Analysis: Here Are The Many Pressing Questions That Rahul Gandhi’s Interview With Arnab Goswami Raises

Posted on January 28, 2014 in Politics

By Mayank Jain:

On Modi and 1984 Riots:
[blockquote source=”Rahul Gandhi”]He was CM when Gujarat happened. The congress party and the BJP have two completely different philosophies, our attack on the BJP is based on the idea that this country needs to move forward democratically, it needs to push democracy deeper into the country, it needs to push democracy into the villagers, it needs to give women democratic powers, it needs to give youngsters democratic powers. It is about opening the doors of the congress party, about empowering the youth.[/blockquote]

With the exception of Abhijit Mukherjee and his discourse of rhetoric on his “dented and painted women” comments, nobody has ever escaped specific questions better than Rahul Gandhi did. On an issue as simple as taking a stand on Mr. Modi’s involvement he could have just mentioned that he doesn’t hold him responsible or he would rather go with what courts have decided but making an argument without facts is a sin. Arnab Goswami didn’t let go of it and asked it again but Rahul Gandhi instead chose to talk about his agenda of pushing democracy to villagers. It is taking me forever now to figure out the link between riots, Modi and the need for democracy in village. Maybe Rahul Gandhi is too smart for us.


How does one determine Rahul Gandhi’s position on 1984 riots? By looking at Congress’s devotion to ‘empowerment’ and its initiative to bring about RTI. Because according to Mr. Gandhi, the party is fighting an ideological battle and it was trying to stop the riots in 1984 and government of Gujarat was ‘abetting’ it and giving flames to the issue. Why then, Mr. Gandhi could not produce anecdotes or evidence of such contrasting roles of the two governments?

What’s wrong with apologizing for something wrong that happened? It does make you look good but apparently Congress is in no mood for that as Mr. Gandhi escaped the question when he was asked the reason behind not apologizing? He could have taken the opportunity to just apologize expressing regret and concern and the matter would have been closed for good. Was he wishing, deep in his heart that he won’t be asked about 1984 or Gujarat? Pretty imaginative, this fellow is. But he did tell us that “riot was a horrible, horrible event”. Thank you for the update, Mr. Gandhi.

On Bringing Political Parties Under The RTI
[blockquote source=”Rahul Gandhi”]I think that political parties should be under RTI if political parties feel, and it’s a law that has to be passed in parliament. If political parties unanimously feel that that should be the case then it should be the case. My position is that the more openness the better.[/blockquote]

RTI, which is one of the few things which Congress uses to save its grace has done a lot of good for the country but CAG has been widely criticized by the same government when he unearthed scams and money laundering but Mr. Gandhi nevertheless took a stand. The conviction wasn’t enough but a positive attitude was good enough for us to believe that he supports the idea of extending RTI to political parties if they unanimously ask for it.

‘Unanimously’ is a difficult term in Indian democracy and it is better left for the policy makers to discuss and debate the possibility but we just hope that Congress doesn’t forget the interview and follows up by taking a stand publicly. The party can also initiate announcing its sources of funds and I am aware that’s unlikely but if Rahul Gandhi can win the elections in 2014 then we might as well get a little optimistic too.

On Ashok Chavan And Corruption
Rahul: What I will say is that in the Congress party anybody who does any act of corruption will be taken up and punished.
Arnab: What about Ashok Chavan?
Rahul: Every single person.
Arnab: But he has got away.
Rahul: What I will say is that there are six bills in parliament that are sitting there. Bring them in. Pass them.

Rahul Gandhi went on the defensive once Arnab started asking specific questions on the party’s stand on corruption as well as undue protection to Ashok Chavan. There was no formidable reply to the question on why should a congress politician be let off and all we got to hear was the discourse of Congress party’s intolerance for corruption and reassurance that every offender will be brought to the book which clearly isn’t the case here. Lying on record is a very bad move, Mr. Gandhi.

Is it so hard for the oldest party in the country to give honest answers and to not run from the difficult questions? It is the mark of political acumen if one can handle the questions well and score on them but Rahul Gandhi apparently finds it hard to accept the follies, apologize for them and made amends? For one, it will only help them strengthen their position but the party vice president seemed too relaxed about the elections as if he had a strategy in place but we found no traces of anything concrete in the interview. Is it another aspect to your mysterious persona, Mr. Gandhi?

On Supporting AAP and Trying To Split Anti-Congress Votes
[blockquote source=”Rahul Gandhi”]I think you underestimate the power of the Congress party, I don’t think the Congress party could even do that if they wanted to. The Congress party is an extremely powerful system and all the Congress party needs to do is bring in younger fresher faces in the election which is what we are going to do and we are going to win the election.[/blockquote]

Rahul Gandhi seemed reasonably aware of the political reality that the country faces right now and it was indeed a refreshing change to hear him praise AAP for their public outreach and this conducive attitude to learning from their peers is what can take Congress ahead. He didn’t ruin it this time and only reinforced the strengths of Congress as an old institution with process and systems in place which AAP lacks. He did express certain disagreement to AAP’s actions but he didn’t look too angry about them.

The only thing he could have done better here was to give a clearer stand on what makes AAP ‘anarchist’ and what makes Congress ‘democratic’ but he did give his vision on making India the manufacturing hub as good as China when asked about his views on Arvind Kejriwal. Way to go, Mr. Gandhi.

On Dynasty In Politics
[blockquote source=”Rahul Gandhi”]I didn’t choose to be born in this family, I didn’t sign up and say that I like to be born in this family. It happened, so the choice in front of me is pretty simple; I can either turn around and say okay I will just walk away from this thing and leave it alone or I can say I can try and improve something. Pretty much every single thing I have done in my political career has been to bring in youngsters, has been to open up, and has been to democratize. I am absolutely against the concept of Dynasty, anybody who knows me knows that and understands that. But you are not going to wish away Dynasty in a closed system, you have to open the system.[/blockquote]

What started as a great repartee to Arnab’s stinging question on dynasty in politics was reasonably ruined into nothing when he went on and on about systems and democratization again. We have all seen and have been bearing the brunt of the Congress way of democratization which may not always be devoid of scams but that’s the cost of living in a democracy. Rahul Gandhi was always supportive of his own claim to politics because he is a deserving candidate but he chose to criticize nepotism in strong words. That’s some doublespeak he indulged in but it is always good to hear him take a stand and not evade questions.

Why then, Mr. Gandhi are you a politician is what I want to ask like Arnab did because he acknowledges himself as “an anomaly in the system”. He needs a lesson or two in bringing the facts to the table because hollow opinions count for nothing and he did the exact same thing. His team could have armoured him with some facts and figures on the betterment of Congress, let alone the country over the years which could have helped him because women empowerment and democracy can only help so much in front of a seasoned journalist.

On His Degree From Cambridge
[blockquote source=”Rahul Gandhi”]He has probably seen my degree, I have given a sworn affidavit saying I that I have got these degrees. If I am lying on these affidavits let him take the legal process and solve it, what more do you want me to do. He’s been attacking my family for 40 years. Why should I challenge him?[/blockquote]

A great response to a controversial question. Probably the only time when Mr. Gandhi was prepared with a credible reply to a threat. Mr. Swamy’s question on his alma mater was tackled with calmness and he did mention his affidavit where he has sworn about his degree and its online availability. Arnab seemed to be at a loss of words after this and Rahul Gandhi’s composure and conviction about himself was indeed a fresh change.

Rahul Gandhi may or may not have been to Cambridge but he does need to have the credentials of an able politician to make a mark. This interview might just be the first one among many to follow but he needs to borrow the knack of answering questions well from his fellow Congressmen.

On An Open Debate With Narendra Modi
[blockquote source=”Rahul Gandhi”]You start the debate. But the real issue is doing this stuff. The real issue is doing this stuff in the party machine. The only people who are doing that, is us. And frankly, we can stick for it. We’ve just said that 15 constituencies in this country, in the Congress party are going to be chosen by primaries. No one said a word about it.[/blockquote]

This had to be a difficult one. He hasn’t still grown teeth for the hardcore mud-slinging politics the country is accustomed to but the mention of an open debate with the BJP prime ministerial candidate sent shivers down his spine and he tried escaping it as best as he could.

One could clearly see through his mellow agreement to the debate the onus of which he finally shifted to Arnab and conveniently got back to the default track of opening up and closing the system which has left a deep impression in his mind. He also reminded Arnab that the debate in the country is not about the individuals but about the governance and the questions he was asking were all ‘superficial’ and the ‘real issues’ are still untouched.

On Modi’s Challenge and the Battle Ahead
[blockquote source=”Rahul Gandhi”]My response to that is that in the last 10 years, we gave the country the fastest economic growth its ever had. My response is that, we did more for opening up the system than any Government before us. My response is that we have completely changed the paradigm with our rights based development model. We have given MGNREGA which has transformed the rural economy. We are talking about AADHAR which is going to give money directly to the people. To just brush aside the idea that Congress party has been in power for 60 years, we are growing at the rate at which we are growing because of the Congress party. We are battle ready, of course. We’re going to win.[/blockquote]

A proportionate mix of fact and fiction towards the end of the interview from Rahul Gandhi was expected, but his reply to the question of giving BJP 60 months was indeed very well framed and fact based which we all love. The nitty-gritties of these facts are however prone to debate and analysis but we can only admire him for his conviction about the ‘good’ that Congress party has done for the country and it is indeed heartening to see him not getting bogged down from competing with a stalwart.

There is still some room for speculation on the election results as of today as we all know how fast governments are formed and changed in the Indian democracy but Rahul Gandhi’s overly optimistic outlook on the election without much reference to his strategy is a little unfortunate.

One can only hope to hear more and better from the major political figure of the ruling party if the Congress has to counter two big forces rising in the form of AAP and BJP to stake their claim on the long held throne.

Can somebody gift the book, “The Art of Public Speaking” to Mr. Gandhi, please?