Ranjona Banerji: The Rahul Gandhi interview was more about Arnab Goswami

28 Jan,2014

By Ranjona Banerji


Am I a serious journalist? After last night’s interview of Rahul Gandhi conducted by Arnab “I am a serious journalist” Goswami, I have come to the conclusion that I am emphatically not. My understanding of being a journalist is less me and more you. An interview has to draw out the interviewee. It has to place them on the spot, yes, but it cannot be about the interviewer. And an interview has to move along – if it’s getting stuck, you have to step back and come back to that unanswered point later. The reader or the viewer has to be your first priority.


In this case, the unanswered point was the 1984 riots in Delhi where thousands of Sikhs were massacred by Congress members and others after Indira Gandhi’s assassination by her Sikh bodyguards. The horror of the killings was exacerbated by Rajiv Gandhi’s comment at the time that the ground shakes when a big tree falls. The point is important. The problem was that Rahul Gandhi was not the person to answer it. He was a child when it happened. The party has apologised since then as has the current prime minister. Why badger Rahul Gandhi endlessly on this issue when you can take him up on so many others.


Then there’s the issue of corruption. Instead of talking about the sea of allegations against the Congress Party and issues like the coal allocation scam, Goswami got stuck on allegations against Virbhadra Singh, chief minister of Himachal Pradesh, based on some investigation that Times Now had done. Much as the nation apparently wants to know what Goswami thinks every weeknight at 9 pm, there is an India beyond Times Now. Really.


Moreover, the number of times Rahul Gandhi mentioned “RTI”, “youngsters”, “women” and “empowerment”, anyone else would have taken him up on those issues and questioned him on what he had done about it. There are a number of problems with RTI in the states, including Congress-ruled states. Why not bring those up? What about the brother-in-law Robert Vadra? Not a single question on that.


Bringing up Subramaniam Swamy’s allegations about Rahul Gandhi’s education was ludicrous. The kindest thing one can say about Swamy is that he is a “maverick” and he is infamous for throwing allegations all around, hoping something somewhere will stick. He is hardly the gold standard for information.


The endless questions on Narendra Modi and the Gujarat riots became tedious after a point. And just to inform journalists in general, Modi did not get a “clean chit” from anyone. The SIT report said “no prosecutable evidence” which is quite a different matter.


The whole interview sounded too structured. There was no flow and there was no charm. As of now, Rahul Gandhi does not stand accused of anything except being seemingly reluctant to take on too much and vanishing after making declamatory statements.


I for one learnt little new about Rahul Gandhi except that he has some good artwork on his walls.


However, the funniest thing about this interview was the “discussion” later with Vinod Mehta, editor emeritus of Outlook magazine and Siddharth Vardarajan, former editor of The Hindu. This was a first for me: an interviewer holding a discussion on how his interview went. If this is how serious journalists behave, well, thank the lord there are so many of us non-serious ones around!


I hear that tonight there’s going to be even more discussion, from 8 to 11 pm. Luckily I have found itvchoice on my HD set top box so I shall watch some British reality TV shows about dancing on ice, dancing in your house and dancing in general. As it is I missed Elementary on AXN because of this interview.


Or there’s always the BBC’s Hard Talk series on India…




Twitter not unnaturally was abuzz with the Rahul Gandhi speech and suddenly, Modi and Arvind Kejriwal (have I got the order wrong?) were off the grid, except when mentioned with regard to Gandhi.


Now that was funny. May not last too long though.


Ranjona Banerji is a senior journalist and commentator based in Mumbai. She is also Contributing Editor, MxMIndia. She can be reached via Twitter at @ranjona. The views here are her own


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2 responses to “Ranjona Banerji: The Rahul Gandhi interview was more about Arnab Goswami”

  1. Guest says:

    Rahul Gandhi was being interviewed as the – de facto – prime ministerial candidate of the ruling party. One would have liked to see a lot of serious questions about how he would deal with the economy, jobs, prices, infrastructure, foreign policy, national security, safety for women and the minorities, the educational system, all the big stuff leaders are supposed to do. Where RG was on generalities, AG could have led him back to specifics. One hopes this ground will be covered in future interviews. There is an entire Cabinet to answer for UPA II’s record and a majority of Congress leaders to talk about Narendra Modi. Personally, I liked the way RG conducted himself, his respectful demeanour, his evident good manners and breeding.

  2. Dipankar Bose says:

    With all due respect, Ms. Banerji, that article showcases a rather narrow view of the world. Post debate analysis routinely happens in other countries and frankly, I’m a bit surprised you’ve never heard of it. The purpose is not for the interviewer to glorify his performance but to get other ‘experts’ to weigh in and bring perspectives – the same reason you’re writing this article.

    Secondly, in debates or interviews, it’s naive to assume that one will get the questions one is prepared for while in the hot seat. One has to have the knack of weaving in the key points regardless of the questions. And if one can’t do that in 75 minutes, it speaks volumes about the ability or rather lack thereof, of the interviewee, not the interviewer. Case in point, Arvind Kejriwal. The man doesn’t take more than 7.5 minutes to highlight key accomplishments, challenges and to project a blueprint of his plans. Narendra Modi does that to an extent as well.

    Why didn’t Mr. Gandhi throw a single statistic at Arnab? Why was it all high level hocus-pocus? Clarity of thought is imperative, which seems to be missing entirely in Rahul Gandhi’s case. There was nothing but rambling going on in that interview and it had little to do with the structure and everything to do with incapability.

    Let’s just keep personal biases aside for a moment, be honest and agree that he’s a little green behind the ears, shall we?

    I hope you enjoyed those dance shows.

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