Rahul needs political nous

Rahul Gandhi may not be the official prime ministerial candidate of the Congress party. But no prizes for guessing who would be the prime minister in the unlikely event of Congress coming back to power after the forthcoming general elections. Which is precisely why his first formal interview with a TV channel made such a splash, albeit for the wrong reasons.

One was left gobsmacked at the way Rahul — the surefire choice for India's top executive job if and when the Congress rides to power — repeated and fluffed his lines and emerged as a real rookie. His answers were unconvincing and not backed by statistics. As a top Congress functionary he needs to have relevant figures at his fingertips not just for interviews but, perhaps more importantly, for speeches and debates to buttress his arguments.

Rahul's PR men failed in preparing him to face a no-nonsense interviewer like Arnab Goswamy. Lack of homework was palpable. Even a shrewd politician like Narendra Modi, BJP's prime minister-in-waiting, goes through PR training sessions with probable questions and their answers plus a slew of focus areas to emphasise before an interview or speech.

The way Rahul answered questions on the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 following Indira Gandhi's assassination, was way below the political nous of a prime ministerial contestant. He had to blurt out to the effect that some Congressmen were involved in the riots. He had, however, precious little to say about concerns that justice was not meted out to the kin of the deceased victims. He should have said several people have been convicted over the years for the riots and it's the court that deals with justice.

He spoke of his family's sacrifices, not least the martyrdoms of his father and grandmother. All very good. But that might not resonate with today's youth who he has been trying hard to relate to and promote and empower. Over 50 per cent of India's current population is below the age of 25. They have their hearts and minds fixed on their future. What they want front and centre is good education, high-paying jobs, a strong and growing economy, low inflation, stability and peace.

To be sure, Rahul need not take full responsibility for the 1984 riots as a Congress functionary as he was a kid at the time. But why couldn't he apologise for the carnage on behalf of his party when the interviewer pointedly asked him whether he would instantly offer apologies to the people concerned?
If he did not want that, he could have at least said that Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh have already apologised and somebody below their ranks in the party need not do it again.

By contrast, Narendra Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat when the 2002 riots raged. He was right to say that Modi was abetting the rioters but he said he came to know of the carnage through the interviewer's colleagues, a weak proof by any standard.

The very fact that the Supreme Court had to transfer several riot cases out of Gujarat meant that Modi and his aides had been under the cloud of suspicion. True, the apex court has given him a clean chit, but that is because evidence before the court was weak. If you have the money and muscle and a government to kill evidence you can go scot-free. But there is no guarantee that the now dead cases will not revive at some point in time when things turn on a dime with a change of government. But that's entirely another matter.

The point is that there was a smorgasbord of ways by which a clever politician can tackle salvos from an interviewer, however smart the latter is. But for that you should be able to think on your feet. In addition, you should have regular exposure to such situations. Rahul needs to take a leaf out of the book of his mentor Digvijay Singh who can cop any adverse situation while being interviewed.

Rahul should know that a prime minister has to face foreign journos both inside and outside the country and the questions they shoot might be quite embarrassing and perplexing.

But such contexts should not freak him out.

The conclusion, therefore, is that it is better for him to go through the rough and tumble of politics for another five years before claiming for the nation's highest executive post.

The writer is a freelance contributor based in India. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.


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If you have the money and muscle and a government to kill evidence you can go scot-free. But there is no guarantee that the now dead cases will not revive at some point in time when things turn on a dime with a change of government. But thats entirely another matter. ...

What a silly comment..?

If money and muscle power could be used against anyone, then the Congress government in the centre can do anything against Modi as well.

Authors view was total unrealistic and ridiculous.