Rahul Gandhi vs Arnab: The interview that wasn't

Last Updated: Tue, Jan 28, 2014 06:57 hrs

Great interviews require empty minds. An interviewer and an interviewee ought to be so devoid of clutter that they can roam a mindscape. The only thing they need is a sense of anticipation – a feeling that something is about to happen.

The worst thing to do in an interview is to be full of self. Where a person hears only what he says. Such a mind is already warped. Nothing emerges from it. The Rahul Gandhi interview with Arnab Goswami on the English news channel Times Now is the biggest dud in a decade.

The most banal interview of an important politician previously was in 2004, when The Times of India published a conversation with the then prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. They had two mind-numbing words in a gigantic header: Bharatiyata and hindutva. They had nothing in the text.

Rahul Gandhi is a product of the Indian system. He comes from the first family of Indian politics. He has had access to the best of education and nurturing that privilege can provide. Society has indulged him. The Congress party has enabled him.

Arnab Goswami is also a product of the Indian system. He comes from an Assam family of wealth and clout. His uncle Dinesh Goswami was law minister in the VP Singh cabinet. Arnab too has had access to the best of education that money can rustle up. NDTV initially and now the Times Group have enabled him.

When two such khaas aadmis talk on news television, you would expect to feel intelligent at the end of it. Instead, the 90-minute interview has generated worry. From available evidence, Rahul Gandhi and Arnab Goswami are an indictment of Indian and British education.

This is bad news. We, the consumers of their products, must now contemplate if this is the best that India can come up with. Goswami came swollen with self-importance. Rahul Gandhi came laden with notion. Neither heard the other. They sat four feet from the other but they might as well have been on different planets. Rahul Gandhi thought Goswami was shallow. Goswami thought Rahul Gandhi was vague.

That is what happens when you don’t do your homework. Goswami has no clue about Rahul Gandhi. He does not know the Congress vice-president’s thought process, emotional makeup, style of work, or nature of ideation. He does not know what Rahul Gandhi reads, who he learns from, what he discusses outside India. All he had were quotes on and by Rahul Gandhi. This is of no interest to Rahul Gandhi. He knows what he says and he takes no notice of what others say about him.

The Times Group, Goswami’s employers, ought to have a sense of unease now. It does not look like Goswami has room for improvement; he seems to be the finished product. For years the Times Group has encouraged the inane. Such a turf contrives cretins. This is a universal truth.

Rahul Gandhi has no clue about the newsroom. He does not know the ways of the Times Group. He does not know the thought process of Goswami, his style of work, his background, his failures, and his habits. He has no connect with Goswami. Goswami is not interested in Rahul Gandhi’s theories. He has no patience for long-term goals. He wants to hear Rahul Gandhi say what he has not. All he got was what Rahul Gandhi has repeated scores of times – opening up the system, a clutch of bills, etc.

The Congress party, Rahul Gandhi’s employers, ought to be in a state of shock now. Their man is not ready for 2014. He might be for 2019 but that is not what the party wants. The commander is ridden with doubt. This is fatal in an election year.

For years the Congress has fawned on the Nehru-Gandhis. It has deprived them of the intellectual nourishment that the Mahatma’s team thrived in. Such an ambience feeds the fragile. This is a law of life.

I have known Rahul Gandhi and Goswami fleetingly. The high point with Rahul Gandhi was a conversation that invigorated. The high point with Goswami was a chat in a bar whose details can wait for another day.  Both are capable of better – like any human being. But for now we must hold them to the fact that they are not. We, the aam aadmis, are the masters of Rahul Gandhi and Goswami.

If we wish Rahul Gandhi to rise to his best, we need to defeat the Congress party and the UPA this year. We must give him an opportunity to rebuild in private.

If we desire brilliance from Goswami, we need to stop watching Times Now. We must give them a chance to work in obscurity.This is the big takeaway from the interview that wasn’t.

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Vijay Simha is an independent journalist and sobriety campaigner based out of New Delhi. His most recent journalism assignment was as executive editor with The Financial World, New Delhi, and tehelka.com. 

He was a guest on Season 1 of the popular Indian TV showSatyamev Jayate, hosted by Aamir Khan.

Vijay blogs here and may be contacted at vijsimha@gmail.com.

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