After closely following the moves of the Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi as a journalist for several years, Aarthi Ramchandran has put down the details of his political career in her new book titled ‘Decoding Rahul Gandhi’ which is making waves in the literary and the political circles currently. Resham Sengar of Zeenews.com spoke to the author to trace the paths she pursued to demystify the Congress heir.
Please tell us about your book ‘Decoding Rahul Gandhi’.
The book is a political sketch of Rahul Gandhi as it looks at his political career from the time he became an MP 2004 till 2012 UP elections. I have written about each stage of Rahul Gandhi’s political career- right from his initial reluctance to step into politics which was connected to his disturbed childhood due to his grandmother and father’s assassination. Rahul’s school and college years were sort of overshadowed by these tragic events and had an effect on his attitude towards politics. I have written about Rahul’s own quest for meritocracy and how that clashes with the fact that he is the next Nehru-Gandhi heir. I have included the fact that he wanted to make the Youth Congress and the NSUI democratic.
Rahul has a management background since he has earlier worked with a management consultancy and the people too he works with in the party have done stints with the corporate sector. He tried to plan his revival of the Youth Congress and the NSUI taking a very process driven approach to things just like people in the corporate world take. So my book asks the question about the kind of effect that approach has on politics. I have talked about how Rahul has not been able to bridge the gap between the kind of Congress he envisioned and its current reality. I have tried to analyse how successful Brand Rahul has been till date and finally I have tried to conclude that if Rahul Gandhi were to become the PM of India in 2014 what it would mean for India.
Your professional resume explains that you have been closely keeping a track of Rahul Gandhi’s political career since a long time. So what exactly inspired you to develop an interest in the political moves of the Congress General Secretary?
I have been covering the Congress party for over 7 years now. Right from the moment Rahul began his political career, I have been tracking his political journey. I thought about chronicling those political details since I knew that I have an advantage over others and give the readers a full length view of what his politics is all about. Rahul is a sort of a person who never talks too much or gives his views very openly. As a political figure he is important because he is not just a prospective leader of the Congress party but also a promising candidate for the PM’s post. So in a sense looking at what his politics has led to over the years, to where he could be heading in the future, will give the readers a sense of where India would be heading in the coming years.
How difficult was ‘decoding’ Rahul Gandhi considering the fact that he hardly gives any media bytes or full length interviews?
It was an exercise that I found extremely challenging because the subject was so inaccessible. I tried at several junctures to get in touch with Rahul or his office. I sought permission to travel along with him during his electoral campaigns so that I could see through close quarters what he was doing. But at all junctures, I received an absolutely ‘no’ as a response from his office that made it very difficult for me to get first hand material. I had to deconstruct this man through his public statements (which are very few), through what he said in the Parliament and combine all that with some analysis. I also gathered data by interviewing various sources such as the senior Congress leaders, people part of the inner quarter of the ‘Gandhi Darbar’ in Delhi, anonymous Congress workers, Youth Congress people, people associated with Rahul Gandhi’s schemes at different levels all to deconstruct him by all the answers given by those interviewees. That is why my book is called ‘Decoding Rahul Gandhi’ because Rahul is an enigma to many common Indians.
According to your observations, why have Rahul Gandhi’s efforts not borne fruit yet?
When we look at Rahul Gandhi’s efforts, he tried to project himself as an ‘aam aadmi’ and tried to a voice for the marginalized sections of the society. So he goes to dalit homes and eats with them. There was an attempt to genuinely know how those poor people lived and bring a change in their lives. But we have not seen him be a part of policy making in any significant way or influence the course of policies. It is only Sonia Gandhi who is steering the ship with her vision. So his efforts have not borne fruit because we have not really seen him articulating the ideas concerning the dalits etcetera at all.
Did you learn or discover anything while writing the book?
It was an opportunity to delve at length into India’s democratic process. I read a lot of biographies on the Nehru-Gandhi family. I read about specific periods in India’s and the Congress party’s history. It gave me an opportunity to understand the pressure of democracy in our country and the currents of politics I had watched and listed about as a daily reporter. It gave me a chance to stand back and actually see how it mingles and intermingles where one is blocked by the other. It was a fascinating process for me.
Which Indian political figure from the current generation do you admire the most?
In the process of writing this book, I found the transformation of Sonia Gandhi very catchy. She came as a complete outsider to India and then married into the most powerful family (the Gandhi’s) in the country. She adapted herself to the new customs and took over the role of leadership to steer it so far with her ability. I think it takes a lot of guts to be able to do that. I am not going into what she has not been able to deliver but her human story has been really fascinating and I admire the transition that she has been able to make. But there are many other political leaders who I read about and I liked.
When are you picking up the pen again? What kind of book do you plan to write in future?
This question is at the moment quite difficult for me to answer because at the moment I just want to take a break and get back all my creative juices because this book has taken a lot out of me. But I am sure I want to write more about politics perhaps something related to the Congress party again since a lot can be researched and written about it.