Saturday, 1 February 2014

COMMUNICATION NOT RAHUL'S FORTE

Communication not Rahul’s forte

It is a major differentiator between Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi and his “guru” Manmohan Singh. The guru hardly speaks. But the disciple speaks, let’s say, sort of stuff that can get him into the Hall of Fame of directionless soliloquies. And he hopes that by churning out acronyms and words --- RTI, MGNREGA, Lokpal, empowerment and food security --- he will ensure a Congress victory.

Gandhi’s “first formal” television interview, aired on January 27, was no exception. For over an hour he faced questions that were not easy. Had Gandhi been an able communicator he could have dealt with the posers with élan. Instead, he kept on repeating himself with his robotic answers, losing an opportunity to project his vision clearly.   

On the issue of tackling corruption, especially when asked about Adarsh Housing scam in which former Maharashtra chief minister Ashok Chavan has been indicted in the judicial commission report, Gandhi kept saying the Opposition must help to pass six anti-corruption legislations. It was the same when he was pressed about Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh who allegedly accepted money from a private company. Gandhi squirmed and latched on to the “legal process” without directly telling what specific actions the party would take. He should have understood that no one was asking him as the Congress vice-president to lynch corrupt politicians; no one was asking that legal processes be thrown out of the window. All that the citizens wanted to know was whether Congress will have the guts to get rid of corrupt people even at the cost of party’s electoral prospects. Gandhi, despite his new-found anti-corruption stance, could not satisfy us with a clear answer. And now Arvind Kejriwal has got the opportunity to put Gandhi in the list of corrupt politicians of the country.

But the worst among Gandhi’s replies was about the 1984 massacre of Sikhs in Delhi. Gandhi reasoned he was not part of the riots and that he was “not in operation in the Congress party.” That’s not how a leader, who is ready to take up “whatever responsibility,” deals with a sensitive issue. Rather than hiding behind the shameful 2002 Gujarat riots --- a hackneyed ploy used by the old guards in the Grand Old Party to avoid their shame ( if any) about the 1984 massacre --- a young Gandhi could have proved that he is a new-age leader who can take on issues without any qualms. 

It’s much more than a question of apologising. The moot point remains whether justice has been done and seen to be done to all those who lost their kith and kin as a result of violence. Sadly, so far, the perception is Congress leaders, who allegedly incited violence against Sikhs, have remained unpunished due to tacit support of party top brass. But Gandhi will not take the lead to rectify that and tell those Sikh families that he is with them in their fight for justice. What “change” was he then talking about recently? Was it just another Rahulesque fantasy?

While the Congress party has been railing against Narendra Modi for being anointed as BJP’s prime ministerial nominee, the truth is face of the leadership must be clear to citizens. For us, the clear face of a leader offers some idea about the kind of governance we can expect from him or her. A prime ministerial face, even if without any experience in the government, can offer us some hope in a country that needs a desperate course correction. Gandhi’s babbles showed once again that he is perhaps not that hope we can look forward to. And Rahul Gandhi knows this circumstance of Rahul Gandhi all too well. Just couldn’t communicate it in clear words.