The Gandhis and Goswami

Jan 31, 2014, 09:00 IST | Malavika Sangghvi

Now it can be told. This week's Rahul Gandhi's interview with Arnab is not the first time that Goswami’s made a media splash with the Gandhis

>> Now it can be told. This week’s Rahul Gandhi’s interview with Arnab is not the first time that Goswami’s made a media splash with the Gandhis. 

Almost 15 years ago, Goswami, then a rookie TV reporter, found himself, along with his media colleagues, returning from a trip to Sriperumbudur with Mrs Sonia Gandhi.

Though he was in Economy and she in Business, he managed to run up to her as they alighted at the tarmac. “Wait Mrs Gandhi, wait,” pleaded the young man. “Please speak to me,” he implored the media shy Gandhi, who’d never spoken to the cameras before.

And lo and behold, for some reason the Congress President and Rajiv Gandhi’s widow stopped. “OK,” she’s reported to have said with a small smile, “I’m ready. Ask me your questions.”

It was the first time in her life she’d spoken to a TV reporter and naturally, it created waves.

The Gandhis and the Goswami. Always newsworthy.

Coffee, Tea and Sympathy?
>> “How would you respond to the comment that you used your ‘bedroom voice’ during the interview? We are speaking to our friend, Times Now’s dashing Arnab Goswami, the man whose recent interview with Rahul Gandhi has become easily the most talked about news event in the country ever since it aired on Monday.

We have known Goswami for almost two decades, and are still fascinated by the dichotomy between his on-camera and off-camera personalities.

Off camera, he’s the consummate gentleman: soft spoken, kind and gentle.

On camera… well, he’s not called ‘The Terminator’ for nothing.

The bedroom voice question we ask, is because there are some who feel he pulled his punches during the interview.

Goswami disagrees. “My style is very different between The Newshour debates and my one-on-one interviews,” he says. “During the highly popular Newshour, people argue, fight, shout and I respond with the same. My interviewing style, however, whether it has been with Musharraf, Benazir or any number of Indian politicians, has always been more considered. Sitting a few feet away from the interviewees, you cannot shout and scream at them. That would be counter-productive,” he says.

Were there conditions set before the interview, we enquire, subjects like Robert Vadra that he was not allowed to touch on?

Or did the (unconfirmed) presence of Priyanka seated off–camera in the room during the interview be an inhibiting factor?

“Not at all,” says Goswami “If one replays the interview, you’ll see I asked a total of 110 questions in 80 minutes, which works out to an average of one question every 45 seconds! Some of them, I had to repeat as I was not receiving a satisfactory response, which meant that I could not touch on all the subjects I’d prepared.”

Fair enough. But why on earth was the Congress VP sweating so much? ‘What was the temperature in the room?’, we enquire solicitously.

Goswami ducks the question.

But, sources say it was the heat of his relentless persistence and not the air-conditioning set on normal cooling that caused Gandhi’s discomfiture.

Be that as it may, we ask India’s most watched news anchor if he had felt … well, a tad sorry for the young Gandhi as the interview progressed. “Not sorry. I think he was spunky to have agreed to the interview. Everyone knows I ask tough questions,” said Goswami. “And he answered them as best as he could.”

What was the mood in the room like, once the cameras stopped rolling? Did a pall descend? Had people realised how disastrous it was going to be for the Congress leader?

“It was cordial,” he says.

“I joined Priyanka and Rahul for coffee and sandwiches,” says Goswami.

He might have added sympathy, too.

Continued celebrations
>> It appears that the season of celebrations and festivities has not culminated for the royal family of Udaipur. No sooner had the wedding of the erstwhile Udaipur prince Lakshyaraj Singh Mewar to Nivritti, daughter of Odisha BJP president and former minister Kanak Vardhan Singh Deo been concluded, than a grand celebration took place at The Zenana Mahal, The City Palace, Udaipur on Tuesday to celebrate the newly married heir’s 29th birthday.

“Nazaranas and greetings were offered by relatives and friends. A special cake depicting Sydney Harbour Bridge (reminiscent of Australia, where Lakshyaraj studied) was cut, and the evening entertainment continued with the performance of Vishwas Rai of Indian Idol 5 fame, Sulabh Nagpal and Vinti Singh,” says his proud dad Shriji Arvind Singh Mewar, the 76th custodian of the Mewar dynasty.

Learning from challenges
My take on the interview of the century? It was a disaster waiting to happen. For years, we’d watched from the sidelines as Rahul Gandhi displayed a staggering unsuitability for the rough and tumble of politics.

Let’s face it; what prepares us for life are not the successes we notch up in our lives, but our challenges.

When we face criticism, discouragement, opposition and obstacles is when we develop inner resources, strengths and wisdom.

What opportunities have there been for Rahul Gandhi for personal growth?

Yes, he has seen tragedy at a personal level and he has coped with it dignity and fortitude.

But, has he had to prime himself, for instance, for a job interview? Face rejection? Sell a project to a prospective buyer? What can a young man learn from life, when he’s offered the top job in one of the world’s largest countries?

What would Rahul Gandhi have been like, if he’d had a chance to live a normal life as an average Joe?

I think he, along with the rest of the nation, will be happy to answer that question.

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