Rahul Gandhi's attack on Narendra Modi in his first-ever television interview indicates that the battered Congress will shift focus to 'contrasting ideologies' with the BJP in this election season, notes Anita Katyal.
In the ten years that he has been in electoral politics, Rahul Gandhi has been constantly criticised for his inaccessibility to the media and his silence on key policy issues.
Except for a few sound bytes on his tours outside New Delhi and a formal press conference in the run-up to the 2009 Lok Sabha election, he has been largely uncommunicative.
When he decided to give his first television interview to Arnab Goswami and the Times Now channel, it created excitement in the capital's political circles.
The Opposition was waiting for another opportunity to savage the Congress's undeclared prime ministerial candidate while the Congress rank and file was keen to know if their leader would pass muster since their political future is dependent on his stewardship.
Would Rahul Gandhi withstand Goswami's inquisition or would he wilt under pressure?
Would he come across as a young leader with a vision for his party and the country, with views on economic and political issues and to articulate them coherently?
Would people finally get a glimpse of who Rahul Gandhi is and what he stands for?
At the end of the 120-minute interview, the Bharatiya Janata Party had enough material to slam Gandhi for accusing its prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi's government for 'abetting' the 2002 riots in Gujarat.
The Congress was happy at the mere fact that Gandhi had finally spoken out and that, too, to Arnab Goswami, an anchor with a famously combative style.
Most of what he said was a repeat of what he told the All-India Congress Committee meeting on January 17, about democratising political structures and empowering party workers.
Rahul Gandhi is not known to be a good orator and this was evident in the interview as he fumbled and appeared distinctly uncomfortable on several occasions.
"Unlike his speech at the AICC meeting, when he electrified the party rank and file, his responses did not carry conviction," a senior Congress leader told Rediff.com
Gandhi did not respond to specific questions like price rise, the clean chit given by the Maharashtra government to former chief minister Ashok Chavan in the Adarsh scam, bringing political parties under the Right To Information Act and punishing corrupt Congressmen.
He would invariably revert to his pet subject of bringing about systematic changes in the political system and empowering the youth and women.
The interview was notable for his direct attack against Narendra Modi. This is the first time that he has taken on Modi who has copnstantly baited him in his public speeches.
His references to Modi, so far, were couched in contrasting the ideologies of the Congress and the BJP and taking a dig at him for projecting himself as the knight who would rid India of all its ills.
Coming shortly after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's comment at his press conference that 'Modi had presided over mass massacre in Ahmedabad', Rahul Gandhi's comment on the Modi government's role in the 2002 riots could well change the political discourse before the Lok Sabha election.
At the receiving end of the BJP's onslaught over corruption, price rise and poor governance, Rahul's interview indicates that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government is attempting to change the political narrative and shift the focus to the contrasting ideologies of the two parties, the Congress and the BJP.
Also Read: What Rahul told Arnab: The full interview