Was he left red-faced or not? Was he stumped by the audience’s response or not?

And the debate on whether Rahul was stumped by Bengaluru students goes on and on
Flix Slicing Dicing Friday, November 27, 2015 - 17:18
Written by  Manek Kohli

Was he left red-faced or not? Was he stumped by the audience’s response or not? Did his plan to snub Modi’s schemes in front of a bunch of college-goers fail or is the media simply creating hype?

All that happened was Rahul Gandhi, in his speech to the students of Mount Carmel Women’s College in Bengaluru, reached a point where he asked the girls whether they believe the ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ and ‘Make in India’ campaigns are working, and a majority of them seemed to have responded in the affirmative. It was naturally not the answer he wanted or expected, since he is of the opposite view.

But then so many crisscrossing tangents and diagonals came into being that they diluted whatever happened beyond recognition. A few seconds after this interesting interaction, Times Now popped up the 'Rahul stumped' text on its channel. Others channels blared 'Rahul left red-faced', while most other media houses including TNM wrote 'Rahul embarassed'. This was perhaps the first diagonal the issue took. Was he actually embarrassed or not? It didn't matter.

Times of India added its own dimension by asking its readers to vote on a poll. It asked, ‘did rhetoric actually do Rahul Gandhi in?’ with the options ‘Yes, students are smarter than he thinks’ and ‘No, he made his point emphatically’. A whopping 80,365 out of the 87,018 respondents went with the former.

But there emerged a group of students who were present during the interaction, and who raised their voice against the manner in which media interpreted this episode. They immediately directed the blame at all these news outlets for imposing their own subjective and sensational opinion on the public. Elixir Nahar, a student of Mount Carmel College whose post on Facebook regarding the media reportage of this issue gained great publicity, highlights that the students were simply interacting with the leader openly, and expressing their own subjective opinion. She says that this healthy banter was misrepresented by the media, and many of Rahul Gandhi's ‘admirable’ points were not highlighted at all.

Elixir in this manner contradicts what the media had to say. But the world doesn’t stop deliberating and delineating the issue just there.

Elixir's full blog here. 

Meanwhile, another message purportedly written by a student named Madhuri was shared en masse by Congress’ detractors. A part of the message said, “You raised some extremely good points to which we applauded and supported you but for some of your views where we could not agree we expressed dissent. Please take it in the right spirit. For a moment even if we agree to what you said" Swach Bharat" is not working, I would say that it's the nation's failure not PM's alone! Do you realise that such programmes run with every individuals support like the polio campaign? It ran for decades and only now we are seeing the outcome. How can you clean a country that has accumulated filth for decades and centuries? It's a culture change that all of us have to bring in, including you and I.”

Hindustan Times, says that the media's response was ‘adverse’, but it also says Rahul's PR strategy is inefficient.  The story quotes senior party sources as saying how the issue could have been averted if the party had stopped protecting their leader from the media. Since only two news agencies were allowed in the auditorium, the opinions of only a few were drilled into the minds of many, according to them.

Adding another angle, the student council president, Namrata Chandrasekar, told HT, “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.”

It’s amazing how much lemon can be squeezed out of a one-minute section of a nearly 45-minute interaction. If it keeps going like this, there will be conspiracy theories, vivid analytical narratives, and 25th November may just be remembered as 'The day Rahul Gandhi gave a speech at Mount Carmel Girls College'.