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After the infamous Arnab Goswami interview, Rahul Gandhi has displayed disdain for media, despite doing only controlled press conferences

Rahul Gandhi needs to understand that questioning power and the nature of that power is, undoubtedly, the role journalists play. Repeatedly proving disrespectful to them demeans the concept of democracy and, in turn, the common people who place their trust in the hands of leaders.

Rahul Gandhi, MP-elect from Wayanad and Rae Bareli, has been a figure of great political heft since the year 2004. His rise to political fame from Amethi, a constituency that his father, Rajiv Gandhi, used to represent, to finally being ousted by the BJP’s Smriti Irani in 2019, is a saga of a man trying hard not to fumble on his way up. However, another very troublesome facet of Rahul Gandhi’s political personality has been exposed – his rude and dismissive behavior with journalists during the press conference and media interactions.

Rahul Gandhi began his political career in 2004 when the Congress-led UPA formed the government. In a surprise move, Sonia Gandhi handed over the prime ministership to Dr. Manmohan Singh, a seasoned economist and former governor of the Reserve Bank of India. Under Dr. Singh’s stewardship, India underwent a transformative change in the subsequent decade – some of it good, most of it catastrophic.

But as the 2014 elections neared, Sonia Gandhi made up her mind to let her son have a chance. The decision was taken against the backdrop of a relative greenhorn like Rahul Gandhi, who had only about a decade of experience in politics vis-a-vis Narendra Modi, who had already carved out a legacy as the three-term Chief Minister of Gujarat.

The 2014 elections were a turning point. To showcase his vision for India, the team of Rahul Gandhi selected Arnab Goswami for an interview. But it turned out to be a disaster of an interview. It was very clear that Rahul had not prepared, and though his team tried desperately to get Arnab Goswami to give them a second chance, the moment had passed.

Arnab Goswami himself revealed in an interview, that when his team recorded the interview with Rahul Gandhi, they thought that his level was very much below the mark and requested Arnab to give him a second chance, whereas by then, the tapes were already on the way to Mumbai. This marked a turning point in Indian politics regarding the preparedness of Rahul for leadership on a national scale. 

After this, Rahul Gandhi shied away from the media’s in-depth interaction, preferring press conferences, but then those too are controllable environments. However, his engagements with the press have often been marred with arrogance and rudeness. On March 2023, during a press conference, Rahul scolded Ravi Sisodia, a journalist from CNN News18, by saying, “Don’t pretend to be a pressman. Kyun hawa nikal gayi?” Such remarks not only question the professionalism of the journalist but also disgrace Rahul Gandhi’s ability to handle criticism.

The second one was on February 20, 2024, during the Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra, where he questioned a journalist about his owner’s name and caste. This led to the journalist being beaten up by the crowd. Instead of calming things down, Rahul called him on stage to further humiliate him. Such acts are not only unprofessional but dangerously irresponsible at the same time because this undermines the role of a free press in a democracy.

More recently, Rahul’s interaction with Mausami Singh, a senior journalist with Aaj Tak and India Today, showed his utter lack of grace in dealing with critical questions. The moment Mausami raised the issue of the opposition’s role in stalling parliament and the consequent financial waste, Rahul began to disrupt her question rudely and accused her of being a mouthpiece for the BJP, suggesting that she wear a BJP badge. Dignified, Mausami shot back, ‘You can’t point fingers like this if you don’t like the question.’ And in that small response lay the huge difference between a journalist and a seasoned one and a politician who doesn’t want to be bothered.

These are not isolated incidents. These are incidents that draw a worrying picture of a politician who would rather be disrespectful and dismissive of journalists challenging him than constructively engage with the media. This doesn’t do a disservice to journalists alone, but to a democratic ethos that rests on the twin pillars of accountability and transparency.

Rahul Gandhi needs to understand that questioning power and the nature of that power is, undoubtedly, the role journalists play. Repeatedly proving disrespectful to them demeans the concept of democracy and, in turn, the common people who place their trust in the hands of leaders. If Rahul has to lead, he has to learn to face the media with respect, even in such situations. Only then can he hope to command the respect and support of a nation that values free speech and democratic principles.

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Sai Ram B
Sai Ram B
Sai Ram B is a law student and the founder of NewsTapOne.com. Passionate about student rights, Sai Ram B works to combat student suicides. He serves as the Head of Media Division and is a Member of the National Executive Committee at the All India Students Union, dedicated to advocating for student well-being.

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