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The awkward silence of Rahul Gandhi at Cambridge University and the uncomfortable truth it tells us about the Congress Prince

Rahul Gandhi was seen as clueless and pushed himself into a corner with a long awkward silence. Rather than asking the interviewer to rephrase the question to be more precise or maybe directly ask what she intended to know, Rahul Gandhi ended up displaying his lack of ability to comprehend complex issues.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s recent interviews at Cambridge University have set social media on fire. A gaffe, followed by a long and awkward silence by the Congress leader Rahul Gandhi during a recent interview in the United Kingdom, is now being used by social media users and political opponents to mock the former Congress president.

A video had gone viral on the social media platforms where Rahul Gandhi seemed to be lost and unable to articulate his views when the interviewer posed a question to the Gandhi-scion.

The video pertains to Rahul Gandhi’s recent controversial speech at an event titled ‘India at 75’ at Corpus Christi College at the Cambridge University hosted by a Congress party sympathiser Shruti Kapila. During his recent visit to Cambridge University for a talk show, Rahul Gandhi was asked to share his views on the collective violence that India faced as a country post-1970.

It is notable here that Shruti Kapila has long been pro-Congress and had suggested earlier that Rahul Gandhi should only do scripted interviews for ‘maximum impact’.

The interviewer asked Rahul Gandhi what he thought about the violence, especially to share how he viewed the faultlines that exist in the country that often end up creating chaos. The interviewer had Rahul about his views on violence and non-violence in the context of Indian society, especially how he viewed it in terms of his own life after his father, former PM Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination.

However, Rahul Gandhi was seen wondering what to answer as there was a pin drop silence inside the auditorium. The short clip of his theatrics has gone viral on the internet, resulting in social media users and his political opponents mocking him for his long awkward silence. Many advised Rahul Gandhi to do proper homework before talking to the press.

Essentially, Kapila asked Rahul Gandhi how he saw so much violence in the 1970s, especially the pre-Modi era India and tried to draw a relationship with non-violence, which has been the supposed principle of Congress since Gandhi. Though the question posed by Shruti Kapila was not easy, one expected Rahul Gandhi to provide an insight into what he thought about social issues such as violence.

However, Rahul Gandhi was seen as clueless and pushed himself into a corner with a long awkward silence. Rather than asking the interviewer to rephrase the question to be more precise or maybe directly ask what she intended to know, Rahul Gandhi ended up displaying his lack of ability to comprehend complex issues. He made it worse by making it personal by dragging his father’s assassination to cover this embarrassing situation.

“I think… I mean, the word that comes to mind is forgiveness. It is not precisely accurate,” Rahul Gandhi said before going silent again.

The interviewer sensed that she has asked a question Rahul was finding it difficult to respond to. “I didn’t mean to stump you… it’s a very obvious question,” Kapila said.

“You didn’t stump me,” Rahul responded. In response, Shruti Kapila said, “No one has asked you, I am surprised”.

“No, no… they have asked,” he replied, adding that “I am trying to go deeper in the answer” amidst laughter from the audience.

As he found himself in a tough position, Rahul Gandhi cleverly turned the question personal as he made it all about himself and his family. Though the question was on a larger issue of continuing hostilities between the communities, Rahul Gandhi avoided it by shifting it to his story by bringing his father’s tragic assassination into it.

Responding to the question, Rahul Gandhi said that the assassination of his father and former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi was the “single biggest learning experience” of his life while claiming that he cannot get away from the fact that the event also made him learn things that he would have never learnt otherwise.

“The single biggest learning experience of my life was my father’s death. There is no bigger experience than that,” said Rahul Gandhi.

“Now, I can look at it and say the person or the force that killed my father caused me tremendous pain, that’s correct, as a son I lost my father, and that’s very painful. But then I can’t get away from the fact that the same event also made me learn things that I would never ever have learnt otherwise. So, as long as you are ready to learn, it doesn’t matter how nasty or evil people are,” the Congress leader said.

The Gandhi-scion also dragged Prime Minister Modi into this conversation totally out of context, to add, “If I turn around and (Prime Minister) Mr (Narendra) Modi attacks me, and I say oh my god he’s so vicious, he’s attacking me. That’s one way of looking at it, and the other way of looking at it great, I could learn something from him, give me some more.”

Instead of addressing the larger issues, Rahul Gandhi first finds himself in a tough position not able to credibly articulate his position. However, after ending up in an embarrassing situation, Rahul Gandhi made the issue about himself and his family rather than addressing the critical issues of how India witnessed hostilities during the Congress era.

Earlier, in the same interview, Gandhi-scion Rahul Gandhi yet again courted controversy by challenging India’s national unity by referring it to as a “union of states” and not a nation.

In what seems to be a scripted interview with Kapila, Rahul Gandhi shared several ideas that included his idea on India as a nation while casting aspersions on India’s electoral system and democratic credentials, including expressing doubts about the independent functioning judiciary of the country.

Rahul Gandhi had also again brought up the issue of sub-nationalism to compare it with the other democracies. Interestingly, the Gandhi-scion compared India to confederations such as European Union and not to the federal democratic setup as the United States. As per Gandhi, India’s political formation is much like a loosely-connected supranational European Union, where multinational political unions together negotiated power as an arrangement.

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