A day after Rahul Gandhi’s talk at the Mount Carmel College in Bengaluru, a student who attended the event wrote a Facebook post explaining how the audience response to the Congress vice-president was misconstrued in the media.
On Wednesday, addressing a 2,000-strong gathering of students at the college, Gandhi had asked : “Is Swacch Bharat working?” The girls roared back with a mix of ‘yes’ and ‘no’. He repeated the question and the response was similar. “How about Make in India? Do you think it’s working?” he asked, only getting another round of mixed response.
Elixir Nahar, a final-year journalism student and a fashion model, wrote that most news reports about the event – with headlines such as “Rahul Gandhi stumped by Mount Carmel students” -- were misleading and failed to capture the differing voices in the audience.
In her 1,437-word long post titled “An Open Letter to #RahulStumped Enthusiasts”, Nahar wrote that it was only one example of what Gandhi “must be feeling on a regular basis, thanks to misrepresentation by the media”.
This is how that exchange in question went, minus the hullabaloo surrounding it:
“Do you think Swachh Bharat is working?”
“Ok. I don’t think it’s working”
“Do you think Make in India is working?”
“Then do you think more jobs are being created?”
That’s what an adult conversation looks like, media folks and other not-so-well wishers. You may want to sit up and take note! There are two or more sides, and opposing ideas make for healthy banter. To deliberately cut these circulating videos is to cut off our voices. I felt an iota of what Mr. Gandhi must be feeling on a regular basis, thanks to misrepresentation by the media. To have the screams of my peers and I shouting “NO, IT’S NOT WORKING” to be cut off and tuned down like that. Also notable, if the same audience who thought ‘Make in India’ is working, also thought jobs were not being created - perhaps there is a questionable aspect to how much the audience collectively knew about the topic.
Who are we without opinions? They shape our character. Just because half the audience might not have shared the same opinion as Mr. Gandhi about the central government’s pet campaigns, does not make them any less right or him any more wrong. 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 how his question round allegedly misfired.
Nahar also wrote that Gandhi had tailored his speech to suit “our audience of young women”.
He spoke about societal norms: What is ‘pretty’, what is ‘skinny’, how irrelevant these terms are to him, and why women are so important in his life - his grandmother, mother, and sister. He was humourous, and he struck a chord with the audience right from the start, before jumping into the nitty gritty.
What touched most of the audience was Mr. Gandhi’s emphasis on ‘starting a conversation’ about all the issues. He informed us about how his government was being shunned out of Parliament, to the extent of their mic being turned off while they are speaking, despite them being the Opposition and still having a foothold in there. He brought us up to speed on how the central government has not once been open to starting a conversation with them, about anything under the sun that concerns the citizens. He drew up examples from the past, when former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was in office, and how he would pick up the phone and directly call the Opposition just to have a conversation.
Nahar criticised the news media’s one-pronged approach in covering the event.
What struck me is that all the media were synonymous in one approach: Trying to pinpoint what he did WRONG. It’s so unfortunate that before he even attempts to do anything, there are vultures circling… waiting to pounce on any potential screw-up, or churn up something out of nothing.
Nahar wrote about how Gandhi had spoken on the flaws in the Congress party.
The best part was that he recognised corruption in higher levels of the Youth Congress. He admitted to things going wrong in Congress which led to their loss in 2014. He spoke about rejuvenating the party and giving it a new face and image.
Nahar added that the youth will side with the political party that assures them safety and hears their opinions.
The central government seemed to be having a field day, making suggestive statements of the youth siding with them and not Congress. All I can say is that the majority of youth will go wherever they feel safe, where their opinions are heard, where there is tolerance and where women feel comfortable. They will side with someone who makes sure secular is not just another word in the dictionary, but a way of life once again.
Thanks for stopping by, Rahul Gandhi. You were inspiring and spirited.
Speaking to Hindustan Times later, Nahar clarified that she’s 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.”