RG gave edit writers little to chew on

BY Darius Nakhoonwala| IN Opinion | 29/01/2014
The Telegraph said uncharitably that even those who are sympathetic towards him will be compelled to concede that he does not have it in him to be the prime minister or any kind of leader.
DARIUS NAKHOONWALA scans the wisdom on offer. PIX: HT Edit

You don’t say!
Darius Nakhoonwala

In these days of TV and websites, editors and their lackeys, the edit writers, hate nothing more than a late breaking sensational story. By the time they get their chance to say something, everything that can be said has been said and all the jokes that can be cracked, have been cracked. 

It was perhaps because of this that The Hindu didn’t write an edit on Rahul Gandhi’s interview to Times Now on the perfectly understandable premise: why bother? Or maybe the editor didn’t want to upset 10, Janpath. Instead it wrote about another tragedy, the boat that capsized off Port Blair. Oy, well done, da. 

The Indian Express said that the only good thing about the interview was that it happened at all. “But the credit ends there” it said and went on to point out how “Gandhi was not prepared to answer obvious questions”. It said “Gandhi is still detached, speaking of faraway things.” It then went on to point out all the things Rahul got wrong such as his reluctance to take on Modi, corruption and the 1984 question. Thus, said the paper, “Gandhi’s biggest failure was to engage with questions that agitate the electorate, whether on secularism or redistribution, employment or corruption.” 

The Telegraph, for once, was on the ball – it wrote an edit the very next day. Calling the interview a self goal in football, it said “Rahul Gandhi can complement himself and his advisors for having achieved this rare thing… even those who are sympathetic towards him will be compelled to concede that he does not have it in him to be the prime minister or any kind of leader.” Ouch! 

It went on: “It was evident that his thinking is shallow and unclear. He has no programme or vision to offer to the country. Some people may even draw the conclusion that he is ignorant, if he became aware of the prevailing price rise only after talking to some women in Kerala.” Enough said. Let the boy be. 

The Pioneer, of course, gloated thatthe one-on-one interaction… turned out to be a disaster for both Mr Gandhi and the party.” It focused, expectedly, on the role of Narendra Modi in the Gujarat riots of 2002. “His biggest faux pas was to categorically hold Mr Narendra Modi guilty for the 2002 violence in Gujarat.” It then went on about Rajiv Gandhi and the 1984 riots, devoting an unbelievable 360 words out of the total of the 500-odd words to this. Boring. 

The Times of India, which has gone back to its old avatar of mature comment, praised Rahul for his “calm dignity” which it said is “a pleasant contrast from aggressive politicians frequently seen today.” Then it got to the nub of it. “There is a curious lack of engagement.” Absolutely. 

It also pointed out how “for a youth leader who talks about dispersing power, such obsessive self-referentiality shows an inadequate understanding of what drives contemporary youth.” It concluded that “His public forays showcase a gentle individual, who's nevertheless poorly groomed for a mega-contest in one of the world's toughest democracies.

The Hindustan Times thinks that the “interview with a news channel… is understood to be just the beginning of a media blitz that will see the Gandhi scion in the arc-lights and in newspaper pages as never before.” Oh dear! 

It then wandered off,  away from less embarrassing things and contended itself with saying that “…the interview was a let-down, widely lampooned on social media and panned by critics. He was repetitive much of the time, unconvincing at others, and sometimes evaded a direct answer…” 

It then expressed this hope: “A cogent and powerful performance in his next interview would be a vital step in this exercise. One takeaway for the BJP: Whatever the verdict on Mr Gandhi’s showing, at least he agreed to be grilled. Will Mr Modi — a consummate performer when addressing mass rallies — now allow media interviewers to put him on the spot?” 

How true. But if Rahul comes can Modi be far behind?

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