Rahul Gandhi, stuck on repeat

In his first formal interview, he and his questioner, Arnab Goswami, seemed to be speaking different languages.

Updated: February 11, 2014 2:41 pm
If Gandhi was repetitive, desultory, given to platitudes, Goswami was as pointed and focused as a compass and revelled in asking uncomfortable questions. He went for all the difficult questions of today, ignoring Gandhi’s “long-term view”. If Gandhi was repetitive, desultory, given to platitudes, Goswami was as pointed and focused as a compass and revelled in asking uncomfortable questions. He went for all the difficult questions of today, ignoring Gandhi’s “long-term view”.

Arnab Goswami (Times Now): Are you afraid of losing to Narendra Modi, Rahul, please answer my question as specifically as you can?

Rahul Gandhi (vice president, Congress): Rahul Gandhi wants to empower women.

Goswami: How is Narendra Modi responsible for the (Gujarat) riots when the courts have given him a clean chit?

Gandhi: Our party believes that women should be empowered.

Goswami: Is your party’s argument about putting him on the back foot on Gujarat flawed?

Gandhi: The real issue at hand here is empowering the women of this country. Does the sun rise in the east or the west? The fundamental question here is, how do we  empower women?

In his first “formal” interview to TV news, Rahul Gandhi and Arnab Goswami were speaking different languages. It was like watching the Republic Day parade, Sunday, on DD News: one commentator in English or Hindi, the other in sign language — and the viewer left to understand one or the other. Here too.

Towards the end of the 90-odd minute Q&A, Gandhi termed Goswami’s questions “superficial”, shook a finger at him: “You didn’t once ask me questions on how we’re going to get jobs for youngsters… you didn’t ask me once about what we’re going to do for the women, for this country…” Goswami, accustomed to wagging his tongue at his guests, countered: “This is an interview. You called my questions superficial… I feel my questions are specific.” Many such exchanges left the viewer thoroughly perplexed: did Gandhi hear what he was being asked? Did Goswami listen to Gandhi’s replies? No and no.

The interview was a coup for Times Now. It’s the biggest interview of the year, unless someone lands a hard-hitting interview with Narendra Modi. Apart from all the tweets and reports in the media, it has generated prime-time tele-debates. Indeed, Goswami found himself in the unusual position of debating his own interview on Monday and Tuesday nights — now that must be another first. But it had other channels interested too: The Last Word (CNN-IBN) on Tuesday examined what Rahul G may have learnt from the interview — plenty, if you heard the panelists.

And in truth, there was much to criticise. Repetition. Early in the interview, Gandhi referred to “the system” six times in as many sentences. And it continued throughout. He uttered the word in such dire tones, you felt a monster was simply waiting for the interview to end before it systematically gobbled us all up in its “predatory” (Gandhi’s word) way. Empowerment, women, youngsters, RTI, deepening democracy — these were Gandhi’s “real issues” and trotted out to all questions — which also became repetitious since Goswami had to repeatedly repeat the questions because Gandhi would not directly address those regarding Modi, 2002, 1984,  corruption.

Typically, TV talk show guests on TV talk shows come on with a programmed message that they deliver, no matter what they’re asked. But Gandhi took it too far for his own good. To begin with he sounded earnest, but by the nth “system”, he was clearly being evasive too. It was poor TV, erasing the good impression his sincere demeanour and his initial vision statement had created. He was more convincing handling personal questions, on being the reluctant prince, on taking criticism, dynastic politics. When he said he wasn’t interested in power, you believed him.

If Gandhi was repetitive, desultory, given to platitudes, Goswami was as pointed and focused as a compass and revelled in asking uncomfortable questions. He went for all the difficult questions of today, ignoring Gandhi’s “long-term view”.

Was this a nervous television debut for Gandhi? Well, he blinked often, paused frequently and repeating oneself can be a sign of nerves. On the other hand, he smiled and was steadfastly polite, taking on board a wide range of questions, even if he didn’t answer them all. The interview was long: 45 minutes would have been a good interview and better for Gandhi. It would have eliminated the repetitions and exposed his weaker links only briefly. Next time, then.

Now we’re waiting to see if Modi will be a target in the firing line, and if the interview will be equally unsparing.

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

For all the latest India News, download Indian Express App now

  1. D
    DR RAMANUJA
    Feb 4, 2014 at 6:50 am
    Rahul is a nice, well behaved innocent ,good man like NEHRU ? very reluctant political person? To day politics is like Aurangzeb's time -Kill or get killed? MODI or Kejre ?Probably he should have given to NDTV Or CNN IBN?
    Reply
    1. D
      DR RAMANUJA
      Feb 4, 2014 at 6:50 am
      Rahul is a nice, well behaved innocent ,good man like NEHRU ? very reluctant political person? To day politics is like Aurangzeb's time -Kill or get killed? MODI or Kejre ?Probably he should have given to NDTV Or CNN IBN?
      Reply
      1. A
        Aarti Khan
        Jan 30, 2014 at 5:06 am
        Rahul hi showed his political maturity in his interview with Arnab Goswami. As always, Arnab tried hard to break the nuts but failed misrably
        Reply
        1. A
          Alok Jha
          Jan 31, 2014 at 12:55 am
          Did anyone notice how often RG was looking down - perhaps consulting his notes? A few times he looked sideways at someone - Digvijay perhaps?
          Reply
          1. D
            Diksha Singh
            Jan 30, 2014 at 4:42 am
            Rahul replied all the tough questions brilliantly which asked by Arnab Gosawmi, he able to put his future agenda clearly between us.
            Reply
            1. C
              Citizen
              Jan 30, 2014 at 12:22 pm
              if any party have evidence or eyewitnesses are there they can go to the court
              Reply
              1. M
                montu
                Jan 30, 2014 at 6:35 pm
                Rahul hi is not mature enough to response those specific questions .Hiding or running away from the situation is not a solution.
                Reply
                1. N
                  naresh
                  Jan 30, 2014 at 11:42 pm
                  He was not deaf but trying interviewer to ask on issues which concerns people.at large. But Arnab did not want to leave political issues only
                  Reply
                  1. B
                    Breaking News
                    Jan 30, 2014 at 12:04 pm
                    Breaking News India’s latest News portal, which covers live news related to politics, business, bollywood, latest elections, Cricket and all kind of entertainments. Get breaking news headlines from India and all over the world, all exclusive current headlines of sports and lifestyle. Share your reviews on movies, Celebrities photos and their news.
                    Reply
                    1. P
                      piyush
                      Feb 11, 2014 at 8:23 pm
                      it seems naresh is one of those fake accounts created as the total expense of 500 crore by congress to make him sound intellegent.
                      Reply
                      1. P
                        Priya Malavalli
                        Feb 3, 2014 at 8:33 pm
                        Arnab - you did not take any action against corrupt ministers lie Ashok Chavan and Rahul's response - I believe in addressing deeper isses of spreading democracy and women's empowerment ! Wow ! he was really clear in putting forward his agenda that he will not do anything to rock his power position in the party and will shamelessly align with corrupt politicians like Lalu and yet have the audocity to talk about fighting against corruption.
                        Reply
                        1. P
                          Priya Malavalli
                          Feb 3, 2014 at 8:33 pm
                          Arnab - you did not take any action against corrupt ministers lie Ashok Chavan and Rahul's response - I believe in addressing deeper isses of spreading democracy and women's empowerment ! Wow ! he was really clear in putting forward his agenda that he will not do anything to rock his power position in the party and will shamelessly align with corrupt politicians like Lalu and yet have the audocity to talk about fighting against corruption.
                          Reply
                          1. P
                            Priya Malavalli
                            Feb 3, 2014 at 8:30 pm
                            Really ! he showed political maturity...could you elaborate further ? The man was stuck with some cookie cutter "deeper issues" that no one could make sense of and you call it political maturity. The interview was a joke and one that exposed this dude's lack of sincerity - especially when he claimed that in 1984 government was trying to stop the genocide of Sikhs - everyone knew what happened in 1984 was sponsored and supported by congress. Either he was lying or totally ignorant of his party's misdeeds.
                            Reply
                            1. R
                              rohit mall
                              Jan 30, 2014 at 10:53 am
                              congress alredy appologies for sikh riots. Rahul was only 11 years old and obviously he could not have any control over those bad days..
                              Reply
                              1. R
                                rohit mall
                                Jan 30, 2014 at 10:13 am
                                congress is our future, because they always presence in our past.. We are a society in which we still have very deep inequality of opportunity, and we will not miss our opportunity..
                                Reply
                                1. A
                                  anon
                                  Feb 9, 2014 at 9:22 am
                                  What does the RaGA say? Ning, ning, ning, wo, wo, wo, woman empowerment! ning, ning, ning, wo, wo, wo, RTI. What does the RaGa say? Ning, ning, ning, wo, wo wo, youth empowerment!
                                  Reply
                                  1. A
                                    anon
                                    Feb 9, 2014 at 9:22 am
                                    What does the RaGA say? Ning, ning, ning, wo, wo, wo, woman empowerment! ning, ning, ning, wo, wo, wo, RTI. What does the RaGa say? Ning, ning, ning, wo, wo wo, youth empowerment!
                                    Reply
                                    1. S
                                      steve james
                                      Jan 30, 2014 at 5:37 pm
                                      Lol...good sarcasm.
                                      Reply
                                      1. I
                                        invisible indian
                                        Jan 30, 2014 at 3:57 pm
                                        You're the only person who has wondered aloud about whether Mr. Modi will be available for an interview or not. I'd really like to see Mr. Goswami interview him.
                                        Reply
                                        1. M
                                          Mustafa
                                          Jan 30, 2014 at 1:34 pm
                                          Most of the time during the interview, Mr. hi while replying was not looking into the eyes of Mr. Arnab Goswami. It is a clear body language of uncomfortable or lack of sincerity
                                          Reply
                                          1. Load More Comments