The interaction between an in-your-face journalist and a leader who sat down for his “first formal interview of this type” had moments that were a departure from the usual. Here are some of the excerpted highlights. Disclaimer: they are not chronological.
A file photo of Congress party vice-president Rahul Gandhi addressing the party workers in Srinagar. (AFP photo)
Rahul, Thank you very much. It’s great to have you on Frankly Speaking show today. It's been 10 years as an MP for you, you fought your first election in 2004 & this is your first TV interview.
It's not my first interview, but it’s my first formal interview of this type.
Now that this is your first detailed & long interview in 10 years, we have a lot of ground to cover. I have one request to you right at the start of the interview, let’s be as specific as possible on the subjects we deal with today. Do I have your agreement on that?
Yes, we will be specific but if I would like to sort of explain things in a broader fashion, I think that will okay with you.
If I want to draw you back into specifics?
You can draw me back as much as you want.
Are you avoiding a direct face-off with Narendra Modi? Is there a fear of loss Rahul because this election is not looking good for the Congress party from overall estimates? And the growing belief is that if Rahul Gandhi has not picked up the challenge officially that means that there is a fear of loss, he is avoiding a direct one on one battle with Narendra Modi, you must answer that?
To understand that question you have to understand a little bit about who Rahul Gandhi is and what Rahul Gandhi's circumstances have been and if you delve into that you will get an answer to the question of what Rahul Gandhi is scared off and what he is not scared off. The real question is what I am doing sitting here, you are a journalist, when you were small you must have said to yourself I want to do something, you decided to become a journalist at some point, why did you do that?
You are asking me the question? (Tables turned? Journalist to interviewee)
Yes, I am asking you a question, it is a conversation.
(Back on course) Explain that. Government of Gujarat was aiding and abetting the riots is what you just said, explain that?
I mean it’s not me...it’s the large number of people who were there, large number of people who saw actively the Government of Gujarat being involved in the riots.
You will keep that line despite the CM getting a clean chit form the courts?
I mean, people saw it. I am not the person who saw it, your colleague saw it. Your colleagues told me.
Were you in Cambridge? (interviewee to journalist)
I was at Oxford.
But you spent some time at Cambridge?
I was a visiting fellow at Cambridge for a while.
So where were you at Cambridge?
At Sydney Sussex college.
So I was at Trinity in Cambridge, I spent a year there, I did my M.Phil there. (Conversation over, journalist gets his questions out again)
You don't have a thick skin, Mr. Rahul Gandhi. Politicians need to have a thick skin.
If I don't have a thick skin right now, it'll get thick.
Mr Gandhi the other question is about price rise and you got a round of applause when you spoke about the LPG cylinders, you told the Prime Minister quite charmingly - that Mr PM please make things less difficult for households. But I am questioning your silence all these years, because in this period from 2004-2013 the wholesale price index of food goes up by 157%, vegetables by 350% and Onions by 521%, you don't speak on that.
When Raj Babbar says you can get food at 12 rupees a meal, you don't speak then , when Rashid Masood says you can get food at 5 rupees a meal you don't speak then, the accusation there is and the general feeling Mr. Rahul Gandhi is that you have really woken up to the issue after the 4-0 drubbing in the last state election, do you concede that?
No, I think women are the backbone of this country and women need to be empowered and I felt that price rise is an issue cylinders were a big issue. I went to Kerala and I got a sense that women were concerned about that and I made that view clear to everybody in the AICC session.