Okay, credit should be given where it is due–Rahul Gandhi may or may not be many things but he surely is brave. It is a brave person who subjects himself to an hour-long interview with Arnab Goswami–all the more so if said person is in the unenviable position of being responsible for steering a sinking ship to safe shores.
Rahul Gandhi must certainly have known that he would have to face some tough questions–from a journalist who is not known for being polite or softspoken. The vision of Arnab Goswami banging his fist on his desk, glowering at his guest and shouting “the nation demands an answer” must surely make even seasoned politicos quake in their boots.
On the other hand, I also wonder if RaGa’s bravery didn’t verge on foolhardiness. What possessed him to allow Goswami to make mincemeat of him on prime-time television? Why couldn’t he at least learn from his mother who, as far as I remember, has only ever allowed Vir Sanghvi and Barkha Dutt–both favourably disposed towards her–to interview her on television?
And if at all he had to take on Goswami, the least he could have done is to come prepared. He should have known that he would have to field questions on the desirability of dynasties in politics, for instance. I know it would have been difficult for him to justify his dynastic privilege and the rampant corruption in UPA regimes but at least he could have shown more earnestness in defending himself. For example, he could just have said that dynasties are not out of place in a democracy as long as they get voted in–just the lines his very own partymen employ to defend him–and have made a valid point.
Instead, he beat around the bush and did not appear to have to say much in his defense except that he did not choose to be born into the family! On the issue of corruption, he said it was the UPA government that brought in the RTI and and appeared to suggest that the RTI was the reason why so much corruption was exposed during UPA II. Not the best of arguments but well, this was tough to wiggle out of.
The issue on which Rahul Gandhi really tied himself up in knots was the 1984 riots vis-a-vis the 2002 riots. He said the difference between the two riots was that the former was not aided and abetted by the government of the day while the latter was. He eventually did admit that some Congressmen ‘may have been involved’ but continued to insist that the government had not really looked the other way–whatever that meant. And finally he was reduced to saying that at least he was not around when 1984 occurred ( and so he should not have to answer for it. ) He refrained from unequivocally condemning those involved and whatever regret he did express did not sound entirely sincere.
What irked me most was his tendency to start talking vaguely about entirely unrelated issues like women-empowerment and youth-empowerment at the drop of a hat. Women -empowerment in particular appeared to be his favourite phrase–he must have used it more than ten times in one hour. If RaGa thinks he can get women to vote for him by brandishing such terms, good luck to him.
In the end, it was Arnab Goswami who earned brownie points by giving Rahul Gandhi a good grilling, though he did tone down his aggressiveness a bit. I half-wished Arnab would pump his fist and do his ‘the nation demands an answer’ routine in front of Rahul Gandhi too. I quickly banished such evil thoughts from my head, though–surely poor RaGa was having a harrowing enough time as it was!