Considering it was his first public interview in 10 years, Rahul Gandhi was understandably nervous. Things started badly for the Indian Congress leader, got worse towards the middle and the less said about the end the better.
Agreeing to answer prominent journalist Arnab Goswani’s questions “specifically”, the Indian National Congress leader issued a disclaimer that he would take time to come to his point. However, in most cases, he never really got there.
It was evident that the “shehzada” (prince), as he is called by his chief political rival Narendra Modi, was ducking and diving to avoid certain questions. Nothing wrong with that - after all most global political leaders have honed the skill of finding their way around probing queries from those pesky journalists. Gandhi, on the other hand, has a lot to learn.
He seemed completely unprepared for Goswani’s questions and started shuffling about in his chair like a nervous schoolboy when asked whether he was afraid of going up against Modi for prime minister.
Rahul Gandhi has sincere naivete.I would definitely vote for him as house captain in my school.— Naomi Datta (@nowme_datta) January 27, 2014
Negative: Rahul got stuffed a lost the little respect people had Positive: Mummy probably going to buy him a Playstation 4 to cheer him up— Khamba (@gkhamba) January 27, 2014
It was downhill from there.
It’s not as though he wasn’t saying the right things. The only problem was that Gandhi’s replies were not even remotely related to Goswani’s questions. Yes, the women of India need to be liberated and empowered, but how is that relevant to the involvement of Congress leaders in the Anti-Sikh riots of 1984?
When further prodded by the journalist, the Congress leader finally touched upon the sensitive topic, but showed he was a little disconnected from reality.
“All I'm saying is there is a difference between the 1984 riots and the Gujarat riots. The difference is that the government of the day in 1984 was not aiding and abetting the riots. That is all I'm saying.”
Perhaps the palace messenger forgot to inform the “shehzada” that Congress leaders were actively involved in abetting the chain of events.
"When things got hairy, he spoke about [the] system and empowerment," said analyst Siddharth Varadarajan.
In fact, Gandhi liked the word ‘system’ so much that he mentioned it 72 times during the course of his one-hour-twenty-minute-long interview.
On the other hand, his nemesis Narendra Modi seemed to be the furthest thing from his mind and was mentioned just three times. Rather strange considering that a number of the Times Now anchor’s questions were focused on Modi. When asked about the prospect of a one-on-one debate with the BJP leader, Gandhi again chose to take refuge in the ‘system’ he wishes to ‘empower’.
The sound you hear is fans of the BJP coming in their pants.— Overrated Outcast (@over_rated) January 27, 2014
There were other questions raised by Goswani over corruption within the Congress Party, dynastic politics in India and Rahul’s supposedly fragile character; all of which the politician side-stepped. His interview started sounding like a well-versed speech about his determination to change the system and he never effectively answered a single one of the probing queries.
If Rahul Gandhi wishes to change the face of Indian politics and empower his people, he will first and foremost have to be taken seriously. Gauging from the reaction of social media and other analysts, the day when he can become a force to be reckoned with is a long way ahead.