Rahul Gandhi wasted a great opportunity to spell out the future direction of a new-generation Congress that he is attempting to reconstruct. An unusually calm, pleasant and non-aggressive Arnab Goswami prodded the Congress leader into areas that needed to be coherently addressed, sensibly and with passion, to alter the corrosion of the last many decades that has rusted the body of the Congress. On every controversial count, Rahul Gandhi fumbled. Viewers were watching the programme with bated breath, hoping he would redeem himself by reaching out with a new idea, a different formula, a definite position against the wholly untenable practices his party leaders have indulged in over the decades, a damning of corruption, and more.
His advisors clearly got it wrong. To do a loose, hour-long interview as his first, was unnecessary and unwarranted. The lack of homework was evident. The fact that he was unable to hold his own, often showing signs of confusion and nervousness through expressions and body language, left audiences feeling sorry for him and his earnestness. Congressmen and women were not enthused, diehard Congress and Rahul Gandhi supporters were stumped into silence, the cadre was bewildered, sycophants were heard saying he dodged the questions well, and kind viewers said he came across as being a decent man with good intentions. The latter sentiment needed to be injected with a strong and clear position on the horrors that have engulfed India.
Listening to the few ‘fundamentals’ he reiterated, about systemic change et al, there was nothing that jigged the latent hope that this leader had thought through the mechanisms that could bring change. How did he intend to empower women? What were the correctives that needed to be brought within the ambit of the RTI, even if he had to spell out a few areas of concern? What were those three basics he would put in place for carrying the youth with him? He mentioned ‘women’ and ‘youth’ several times, to the point of becoming farcical, but said nothing beyond them. Why couldn’t he have set out a fresh blueprint on such matters? At least then we would have had a glimpse of how he plans to put across his ideas, integrity and transparency into the larger scheme to reinvent a party of now and not of the past. If there is a place here for a ‘conspiracy theory’, all one can say is that Rahul Gandhi’s team of advisors did him in on all counts and he went along with it.
Recently, Rahul Gandhi had interacted with captains of industry and had come across as a sincere, thinking, committed man who seemed to have a clear idea of where he was headed. On Times Now, he negated that impression. Those who ‘manage’ the ‘persona’ and the ‘content’, have faltered badly and need to take a hard rap for this. For the ‘advisors’ to undo, in one destructive sweep, a tentative step into the real world of politics, should be unacceptable to those in the sanctum sanctorum of the party. Some heads should roll. A revamp is imperative for ‘survival’. All leaders, across the world, have a team of professionals who groom them for different events — for interviews, for speeches on diverse fora, for ‘meet the people’, for official banquets and more. The projection of ideas is rehearsed. Demeanours are suggested. And, if the leader is a pro at everything, he works actively with the ‘team’. To be sloppy is a no-no.
The silence of Narendra Modi on the Rahul interview is reeking of predictable suspense. Presumably, he will soon counter the honest ‘innocence’ of his main opponent with a devastating assault on each point. Why did Team Rahul give Modi this opportunity for another verbal slaughter?