Arnab Goswami: Mr Rahul Gandhi, welcome to Frankly Speaking.
Rahul Gandhi: Thank you, Arnab.
Arnab: So finally…here we are – your first one-to-one interview in 10 years.
Rahul: Why what?
Arnab: Why has it taken you 10 years to give an interview?
Rahul: Well, that’s not entirely true. I’ve always –
Arnab: Now you’ve probably heard about me.
Arnab: I don’t ask any easy questions, Mr Gandhi.
Rahul: So I’ve been told.
Arnab: You might not like it.
Rahul: I’m ready.
Arnab: In which case, may I ask Mr Jairam Ramesh and Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia to kindly leave this room?
Rahul: …[Looks at the two men uncomfortably. Gestures with his eyes for them to leave.]…
Arnab: Thank you, Mr Gandhi.
Rahul: This wasn’t my idea, by the way. I was prepared to face you on my own. Just that-
Arnab: Mr Gandhi, we should begin. We have plenty to cover.
Rahul: Yes. I’ve been wanting to elaborate on the idea of India that-
Arnab: Do you think Congress was responsible for the 1984 riots?
Arnab: Straight question.
Rahul: …Thousands were killed. I profoundly regret the loss of even a single life. And let me tell-
Arnab: Do you think Congress was responsible for the 1984 riots?
Rahul: This has been debated umpteen times. Answer is no.
Rahul: …Some Congress leaders were, yes.
Arnab: Name them, please.
Rahul: It’s public knowledge.
Arnab: All the more easier for you to name them, then.
Rahul: It’s in the court records. The guilty will be punished.
Arnab: Have they been?
Rahul: They will be. I have full faith in the Indian judiciary.
Arnab: Have they been, Mr Gandhi?
Rahul: My faith in Indian democr-
Arnab: How long has it been since the anti-Sikh riots?
Rahul: …28 years…no…
Arnab: How long?
Rahul: 30 years…
Arnab: Have the guilty been punished?
Rahul: We have certainly punished them.
Arnab: Have you?
Arnab: By “we”, you mean?
Rahul: Congress. Indian National Congress.
Arnab: How? By giving them tickets to fight elections?
Arnab: No? Remember the Chidambaram shoe-throwing incident?
Rahul: …We…Look – my faith in the justice system is unshakeable.
Arnab: Really? Did your mother receive a summons from the United States of America Justice System?
Rahul: What? No.
Rahul: She was there on medical treatment.
Arnab: That wasn’t the question.
Rahul: What was the question?
Arnab: Did Ms Sonia Gandhi receive a summons or not?
Rahul: Might have…
Arnab: Sorry, could you be louder…?
Rahul: I said, she did. Happy?
Arnab: And what happened to it?
Rahul: I have full faith in the Indian Judiciary not the American one.
Arnab: Tell me. Do you hold Mr Modi responsible for the 2002 riots?
Rahul: Yes. Undoubtedly.
Rahul: Why? Because he orchestrated the whole pogrom.
Arnab: Who said so?
Rahul: Everyone says so. The people, the politicians, the media – your own correspondents have told me so.
Arnab: What about the Supreme Court?
Rahul: What about it?
Arnab: Has it held Mr Modi guilty?
Arnab: You just now said that you have full faith in the Indian judiciary.
Rahul: I do.
Arnab: So I’m asking you this again. It doesn’t matter what you or I think. I’m asking you whether the Supreme Court has held Mr Modi guilty.
Rahul: It hasn’t.
Arnab: And do you respect the Supreme Court verdict?
Rahul: …I do.
Arnab: So he isn’t guilty, then.
Rahul: …Ok, he isn’t.
Arnab: Please repeat that for the benefit of our viewers.
Rahul: Yes, he isn’t guilty. But he should certainly apologise.
Arnab: What about Jadgish Tytler? Is he guilty?
Rahul: Mr Modi should certainly apologise.
Arnab: That is a matter of choice for an individual. I might want him to apologise. You might want him to apologise. But the question here is whether the Supreme Court of India has held him guilty of a crime or not.
Rahul: He should apologise.
Arnab: I ask again. What about Jadgish Tytler? Is he guilty?
Rahul: The courts haven’t delivered their verdict yet.
Arnab: Correct. So he might be guilty.
Rahul: …He might be.
Arnab: So Tytler might be guilty but Modi isn’t.
Rahul: …Yes, I suppose that is correct.
Arnab: …Moving over to another-
Rahul: Thank you. Let me start off by saying that through the RTI and the NREGA, we have-
Arnab: Tell me, Mr Gandhi, do you think Mr Vadra – your brother-in-law – do you think he got undue favours from DLF in the land deals?
Arnab: I am asking about Robert Vadra. Do you think DLF gave him undue favours?
Arnab: No? Mr Vadra purchased 31 properties amounting to 300 crores in a frighteningly short span of time.
Rahul: He might have. He is a businessman. Business people buy stuff all the time. Do you question Tatas or Birlas?
Arnab: Do Tatas get unsecured loans? What about the unsecured loan?
Rahul: That’s between Robert and DLF.
Arnab: Nothing to do with you?
Arnab: What about the Sky Light cheque that was never encashed?
Rahul: Precisely. It was never encashed.
Arnab: Yes, why wasn’t it?
Rahul: I’m sorry. You must realise that the young generation of this country wants a-
Arnab: Sky Light – Mr Vadra’s company – had Rs 1 lakh in their account, yet they wrote a cheque for 7.5 crores towards Onkareshwar properties. Corporation Bank cheque number 607251 for Rs 7.5 crores. Why?
Rahul: It was strictly above-board.
Arnab: You know anything about Onkareshwar properties?
Rahul: They are legitimate.
Arnab: Onkareshwar is owned by Govind Kanda, member of Haryana Pradesh Congress Committee. Brother of Congress legislator Gopal Kanda who is in jail.
Arnab: Within two months of the presentation of 7.5 crore sham cheque, Mr Vadra sold the land to DLF for Rs. 58 crores. He shortly began receiving this money in instalments, first of which arrived in June of 2008. This advance money went into paying sums to Onkareshwar. Magically, Sky Light didn’t put any of its money to buy land and yet was receiving money into its coffers.
Rahul: What’s all this got to do with me?
Arnab: Your family member indulges in such activities. He wants to join politics, he said so a while ago. You might become the PM of this country. You mean to tell me all this has nothing to do with you?
Rahul: Of course not. Look, these are police and judicial matters. I have full faith in the judiciary.
Arnab: The problem is they haven’t been made into police or judicial matters.
Rahul: Why haven’t they?
Arnab: Good you ask that. They should be, isn’t it?
Arnab: Sorry? What was that again Mr Gandhi?
Rahul: I said, yes. They should be.
Arnab: Thank you. Now about the other matter that-
Rahul: Thank you, finally. I’ve been wanting to say this for some time now. India stands on the threshold of a destiny that-
Arnab: Who was Quattrocchi?
Arnab: I asked you a simple question, Mr Gandhi.
Rahul: I didn’t hear it.
Arnab: So I’ll ask again.
Rahul: Ask me about 2G, about CWG, about Coalgate…
Arnab: Who was Q?
Rahul: Ask me about the corruption of others in the Congress party. Ask me about Adarsh.
Arnab: Who was this Q?
Rahul: Corruption is a problem. I know it is. I want to deal with it with an iron-hand. We’ll spare no one. Ask me about CWG.
Arnab: Who was Q? Who was he?
Rahul: I’ll straighten the corrupt out, I promise. 2G, Coalgate…
Arnab: Mr Gandhi, we haven’t much time. Please answer the question.
Rahul: What question?
Arnab: Who was Q?
Rahul: Yes, he was a family friend. So?
Arnab: Did he receive kickbacks from Bofors AG?
Arnab: What was his relationship with you father Mr Rajiv Gandhi?
Arnab: How did this simple unassuming middleman for the company Snamprogetti suddenly win more than 50 contracts in an era when foreign companies were a no-no? What is AE services?
Arnab: Is was his company, wasn’t it? A company with no employees and a paid up capital of 100 liras.
Arnab: He was a family friend, you say. And he received kickbacks. How does that reflect on you, your family?
Rahul: He never.
Arnab: Never what?
Rahul: He never received kickbacks.
Arnab: Mr Gandhi, are you aware that it was proven beyond doubt that his company received money from Bofors AG? This is not drawing room gossip, Mr Gandhi. Q received 3% kickbacks for the Bofors deal.
Arnab: So I want to ask you again. Who was Q? Why was he close to your family? Why did you let him get away?
Rahul: You should ask that to the BJP as well.
Arnab: Don’t you worry, Mr Gandhi, I will. I will ask Mr Advani about the alleged quid pro quo – of course, I will.
Arnab: But right now I have you in front of me. So let me ask you again.
Rahul: No you may not.
Arnab: Sorry, didn’t hear you…
Rahul: I said, you may not…if you want this interview to carry on.
Arnab: Yes, of course, I want it to carry on-
Rahul: Good. So let me ask you something. Why is it that whenever we talk of crippling poverty and economic models for development-
Arnab: Mr Gandhi, you didn’t let me finish. I said, I want this interview to carry on, but ultimately it is your choice whether you want it to carry on…So, now…please tell me what the relationship between Quattrocchi and your father was.
Rahul: Do you want me to call off this interview?
Arnab: And why would you do that?
Rahul: Because you keep asking me irrelevant questions.
Arnab: They are not irrelevant, Mr Gandhi. They may appear irrelevant because every Indian journalist who has ever, and I mean ever, interviewed you or your sister or your mother, has never ever, never, ever, never, never, ever asked you these questions.
Rahul: I think we are done here.
Arnab: Who was Q, Mr Gandhi? Why did he take kickbacks from Bofors?
Rahul: Mr Goswami, there’s a limit.
Arnab: Why did your family protect Q? Why and how did he get away?
Rahul: Bas…enough…[gets up]…dosti bani rahe…
Arnab: All that is fine… but who is Q?
Rahul: …[Detaches the mic and leaves the room.]…
Arnab: …[shouts after him]…Thank you, Mr Gandhi…[Stares blankly at the Husain opposite].
Post-interview panel discussion:
Arnab: Vinod Mehta – welcome to the debate. First question coming to you, Siddharth Varadarajan, welcome as well, Vinod – your first comments.
Vinod: Arnab, I’m very sorry to have to tell you this, but I didn’t like the interview at all.
Arnab: Sorry, what, Vinod?
Vinod: I mean, Arnab, you asked him every irrelevant question you could think of! I mean, this is preposterous! It really is. You disappointed me, Arnab, you really did. The whole nation wanted to hear about Rahul’s grand idea of India, and here you were, bothering him with ridiculous questions…
Arnab: Alright, the debate is heating up…as we slip into a short break…don’t go anywhere, ladies and gentlemen…
The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @ARangarajan1972