indian Air Force, Modi said the entire country is proud of their bravery. He said the country was surprised with the manner of the Opposition response to airstrikes. He said those who expressed solidarity with “tukre-tukre” gang were not able to digest the valour of IAF personnel. He said the country would never forget such people.

When a security guard asked Modi how he reacted to the fact that both of them were Chowkidars, Modi said that he was happy with the question as it showed there was no gap between a Prime Minister and a common citizen. He said he would never forget this experience. He said he is also a Chowkidar and recounted his government’s various schemes for the upliftment of the people of the country. He, however, underlined the need to be alert. He said had the past Chowkidars been alert the country would not have suffered losses worth crores of rupees.