Rahul Gandhi and Sam Pitroda (right) during the Congress Vice President's US tour
Rahul Gandhi and Sam Pitroda (right) during the Congress Vice President's US tour | Shashi Tharoor Twitter handle
Text Size:

The credit for Rahul Gandhi’s ‘makeover’ is being given to technocrat Sam Pitroda, who’s in Gujarat working on the Congress poll manifesto. 

New Delhi: Sam Pitroda is the man credited with bringing the telecom revolution to India. A close aide of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Pitroda has been working for the Congress and is chairman of the party’s newly-formed NRI unit.

He was also the brain behind Rahul Gandhi’s recent US trip, in which the world got to see a ‘repackaged’ Congress vice president.

Pitroda is currently in Gujarat, meeting people to draft the Congress manifesto for next month’s assembly elections. In an exclusive telephone interview to ThePrint, he speaks about the elections, Rahul Gandhi as a leader, and his job in the party. Excerpts:

For the first time, you are at the forefront of a Congress campaign. Until now, you always worked behind the scenes. Is this a personal decision, or you have been asked to do this?

It’s completely a personal decision. My dear friend Rajiv Gandhi gave a new meaning to my life. The Congress gave me a platform to do a number of things for the country. How could I not stand up when the party was facing challenges? It’s my moral duty and obligation.

You have been consulting people on the ground for the Congress’s manifesto. What is the sense you are getting?

The people of Gujarat feel that the much-hyped Gujarat model has touched only top towns, and not reached the bottom of the pyramid. Higher education has become unaffordable for middle-class people. Graduates can’t get jobs; all jobs given are contractual ones. Farmers are not getting a fair price for their produce. There is a general feeling that people are being squeezed, while the big guys go away with all the benefits.

You have completed the first round of manifesto consultations. What’s next?

We have received around 2,000 suggestions to be included in the manifesto. First, these will be filtered and shortlisted under different heads. I will now meet party leaders to incorporate these suggestions into the manifesto. It is for the first time the process of listening to the people for formulating policies has started. Democracy is all about listening to people rather than giving them sermons.

You have received credit for Rahul Gandhi’s recent successful trip to the US. Was it planned that way – to present a repackaged Rahul Gandhi on the trip?

Yes, the trip was planned. But it was not about repackaging Rahul Gandhi. Public relations is needed for people who are fake. It was about presenting the real Rahul Gandhi.

Rahul Gandhi was projected as ‘Pappu’ by the paid Indian media and social media. Therefore, we felt it is better to organise interactions abroad, and present him before people with no bias, and let them judge him. We started with UC Berkeley, and then he met a lot of people ranging from students, intellectuals, businessmen, politicians, Hollywood stars.

It was important for the world to know the real Rahul Gandhi. And I am telling you, whoever met him in the US, had only praise to offer about his persona, his clarity of thought, his viewpoints, his idea of India. You must have noticed that the media back home has started recognising his potential as a leader. He is a young man who wants to work for the country, and has a fair idea of what to do. He doesn’t need any promotion from anyone. He is an honest man, who just needed an honest audience. I am glad it worked.

A lot of people say that the interaction at UC Berkeley was a fixed game…  

No! Never! I lift my right hand up in the sky and swear, nothing in that interaction was planned. After all, the university he was speaking at has some credibility, and so has the professor who was asking the questions. No one, including Rahul himself, knew what questions were going to be asked. That was exactly the idea – to present him to the people.

You have worked very closely with Rajiv Gandhi. Now you are working with his son. What is the difference between the two?

Rajiv lost his mother, after which, he was made to lead the country. Rahul was a young child when he lost his father. The circumstances may look similar, but are quite different. But I can say that Rahul is more analytical than Rajiv. He is well-read and hands-on with many things.

During the Gujarat campaign, Rahul has visited so many temples that the BJP is saying the Congress is trying to play the ‘soft Hindutva’ card…

They can say anything they want. On Monday, I had to interact with the Surat chamber of commerce. But the programme was cancelled because the traders were threatened by the government. You wear religion on your sleeve, and hate everyone else. It is dangerous. Rahul too has a religion, but he welcomes and loves every one.

You are also working on the Congress’s social media outreach…

We are trying to make optimum use of social media. We are increasing our presence on platforms like WhatsApp, where we weren’t doing much earlier. Apart from that, a team of youngsters is busy engaging with voters at booth level, through both social media and door-to-door campaigns.

Those who say the Congress doesn’t have the organisational strength on the ground should come to Gujarat and see. It is hard to predict the election result, but the writing on the wall is for everyone to see.

Do you see a bigger role for yourself going forward?

Look, I have no personal agenda, and neither am I looking to gain something out of it. I have so many things to do in life; I am 75 years old now. Whatever I am doing is because of the Congress, Rajiv ji, and Rahul. Besides we all need to work for the betterment of the country and take it forward. I am doing my bit.

ThePrint is now on Telegram. For the best reports & opinion on politics, governance and more, subscribe to ThePrint on Telegram.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel.

13 Comments Share Your Views

13 COMMENTS

  1. Sam Pitroda has been part of the journey of India’s progress from the time he helped in Telecom revolution in the eighties. I am sure the time has come to save democracy from the narrative of so called Gujarat model. Presentation of Rahul Gandhi as he is should be considered very important for Democracy to be given a fair chance.

  2. A long journey from that ….Govswami to U C BERKELEY. The DNA always there for everyone and anyone. RG never failed to show it. Be it sleeping & sharing the food with Dalits or tearing down the cordon meet the aggrieved masses. Moreover, since he is 21centurian may not gell well with the old system. But sincere. Not a fake. Thanks to #Sam petroda for so many things he introduced.

  3. Why should Rahul lead when there are many in the party including you now(Sam). It is time the congress stopped reservation for the President post and allow capable people take over.

  4. Some comments are typical desh premik types just can’t like or accept others good work they are threatened and naturally nervous.
    One can be a good orator but inside is hollow sounds much. You cannot fool people all the time. Tampering with all data to show development too much.

  5. I salute u. Pl carry on ur mission to liberate India from corrupt Sanghi liars, looters n destroyers of our rich heritage, culture n traditions.

    Present rulers hv successfully misguided Indians in 2014 by misusing technology to grab power by propagating absolute falsities n fake news on paid media n social media. Pl guide Congress mediateam incharges to use best technology to establish truth by removing dirts, which is implanted in subconscious minds of innocent Indians by greatest liar/s in political history of India thru social/paid media by repeating lies n lies only over millions of times at various fora.

    Pl invoke ur technological edge for removing these sanghi liars n their lies.
    I believe that ur sharp technological edge will disable/diminish liars with their false propaganda machinery like fake news, paid media etc. AND u will successfully enable real patriots/leaders in Congress to save our country from looters n liars.

  6. I salute u. Pl carry on ur mission to liberate India from corrupt Sanghi liars, looters n destroyers of our rich heritage, culture n traditions.

    Present rulers hv successfully misguided Indians in 2014 by misusing technology to grab power by propagating absolute falsities n fake news on paid media n social media. Pl guide Congress mediateam incharges to use best technology to establish truth by removing dirts, which is implanted in subconscious minds of innocent Indians by greatest liar/s in political history of India thru social/paid media by repeating lies n lies only over millions of times at various fora.

    Pl invoke ur technological edge for removing these sanghi liars n their lies.
    I believe that ur sharp technological edge will disable/diminish liars with their false propaganda machinery like fake news, paid media etc. AND u will successfully enable real patriots/leaders in Congress to save our country from looters n liars.

  7. So you thought of world outside india to represent Rahul Gandhi. Non indians are not going to vote. they are not competent to influence public opinion enough to create Rahul Friendly environment. By the way, when Congress Manifesto is still a work in process, what about promises being made by him?
    What is the religion of Rahul. Grand Father was Parsi, who has been forgotten by the family. Mother is a Christian lady. Did he or his father convert to Hinduism? Normally religion goes by inheritance.

  8. Well, maybe Rahul has lived and learnt and perhaps Sam has taught him a few lessons. But for Sam to say that ‘Pappu’ was a ‘paid media creation’ is taking things a bit too far. Sam harms his own credibility by saying such obviously foolish things. Furthermore, it is disgusting that somebody like Sam should try to foist his friend’s son — out of his clearly-stated loyalty for his friend — on the country, as though he (Rahul) is the one who has answers to all of India’s problems. Say that Rahul Gandhi is a good man, honest man, fine. But ask us to think of him as a leader who will lead India deep into the 21st century, sorry, the very idea is yuck. Congress has other good and honest men who are infinitely more capable than Rahul Gandhi — why not them? I am thinking of people like Jairam Ramesh and Shashi Tharoor.
    Even if the Congress (and Sam) is agonising that Rahul should wear the crown, let him first demonstrate his seriousness by sacking all the party’s rodents — P Chidambaram, Kamal Nath, Kapil Sibal etc. Let him sever ties with the DMK and call for prosecution of people like A Raja and Sharad Pawar. Let him denounce Azaruddin Owaisi and advise Zakir Naik to mind what he says about Hinduism. Then we will believe him, perhaps even vote him in.

    • Why do all bhakts talk alike? Why are they allergic to reason and logic? Where have you seen any criticism of Hindu religion in the whole interview? Or do you think that the Hindutva terrorists lynching unarmed harmless humans are practicing Hinduism? Think about it.

      • Thank you for the post. Where have I said that there was any criticism of Hinduism in the interview? All I said was what I would like Rahul Gandhi to be as, if I should accept Sam’s argument that he is a changed man.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here