New Delhi: Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi will soon be holding a video interaction with Indian-origin nurses working in hospitals in different parts of the world, ThePrint has learnt. This interaction will be held in a mix of English and Hindi, in an attempt to widen the reach of the weekly video dialogues that Gandhi has been holding for over a month now.
“The Indian-origin nurses will share their experiences as front-line workers working in different parts of the world,” a close aide of the Congress leader said, adding that this will help reach a wider audience of people in the country.
Gandhi has held a series of interactions since April — with economists Raghuram Rajan and Abhijit Banerjee, health experts Ashish Jha and Johan Giesecke, industrialist Rajiv Bajaj as well as former US diplomat Nicholas Burns.
The common theme across these interactions has been Covid-19, as well as the impact of the lockdown on the country.
While Gandhi has faced some criticism for the manner in which these interactions are held — non-confrontational and largely steering away from partisan politics, the aide said this was a conscious choice.
“The interactions have been kept as away from the political baggage that a regular media-driven interaction would usually entail. While there are serious issues discussed in his (Gandhi’s) interactions, it isn’t negative or defamatory in any way,” said the aide quoted above, who didn’t want to be named.
Designed to contrast with Modi’s style
Rahul Gandhi’s interactions have been designed to give him a more accessible appeal, and that of a politician who can hold conversations on difficult subjects with ease.
“The attempt is to show to people that look, here’s a politician with layers. He’s a multi-faceted person, whom you can sit down with and hold a dialogue,” said the aide quoted above.
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi is often touted as the leader with all the answers by his supporters, Gandhi’s idea is to present himself in contrast to the PM.
“Rahul Gandhi never claimed to have all the answers. What he did say is that he is willing to listen, to engage and learn from domain experts. This is the contrast we want to highlight,” the aide said, adding that the idea is to make the interactions “non-combative”.
“The government’s usual approach is to reject every expert’s advice. But Gandhi’s interaction with scientists and economists, who offer a range of solutions to the crisis, shows he’s a statesman, and humble,” said MP and senior Congress leader Rajeev Gowda.
Some top health experts and medical associations had slammed the Modi government’s Covid handling last month, saying the regime was only relying on civil servants and not experts.
Gowda added that Gandhi also puts forth his own views while engaging with the experts. “So it’s never a one-sided conversation, it’s always a dialogue,” he added.
Not meant to be ‘mass-y’
Barring Rahul Gandhi’s interaction with migrant workers in Delhi last month, his weekly dialogues have mostly been limited to English.
The former Congress president has faced criticism for the limited reach and impact of such interactions. However, a second close aide of Gandhi said the videos aren’t meant to be “massy” in their appeal.
“This wasn’t built to be mass-y. This isn’t our approach or intention. We know that this is a new avatar, and some people might have an appetite for it, while others won’t,” the aide said.
“People who don’t want to see needless shouting matches in prime time debates, will turn to this,” the aide added.
A core team of Rahul Gandhi’s trusted men are responsible for planning the weekly interactions. The selection of participants is based on what they bring to the table.
“These are people he anyway kept having conversations with, from time to time, even before the Covid era,” said the second aide quoted above. “But when we saw that people are becoming comfortable with the idea of online interactions in times of Covid, we thought of using it as an opportunity,” he added.
But among the ‘chosen’ ones who finally make it to Gandhi’s show are those who can add to the Covid conversation in India. “These people bring a global perspective, and Gandhi’s questions to them help make that perspective relevant to India,” the aide added.
The names are picked every week on the go, and there isn’t a heavy marketing campaign dedicated to it — a trailer is released for every interaction a day or two in advance.
“The idea is to develop a certain transparency with the viewer, and give them an insiders’ view,” the aide added.
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