How to read an interview

Rahul Gandhi’s interview might read like a search engine-optimised content, but his version of change has my vote


Shivangi Narayan | January 29, 2014

The 27 January interview of Rahul Gandhi with Times Now’s Arnab Goswami has been dubbed a disappointment. Keeping the fact that it was pitched as a NaMo-Raga face-off, no one really got any masala. Nothing that Gandhi said incited passion. Few laughs for his repetitive use of ‘RTI’, sure, but anger and rage, none.  It is probably the norm in Indian politics today; till politicians don’t sit on a dharna outside Rail Bhawan and become ‘anarchic’ they are not doing their job well.

In between the obvious guffaws, defensive replies, and refusal to say something headline-worthy against Narendra Modi, Gandhi spoke of systems and processes and the need to change the ‘system’. He spoke about ‘democracy’ and ‘empowerment’ and about ‘opening up the system’. Before we all could point fingers at him, he clearly told the audience how much he hated the dynasty politics and how Indian politics has always worked best when it involved people.

Gandhi spoke about democracy and a democratic process, entities which have become obsolete, now that Indians have developed what political scientists have termed as a ‘trust deficit’ in government. It is this trust deficit which leads to kangaroo courts and judgment without the due process of law – such as what happened in Khirki extension of south Delhi two weeks ago.

Kangaroo courts might provide instant justice, but can a civilised society let them become the order of the day? The due process of law has surely failed many citizens, but what is the path that we want our politicians to follow: dharna and vigilantism, or that of changing the system so that it works for everyone?

What is relief-worthy is that Gandhi opts for the latter. At various points in his interview he talked about making the whole governance more representative and empowering, especially for women. At one point he even asked, “Everybody is happy with 500 people running the system. None of you want to raise the issue.” He added, “I am debating these issues by building structures in Congress. As far as I am concerned, the debate (with Modi) is already taking place.”

Gandhi also said, “If there is an issue of corruption, the law should take its course.” And “I believe in democracy and I believe in opening up the system.” These statements might be just clever PR statements or the actual ideological inclination of Gandhi. His work in youth Congress and national student’s union of India (NSUI) are concrete examples of his agenda of opening up politics to people from all across. You could call him a decade too slow, or someone who has a long-term agenda on hand. And if AAP and its fate in Delhi is anything to go by, slow might indeed be better.

Our constitution is a defining document, which needs to be put into practice. And while dharnas and protests could be legitimate forms of protest, they cannot replace democratic processes. A detour from due course of law concentrates power in few hands, and no one but the common person on the road suffers from it the most.

And till Rahul Gandhi, vice president of the largest party in India and possibly a future prime minister (in 2019?), thinks this way, one shouldn’t really care if his interview was a PR stunt or how many times he used the word ‘RTI’.



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