For a decade, the Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi did not give an interview to any media organisation. When he did, as expected, there was an an air of expectation. The media managers wanted to use him as an opportunity to garner maximum political mileage; a scoop waiting to be lopped up. For the Congress, it was an opportunity to establish the Gandhi brand a couple of months before the crucial parliamentary polls.
One Right Move
The image building team of Rahul Gandhi chose Arnab Goswami of Times Now, who has positioned himself as a rapid fire, untiring and uncompromising questionnaire. Perhaps, the PR team wanted to send out the message that Rahul Gandhi is ready to face the toughest TV questionnaire in the business; that he has come of age and is ready to take on the responsibility.
Unlike the daily dose of NewsHour program at night, where issues are debated with guests putting across different points of view, the Arnab’s Frankly Speaking series is a simple and straight forward question and answer format, where the guest has an ample amount of time to put across his point of view. Though the interviewer makes every opportunity to nail the guest on certain aspects, which makes the interview newsworthy, sensational and dramatic, if the guest is smart, then they can turn the tide in their favor and put across the opinion that they want to convey, thereby channelizing the mode of question to those aspects which they are confident of answering.
..And Several Very Wrong Moves
While the PR team of Rahul Gandhi scored some points by convincing the scion of Gandhi family to subject himself to media scrutiny, they failed to provide him with the background briefing on the possible topics that could be touched upon during the interview and how they should be handled or the politically correct party line that should be taken. The biggest mess up was with the comparison of 2002 and 1984 riots and admission that some Congressmen were involved in the anti-Sikh riots by Rahul Gandhi. The interview brought out how naive he is as a politician as he repeatedly wanted to answer issues related to Right to Information, empowerment of women and youth. He was rightfully, but politely snubbed by Arnab that if he wanted to know his views on those issues, he would rather listen to his speech and not sit across to interview him.
When he talked about corruption, Rahul found himself in a weak wicket as he was discussing pre-poll alliance with RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, who has been convicted for fodder scam. The defense that the Congress was discussing alliance with parties and not individuals, cut little ice to the viewers, who very well know that the former Bihar chief minister had evaded the probe into the scam for several years due to political pulls and pressures. In a scripted manner, the para-trooper like jumping, calling the the ordinance to shield convicted lawmakers from disqualification as “complete nonsense” and censure of Maharashtra government on rejecting Adarsh scam report, may leave the Congress cheer brigade in awe and impressed, but not the concerned citizens of this country. Perhaps, the PR team expected the interview would leave a lasting impression in the minds of viewers. In a way, it has, but it is more a negative image than a positive one.
By R. Suryamurthy
Image Source: Arnab Goswami Memes@Facebook