Here was Rahul Gandhi in an interview bang in the middle of the media circus. In one way, it was a superb move. Kejriwal had raked up the points with candid media interviews. This is something Modi cannot do. It was a gamble that could pay off. Rahul Gandhi answering the guy who claims to know what the nation wants to know. Face off.
Yet the interview was yet another monument in how the Congress Party is failing Rahul Gandhi. Rahul Gandhi came across as an earnest, guileless and simple man. A worker any party should treasure. And a man with no authority of his own. He had no idea how he was doing, though he was offering the best answers he knew with unexpected humility and candor.
He has a burden. The burden of answering for the reckless opportunism of others in the party that is steadily sinking in credibility. As if this were not enough of a cross to bear, it became apparent with the opening question itself, that this was a man simply not ready to speak strong, committed answers. It was like feeding a newborn to a shark.
By first question, I don't even mean a real question. Arnab asked if he will answer questions specifically, and he went "Yes, but...." then floundered. Then invented some qualification to get him out of the unnecessary addition he had committed himself to with "I can detail if I feel the need" or something equally inane.
Then came the part where the lack of authority showed. An answer that could have been hit for a six became a hit wicket. Even after answering well! Why was he reluctant to name himself PM candidate? Because he thought it was unconstitutional to name PM without the vote of the elected MPs and thus it was not possible before the elections. This was a brilliant response and one most people interested in democracy would like to hear. But instead of staying with it, Rahul Gandhi got derailed when Arnab asked him about earlier elections. About Prime Minister Manmohan Singh being the PM candidate for the 2009 elections.
It should have been an elementary matter to simply say that the Congress party is attempting to improve its processes for the better."Democracy is about respect for processes" he said later. Important words, that came completely conversationally. They were his reality. His belief. What he wanted. For the process to play out as written in the constitution. Not a rehearsed quote.
Instead, he went into a convoluted explanation involving incumbents and what not that obviously couldn't convince anyone because his grandmom was a PM candidate before elections too, just like his dad. There simply is no way that change can be possible, if you describe the new thing as something you always did.
And it went downhill. He went into a complete tizzy about the question of Modi's challenges, describing personal trauma and loss. I imagine he meant to say that after seeing such trauma, challenges don't scare him. Or something. But he clearly felt so much on the issue that his articulation was a nervous mess.
His assertions that Modi didn't matter, like Arjun, he saw his goal, the system that was frustrating him, the system that needed to change actually worked to dismiss the question he'd failed to answer earlier. His talking of the system was profound. He is talking of the system destroying people he cared about, being unfair to people was incredible because he is the grandson and son of Prime Ministers, and he is echoing the same frustrations many Indians feel from a totally different angle. An insight into how a bad system traps everyone and resists change.
"Are you afraid of losing to Modi" A yes/no answer would do. Yet he was all over the place. And on and on and on and on. His accusations of Modi were a courageous stand, which was again self-goaled by the baggage of those he had no authority to condemn.
And as I watched the interview, I was furious with the Congress Party for a reason I had never imagined I would have. I was furious about how handicapped this obviously earnest man had been made. He had no tools, he had no training. He was so obviously the product of a complete lack of honest relationships, that my teeth ached. This was a man without friends, his vulnerability laid bare for the world to see. He simply had no idea of how he was coming across. No one had told him.
It isn't so difficult, you know? When you have a friend and ramble instead of a yes/no answer, sooner or later you get told "seedhe seedhe bol na - haan ya na?" but you never meet this authenticity if all you have is people who are used to accommodating your eccentricities and listening through whatever you say as a part of the honor of knowing you.
This man simply doesn't have friends who tell him "You sound your best when talking of this. Avoid talking of that, because you sound like you don't believe it yourself. And for God's sake, if asked a straight question, and you have a straight answer, give a straight answer." He doesn't have mentors who care for him enough to say "We are in an era of change. It is time to admit mistakes. Don't burden yourself with our sins."
And the reasons of this limbo were flooding Twitter praising him for this disastrous interview, where despite his best intentions, he had been disadvantaged because he simply did not have a team supporting him. He had been unable to showcase his efforts as a Congress worker in a manner befitting a leader, though his sincerity rang through loud and clear. It reminded me of a friend of mine whose kid was in the habit of scribbling with color on paper and coming to show her every scribble, which she gushed over as a masterpiece. It is a doting, patronizing kind of love that cares only for the delight of the child, but it is never going to make him a Ravi Verma.
Learning is the ability to differentiate. This is red, this is blue. We learn the difference. By doing this, the problem gets solved, by doing this, it doesn't. We learn to stand on hard ground and not cushions, because of its firm feedback to the soles of our feet that allows us to juxtapose our muscular strength to stand erect. It is the contrast that allows us to refine ourselves. Continuously.
Rahul Gandhi only gets gushing feedback and unwavering devotion no matter how the interview went. How would he know that in the political arena, some of his answers put him at a disadvantage? Why would he experiment with riskier solutions that would work like "That was then, this is now. The Congress is changing" for example, if the feedback he was getting was telling him - falsely - that he came through like he intended to come through and anyone who said otherwise was a right wing barbarian?
Obviously a man defending the mistakes of generations before him cannot become a Prime Minister, but the man who was on TV was doing a lot for a floundering party that did not do him the basic courtesy of honesty.
Arnab Goswami, even in his uncharacteristically gentle form still had him scrambling for answers.
So anyway, my conclusions.
Rahul Gandhi genuinely cares about change, about the system. About the changes he'd like to see. He has spent considerable time thinking about it and experimenting with it in the limited cocoon available to him. And this is valuable. He would probably be a great advisor instead of trying to use his authenticity to float other crap into acceptance.
He has advantages in that he has no baggage of his own.
On the downside, he simply seems to lack the authority gene. Whether this is a result of over protection or disinterest, but he is more interested in serving and planning and doing than leading. Which may also be a result of the Congress leaders treating him like he was insignificant.
He does seem fearless. Or rather a man with little to lose, which is always dangerous in an opponent.
On the bright, bright, bright side, and extremely refreshing for Indian politics is his complete lack of malice for anyone. Narendra Modi included, which takes a fairly evolved mind considering what he believed Modi's role to be in the riots.
Summary: Rahul Gandhi is a great guy, but has yet to be able to get reliable data on himself. For me, he continues to be irrelevant to the future of India unless something changes drastically.
To the Congress. You retards, either you give someone the respect of your honesty or you damn well not throw him under the bus to answer for sins he has no idea how to answer for, because it is you creeps who did it, and he isn't used to covering for it and it is tragic to see him try so hard and still fail for the sake of those who can't give him something as basic as an honest relationship.
How I wish I had not seen this and felt such sorrow. And now that I have seen it, I cannot unsee it.
I wish Rahul Gandhi joy in life. Whether it means he has to leave this three ring circus and get himself some real people to care, or piss off everyone and grab the reins and run. Till then he isn't useful to himself or India.