Wednesday, February 19, 2014

India Election Watch #Day4

This week our election coverage continues with not one but two posts (I hope you are suitably impressed). If you are new here, and would like to start from the beginning (or begin from the start) please click here and read from the bottom up and you will soon be fully up-to-date. 

Firstly, it gives me great pleasure to welcome Ad Absurdum's first guest columnist in its eight-year history. Sujaya Jacob is currently pursuing an undergraduate degree in politics and international relations. In her first piece for us, she gives her take on what has been (and continues to be) arguably the most widely-discussed tv event in the history of Indian politics- Rahul Gandhi's interview with Arnab Goswami. At last count, it has had over 2 million views on YouTube, and with the general elections just over three months away, it is entirely possible it will have considerable implications for both the Congress party and the country as a whole. 

Aside from politics and foreign policy, Sujaya's wide-ranging interests include writing, fashion, travel, and George Clooney; not necessarily in that order.

Dear Rahul, step away from the Goswamis.

I must admit I heard the jokes and read the memes much before I actually watched the now infamous Rahul Gandhi -Arnab Goswami Times Now interview.(If you have been living under a rock, or are just fortunate enough to be born politically apathetic, you can find this piece of comic relief in its entirety below.)

A number of things struck me about the interview; firstly how intensely and passionately my disdain for Arnab Goswami had grown since the last time I was revelling in his journalistic buffoonery (the Narendra Modi interview? or was it Salman Khan?). How he had somehow become the poster boy for mainstream Indian political journalism and discourse -when did this happen? How did we let it happen? When will it stop? (The nation should want to know!). But that is best left for another time. 

Secondly, and perhaps most significantly, was how incredibly unprepared the young Gandhi was for what was touted to be his tv interview debut; his first sit -down interview in over ten years. I watched as he incorporated women’s empowerment and inclusive economic growth into every question he was asked; a little bit like an aspiring beauty pageant queen and her over-eagerness for world peace. I listened as he tried and failed repeatedly to dodge Goswami’s unrelenting attempts to pit ‘The Gandhi’ against ‘The Modi’ (but Rahul, please answer the question I am asking). I winced as he fumbled awkwardly through what he considered to be the achievements of the UPA’s ten-year tenure in power. I watched as his eyes darted around the room, looking perhaps for a friendly face and a knowing smile (rumour has it big sister Priyanka Gandhi was in the room for the duration of the interview). I sighed as key terms (RTI, anyone?) regularly interjected poorly-structured arguments. And I watched as he referred to himself in the third-person before switching to the first-person with all the grammatical prowess of a shy 5th grader. 

Occasionally, from the darkness of an extremely well lit room, Rahul Gandhi was allowed enough air- time to talk about what it meant to sit through the funerals of his assassinated grandmother and father respectively; what it means to have lived his life with the inescapable looming landscape of Indian political history at his back. However, there is little or no room for sentimentality in newsroom studios crowded with a crew clamouring for instant headlines and showy one-liners. So, while Mr Gandhi’s readiness for political leadership may be debatable, one thing is for sure- he is not prepared for the onslaught of Goswami and his ilk. 

Dear Rahul, step away from the Goswamis.

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