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Rahul in interview controversy

Harihar Swarup
Rarely has an interview drawn so much attention, both for right and wrong reasons, as that of Rahul Gandhi’s to Times Now. Almost the entire media-both print and visual-pounced on him, accusing him of being repetitive, ridiculous, there is much to criticize, superficial, a coup by Times Now, uttered the world “system” six times. He uttered the word in such dire tone, you felt a monster is waiting for the interview to end before it systematically gobbled us all in its “predatory” way. However, empowerment of women, youngsters, RTI, deepening democracy are real issues for Rahul.
Perhaps, for the first time, the interviewer, Arnab Goswami, found himself in an unusual position of debating his own interview. The Last Word (CNN-IBN) examined what Rahul may have learnt from the interview; plenty if you go by panelists.
Two remarks of Congress vice-president-over 2002 riots in Gujarat and 1984 anti-Sikh violence in Delhi- sparked off controversy. Rahul held Narendra Modi guilty of 2002 violence in Gujarat, evoking sharp reaction from the BJP who asked him to keep in mind that Gujarat Chief Minister was exonerated by a Special Investigative Team (SIT) monitored by the Supreme Court. AICC spokesman, Abhishek Singhvi, asserted that there was no clean chit to Modi as lower court’s rejection of Zakia Jafri’s petition was only related to an SIT closure report.
Congress leaders too justified Rahul’s remark saying that, in spite of SIT, “all the perfume of Arabia” could not wash the stink of what has been labeled as “genocide” of innocent people in Gujarat. Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had, in a press conference, accused Modi of presiding over ‘ the massacre of innocent citizen on the streets of Ahmedabad.’
Rahul was, perhaps, right, irrespective of what some newspaper editorial feel, that there was no comparison between the anti-Sikh riots and mass murder in Gujarat. Doubtless, anti-Sikh riots were most unfortunate, can never be justified and guilty must be brought to book but, at the same time, imagine the anger of the people at the assassination of a leader of Indira Gandhi’s stature. Both Delhi riots and Gujarat massacre were most unfortunate and a dark chapter in India’s history and no purpose will be served by opening old wounds. It is in national interest to forget the two unsavory incidents.
Rahul was little tactless in handing question regarding Delhi riots. He floundered on 1984 question, and despite the fact that the Prime Minister and Sonia Gandhi have apologized for the incident, Rahul defended the congress government’s action, seemingly oblivious to the fact that 3,000 people cannot be killed if the state was doing its job.
In the interview Rahul had, perhaps, inadvertently said that “some Congressmen were probably involved in 1984 riots and they have been punished.” The logical question was; who these persons were and this gave an opportunity to several Sikh groups, including Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal), to stage a protest outside the Congress headquarters at 24, Akbar. They demand that the Congress Vice-President should reveal the names of party members allegedly involved in anti-Sikh riots.
On the question of Rahul not been declared as the Prime Ministerial candidate, the Congress Vice-President stuck to the refrain that elected MPs will choose the PM. “Members of Parliament are to be elected by the voters and they elected the PM. “All that  I am doing in respecting that process”. The reality, however, is that not to name Rahul as PM candidate was a defensive move, calculated to avoid a presidential-style face-off with the formidable BJP nominee Narendra Modi. But people are under no illusion that in the event of the Congress and its allies forming the government Rahul will be the Prime Minister.
Whatever the critics of Rahul’s interview may say, the fact remains, that he came out as a sincere politician interested in changing the system instead of grabbing power. Congress spokesman Singhvi claimed that even Rahul’s worst critics would have to concede that he had honesty of purpose, commitment and humility. “He is committed to his ideas without worrying about an adverse fall out. Others, who aspire for the top job speak with forked tongues, abuse others and only talk about themselves.”
Singhvi feels that Rahul had just begun his journey and it would not be right to draw conclusions at this stage. But one positive that every Congress leader talked about is Rahul’s readiness to lead from the front. Singhvi hoped he would be more political in coming days.
The Congress Vice-President has long been criticized for being rarely seen and almost never heard. His parliament presence is negligible, he ignores the media and the general public. Therefore, he decided to give an hour and half long interview to a TV channel, with sustained questioning by the interviewer. He deserved some appreciation for this gesture but almost the entire media and opposition leaders pounced him. Was it fair?
Incidentally, it was not the first interview in a decade given by Rahul Gandhi. He gave his first interview later last year to a Hindi daily– “Dainik Bhaskar”, which was lifted by other newspapers and widely reported by TV channels. (IPA)

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