Adverse media reporting of Rahul Gandhi’s interaction with students in Bengaluru triggered allegations of mismanagement in the party’s Karnataka unit on Thursday with a section of the students contradicting news channels and saying they were impressed with the Congress vice-president.
Major media outlets reported Gandhi was ‘left red faced’ when he asked the students what they thought of the Swachh Bharat and Make in India programmes.
By the time video clips emerged that showed that response to the questions were mixed, the damage was already done – TV channels were saying the students had given an unequivocal thumbs-up to the government’s flagship’s schemes.
The situation could have been averted if the Congress didn’t continue protecting the 45-year-old leader from the media and allowed unfettered media access – not just two news agencies -- inside the Mount Carmel Women’s College auditorium, senior party leaders told HT.
“It was a classic case of the ‘blind men and the elephant’. In the absence of first-hand information, channels reported what they wanted. And we have only ourselves to blame,” said a senior Karnataka minister.
Another said, “It is time that Rahul starts giving more access to the media. His reticence is only making things worse for him and the party.”
The students and teachers of the college agreed, and blamed news channels for attempting to distort the real facts and broadcasting their own agenda.
Elixir Nahar, a final year journalism student and a well-known model, wrote a detailed Facebook post that went viral.
“If I had a few hashtags to throw around, they would be on the lines of #Misconstrued and #Exaggerated, and this is from someone on the inside,” she said.
“The best part was he (Rahul) recognised corruption in the higher levels of the Youth Congress. He spoke about rejuvenating the party and giving it a new face and image. It was touching to hear him question about why there isn’t more love and kindness being spread. Now before you write that off as being weak, it is the strongest relationships that are built on love, kindness and respect.”
“Not a single news report spoke about how he wants to make India safer for women. How he doesn’t want us to feel uncomfortable walking down the street. How he doesn’t want us to have to think twice about going to a pub. No. All the reports focused on was how his question round allegedly misfired,” her report said.
Speaking to HT, she clarified she was not a Congress supporter. “After the event, TV channel reporters were asking questions to students in a way that would make him look bad. And that’s not fair.”
The student council president, Namrata Chandrasekar, said, “I have several problems with Rahul Gandhi but the way his interaction was reported was wrong. There was so much more he said but you people (media) just plucked out an episode that lasted a few seconds.”
Niang Perrin -- a student from Arunachal Pradesh who asked Gandhi a question on his party’s alleged silence on Irom Sharmila and the army’s alleged atrocities in the Northeast – also felt the media deliberately gave the event a spin.