Priyanka Gandhi does politics like an item girl: Rajdeep Sardesai

“Priyanka Gandhi does politics like an item girl,” remarked Rajdeep Sardesai to much guffaws and applause at the ongoing Tata Literature Live Festival. Sardesai, whose book 2014 The Election That Changed India is just out, was in conversation with socialite-author Shobhaa De at a discussion on Politics and Journalism and was replying to a question on whether Priyanka could get Congress out of the mess it finds itself in. “The Gandhis need to realise that people want a leader who engages 24×7. Modi has got that right from the beginning.”

Priyanka Gandhi does politics like an item girl: Rajdeep Sardesai

Calling it moronic, he wondered why Rahul had agreed to an interview with Arnab Goswami when he had refused one to so many people. “In all my meetings with him, whenever he said something which I felt was a good headline point, he would just ruin it by saying it was all off the record.”

Likening Congress to business families that want the son to be the heir, he said, “Rahul Gandhi is great to go out for a drink with to Bombay Gymkhana, but he is not Prime Ministerial material. Sonia Gandhi is being this Italian mother with her son. She’s lost touch with reality.”

Sardesai refuted claims that he was an acolyte for the Nehru-Gandhi family. He, however, admitted that the media showed a lot of deference to them till now. “That’s all changed since 2011.”

Later, in the course of the discussion, he also pointed out how Congress had lost the battle before it began in the Lok Sabha polls. “The kind of egalitarianism Manishankar Aiyar’s statement, calling Modi a chaiwallah, represents is precisely the reason why Congress needs to be disbanded.”

He also spoke of “the Congress’s folly in believing that they will come back after five years. Unless they really work on rejuvenating the party, it seems very tough.”

He said BJP’s win was more to do with Congress’s incompetence in taking them on. “When Modi was going around promoting the Gujarat model, instead of questioning him on that, Congress began trying to compete (with him).”

While praising Modi’s rise from the grass roots to the highest office, he expressed alarm over the media’s acquiescence. “Modi treats the media with contempt. He will just not answer any questions or hold press conferences and, when he granted the top editors a five-minute audience, what did they do? Instead of asking questions, they were busy clicking selfies,” Sardesai said.

He admitted the youth were enthralled with Modi and saw him “as a swashbuckling Schwarzenegger who would solve all the problems.” His own son, the senior TV journalist said, wanted to come back from medical school abroad and vote for Modi.

When De asked why dissenting voices have all but disappeared, he said, “I don’t think the average journalist doesn’t want to do good stories. It’s the editors at the behest of proprietors who aren’t letting them. I hope the availability of digital platforms will help sustain good journalism. I see very dark times ahead with a lot more control and muzzling of the mainstream media.”

Earlier, De began the discussion with “the nation wants to know what your book is all about?”, which Sardesai countered with, “With that line, I think you’ve got the wrong person,” to more laughter from the gathering, setting the mood for the discussion.

Empty vessels
Rajdeep Sardesai recounted a story of how despite the multiple scams, Congress found its coffers empty to run the elections. “Sonia Gandhi got Ahmed Patel to call an industrialist and he agreed to send some money with his secretary. But, in between, the industrialist saw an exit poll, which predicted Congress would not even make it to a 100. He called his secretary back, saying he didn’t want to waste money.”