The Rahul Gandhi interview with Arnab Goswami on 27th January 2014 on the Time’s Now News Channel’s Frankly Speaking show, has to be among the most discussed, analysed, criticised TV shows of recent memory. Also uniquely, it was a show that spawned a series of jokes that flooded our social networking pages and our Whatsapp in-boxes (my favourite one was this one: this election we will have to choose between the duffer, the bluffer and the muffler).
Having a social engagement for the evening, I myself missed the show and the outpouring of reactions to the show the next day, and this had me wondering if I had missed the most informative and significant TV show in recent times. So I decided I had to watch the show – obligingly it had quickly been uploaded on YouTube and the link sent to my email inbox.
After watching the show I got to thinking: did the show actually display the scion of the Gandhi family in such very poor light? Had the intense scrutiny and the social media circus that followed that show not been there, would everyone still regard Rahul Gandhi’s interview with such a jaundiced eye? Would everyone still view his words with contempt?
I am not a fan of Rahul Gandhi – think he has many limitations and I am dismayed that out of a billion plus individuals we have to pick between said duffer, bluffer and muffler. But really I don’t think that the man came off all that poorly in the interview. Nor do I think that the interview is likely to have the kind of far-reaching consequences that we’re led to believe it may.
Why Frankly Speaking showed Rahul Gandhi in poor light
When the man referred to himself in the third person (what Rahul Gandhi wants to do; what Rahul Gandhi is about…); this showed him up as rather pompous. His labouring the point of how he and his family have suffered at the hands of assassins; by being in politics and so on was a little unnecessary; I mean we all know this and he did not have to repeat this – he already has our sympathy. He did not have to come across as a sacrificial lamb.
Rahul Gandhi mentioned women’s empowerment several times in the show – this sounded rehearsed and according to the Twitterati made the man sound like a Miss Universe contestant. I have to agree. It was as though he set himself a target – lets mention women’s empowerment 34 and a half times or something.
Also, beating round the bush and prevaricating on direct questions that he could well have answered showed Rahul Gandhi in a poor light. If Rahul Gandhi had gone on record to apologise for the 1984 riots, this would have been an excellent move – it would have helped him score serious brownie points – he did not take advantage of the opportunity.
How Frankly Speaking did not show Rahul Gandhi in poor light
When Rahul Gandhi circumvented the question about whether he was ready to project himself as the next PM of India he did so probably because he is as aware as most of us that he may not be the best man for the job. If he prevaricated on this question by saying that his only aim is to change the system, I do not think that is so very reprehensible. I think that is fine ideal.
Mentioning other fine ideals such as a strong faith in the democratic process and hoping to usher in the kind of change that will empower women – all fine ideals too. Mentioning this several times – does this make those ideals any less worthy? Why must we scorn the man for sounding well intentioned and earnest? These are some of Rahul Gandhi’s better qualities – we could scorn his pomposity, but not his well-intentioned thinking surely!
And if he underlined some of the Congress’s achievements over the years – dating back from before our independence, surely he is entitled to it! In fact I would imagine that he should be driving home that point even more. I in fact am altogether fed up of all the Congress bashing around; of how citizens have chosen to turn a blind eye to all the good that the government has done in the past 10 years; the fact that life has become easier and we have become more prosperous in this time.
Another aspect of the man that I think deserved some appreciation is how he chose not to denigrate or deride his political opponent Narendra Modi in the way that he is himself is denigrated and derided on a regular basis. In his speeches, Narendra Modi repeatedly pokes fun at Rahul Gandhi – this is childish and unbecoming. The fact that Rahul Gandhi chose not to do so – perhaps he is unable to do this – he may not be articulate or aggressive enough for this – this is just as well. Name calling and mudslinging is unseemly and unattractive. There’s enough of it in our polity without the top leaders indulging in it too – it’s a courtesy that more politicians should extend to each other.
Where I also give credit to Rahul Gandhi is that he did not lose his temper with Arnab Goswami’s characteristically needling, provocative and incendiary questions. Goswami is known to ask questions that are designed to irritate and to anger; I thought RG was reasonably composed in the face of such deliberate provocation.
Was this interview so very significant?
In my humble view, it was not very significant. If it told us that Rahul Gandhi is not a great choice to be the next PM of our country, well we already knew that. He also came across as rather naïve; a little out of touch with reality; we also knew that. We knew that he is a reluctant politician. The interview told us nothing that we did not already know.
Also I don’t think that the interview will influence public opinion or help shape it. All in all, I think that the interview and the flurry discussion that followed it was something of a tempest in a teacup – quickly subsiding, and quickly forgotten – even the jokes weren’t that clever – one grew weary of the Rahul Gandhi-bashing after a bit.
By – Reena Daruwalla
Photo Courtesy – Times Now YouTube Channel