Did the Mount Carmel students really stump Rahul Gandhi?

A final year journalism student who attended Rahul Gandhi's talk at Mount Carmel College, writes about it.

Edited excerpts of a student in Mount Carmel, Elixir Nahar’s open letter, republished here with permission:

A screengrab from Rahul Gandhi’s talk at Mount Carmel

As we students made our way past the lurking media and into our college campus, the fact of the matter was – this is about us, not them. It was going to be a friendly interaction between him and us, discussing matters that concern the youth and the country. We were definitely eager to see how he had tailored his interactive speech to suit our audience of young women.

He opened with why he chose our college in particular. He spoke about societal norms: What is ‘pretty’, what is ‘skinny’, how irrelevant these terms are to him, and why women are so important in his life – his grandmother, mother, and sister. He was humourous, and he struck a chord with the audience right from the start, before jumping into the nitty-gritty.

What touched most of the audience was Mr. Gandhi’s emphasis on ‘starting a conversation’ about all the issues. He informed us about how his government was being shunned out of Parliament, to the extent of their mics being turned off while they were speaking, despite them being the Opposition and still having a foothold in there. He brought us up to speed on how the Central government has not once been open to starting a conversation with them, about anything under the sun that concerns the citizens. He drew up examples from the past, when former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was in office, and how he would pick up the phone and directly call the Opposition just to have a conversation. Let me add that these facets arising on the eve of the Winter Session in Parliament could be more than a mere coincidence.

He emphasised on the need for a collective ruling body, and that change cannot be brought about by just one man, including himself. He said the body should be made up of people like us and that we should be allowed easier access into politics, including Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha. These were all facets that resonated well with his young audience. Questions were raised about the GST Bill, the Suit-Boot Sarkar, the situation in the north-east, tolerance in India and opportunities for differently-abled citizens. He was understanding and answered seamlessly.

The best part was that he recognised corruption in higher levels of the Youth Congress. He admitted to things going wrong in Congress which led to their loss in 2014. He spoke about rejuvenating the party and giving it a new face and image. It was touching to hear him question why there isn’t more love and kindness being spread – something I highly doubt any other politician in India would do. Now before you write that off as being weak, it is the strongest relationships that are built on love, kindness and respect, and that very well applies to matters concerning the country.

Rahul Gandhi was able to have an intimate conversation between himself and 2500-odd people, and how! Little did we know the situation that would transpire immediately after. Young women left the campus that afternoon with starry eyes and a cheerful air. I too walked to the car, in a headspace of recollection and appreciation for the man of the hour, when my phone exploded with news updates from the very event I was at.

“Rahul Gandhi stumped by Mount Carmel students”
“Rahul Gandhi questions crowd; backfires”

I was appalled, more so because not once have I questioned the authenticity of the top-tier news app on my phone, where I get my news on-the-go. Clearly their reputation precedes them, if they were publishing something that they could not even vouch for at that very stage.

Click on the links for the full video: Part 1Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

This is how that exchange in question went, minus the hullabaloo surrounding it:

“Do you think Swachh Bharat is working?”
“Ok. I don’t think it’s working”


“Do you think Make in India is working?”
“Then do you think more jobs are being created?”
“NO (Majority)”

That’s what an adult conversation looks like, media folks and other not-so-well wishers. You may want to sit up and take note! There are two or more sides, and opposing ideas make for healthy banter. To deliberately cut these circulating videos is to cut off our voices. I felt an iota of what Mr. Gandhi must be feeling on a regular basis, thanks to misrepresentation by the media. To have the screams of my peers and I shouting “NO, IT’S NOT WORKING” to be cut off and tuned down like that. Also notable, if the same audience who thought ‘Make in India’ is working, also thought jobs were not being created – perhaps there is a questionable aspect to how much the audience collectively knew about the topic.

Who are we without opinions? They shape our character. Just because half the audience might not have shared the same opinion as Mr. Gandhi about the Central government’s pet campaigns, does not make them any less right or wrong. Not a single news report spoke about how he wants to make India safer for women. How he doesn’t want us to feel uncomfortable walking down the street. How he doesn’t want us to have to think twice about going to a pub. No. All the reports focused on how his question round allegedly misfired.

As journalists – isn’t it a basic rule not to believe what’s on the surface? Aren’t we taught to always dig deeper and find out more. The Indian media fed off a measly leaked clip from ANI and *BOOM*, cue #RahulStumped posts, memes and more. Smart alecks are raising imaginary toasts to the Mount Carmel students for helping the country immensely. Yet, almost the entire student body—and they will back me up on this—are bewildered and almost apologetic to Mr. Gandhi that their answers were also misinterpreted by the news.

What struck me is that all the media were synonymous in one approach: Trying to pinpoint what he did WRONG. It’s so unfortunate that before he even attempts to do anything, there are vultures circling… waiting to pounce on any potential screw-up, or churn up something out of nothing. They’ve procured this image of him in their minds and they expect him to stay in that frame, and if he ventures out, they will find some way to put him back in there. Up until this event, I too would take whatever the media fed me, without questioning it much. It makes me wonder – are we all just victims of good or bad PR? This seems to be a realisation that has hit many Mount Carmel students and teachers.

Noteworthy also, the very evening that the GST Bill issue was raised by students in Bengaluru, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley surfaced to address the same. He was optimistic about the Bill, and echoed a few concerns. This comes on the heels of Mr. Gandhi enunciating to us on not accepting being thrown aside and wanting the GST Bill to suit and benefit the country, it being the most ambitious tax reform since Independence.

Arnab Goswami took it upon himself to orchestrate his daily screaming match around the events of Rahul Gandhi’s visit, when at that point leading news channels had moved on to other, more pertinent matters, and #RahulStumped was reduced to news for the ticker.

The Central government seemed to be having a field day, making suggestive statements of the youth siding with them and not Congress. All I can say is that the majority of youth will go wherever they feel safe, where their opinions are heard, where there is tolerance and where women feel comfortable. They will side with someone who makes sure secular is not just another word in the dictionary, but a way of life once again.

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  1. Ajay Shankar A.N says:

    The student is already getting prepared to be the facebook of Congress…. If he got stumped means, he got stumped. Students clearly rejected him on the key issues he raised.

    The author puts NO in as majority, but does not highlight how many disagreed with him by saying Yes.

    It was his fault to raise politics or the conduct of the PM with Congress in a college podium for which he rightly got rejected.

  2. Ajay Shankar A.N says:

    and more on his speech, such speeches have given by the time of his great grand father and kept on fooling Indians for six decades…… Did he speak on his road maps for the economic rejuvenation. stalled policies, … Speaking of women security after six decades of independence is a clear insult of himself, which this writer does not understand being a woman. If he now wants to make woman feel safer, then what was his mom for a decade, hsi dad for 5 years, his granny for two decades, his great grandpa for another 18 years were doing? Will the same speech continue for his great great grandsons too? Will even after 200 years his great great son will lecture on making India safer for woman?
    if u take the legacy of our parliament, u can get speeches which were million times brilliant and inspiring… What happened? Nothing as the core leadership was corrupt, starting by this man’s great grand pa.

    Stop acting like a giggly girl and behave more like a true journalist.

  3. sandeep kumar says:

    Clearly this article is flawed at multiple levels
    Let me explain

    Why does a college have invite a politician like rahul gandhi ? and should the college not just to balance things invite someone from the Govt as well and having accepted the invitation its was outright disgusting that Rahul gandhi makes fun of clean india campaign (please citizen matter you are local newspaper you should be bothered about clean india ) if clean india is not working thats different issue but rahul gandhi says how can clean india be strategic initiative of the Govt .. Vow so that means strategic initiative should only be nuclear deals etc. is it ??

    They could have invited an eminent person like say Rahguram rajan who did by the way speak about tolerance in very beautiful way and which was picked up by media which opposes Modi saying RBI governor tells govt to work on tolerance etc . the actual fact he actually spoke about economy and how having and then having faced issues when some girls had fun at his expense the congress PR machine or the wannabe PR machine gets into overdrive liberally using words like secular etc. making it yet another political drama

  4. Vishwas says:

    What an ironic situation! Clearly Swachh Bharath is not working in Bangalore and the reason for that is not Mr. Modi. I hope Mr Gandhi asks the same question to his fellow office bearers in Karnataka.

  5. keerthikumar says:

    After view the contents, he has no sense how to talk,he talks about suit and Boot that is not words to be used, again, a PM of the country has to dress well, in His visit why he shift from Kurta and Pyjama to T-Shirt and pant.He is unfit politician and not economist to talk such esteemed college students.In his talking he was talking that the Mike was switched off during opposition , this first time hearing this was discussed and we also find that he always sleeping during parliament discussion.Again, he cannot give answer question rise by students, he changes/ shift to a different subject.This show how senior congress leaders follow him as their leader.Congress party has gone out of popularity by contnuing as leader

  6. vidyapathy p v says:

    Rahul Gandhi also mentioned that the school principal told about the fear women have walking alone in the streets of Bangaluru in the night.Did he ask the CM who also ,accompanied him to explain why this city is unsafe for women.

    The whole nation witnessed the tamasha these people made in the parliament blocking anybody who want to speak and advancing to the well of the house with placards.Switch off the mike of Mallikarjuna and Rahul when they were speaking? OMG that was a new one.Check with the Speaker of the Loksabha.Madam will tell you how a handful of people cost the nation crores by disruption. My dear budding journalist the session was to pass the amendment to pave the way to introduce the GST and the three points Rahul was refering to will come up only when that bill is introduced.They do not want the amedment bill to be passed, or for that matter any bill that will help the people.

  7. venugopal K.S says:

    Where on earth this Jounalism student cropped up to defend Pappu. May be the Management of the college wanted one of their Journo students to defend him and his sppech. We also head his video clip and the way he was addressing and questioning like a politician. First of all he was a wrong choice, over and above the Student at one stage tells many of the students will and at another place she tells they may not under stand the terminology Make In India as to what it means. All the Journalists are to report the fact but all the Journslaist need not report the same point out on the same lines. There was no compulsion. Pappus one statment that the microphone was switched off was a big lie and we know his chor chavalis have wasted pu har earned ta money by disrupting the bouse and they will continue until punblic teach a lesson. Young lady we know better

  8. Balasubramanian A. says:

    Having watched the full program live in TV, I feel that Mr Rahul Gandhi’s inter action with students of Mount Carmel College exposed his lack of understanding of the views of present generation of youngsters. They are well informed and do not want Congress VP to play politics, instead they want to know what exactly the Congress stands for today. It is amusing to read the writeup of this author. When Mr Rahul Gandhi himself accepted that the views of the Students are different than his, why should the author twist it differently. Congress should come out of Modi bashing and start rebuilding the Party with constructive programs, otherwise they will not find foot hold in Indian Politics.

  9. Sohan Thobade says:

    Respected Subbu Sir & Meera Mam (Founders),

    This article clearly violates the principle of Oorvani foundation.

    I have been reading, sharing the articles & spreading the word regarding citizenmatters due to its belief in following the non-partisan principle of journalism not to mention donations to foundation.

    In your own words
    “How do we ensure our journalism is non-partisan?

    Non-partisan to us means this: While doing reporting, we do not favour the views or candidates of any political party for the sake of it, or a political faction within a party.”

    Matter of fact this article from Mount Carmel event is clearly to support Rahul Gandhi as a politician & in turn congress. I request you to put forward clear guidelines to your editorial team regarding sourcing the content from facebook, which has become a big mudslinging playground for different party supporters.

    I am sure you don’t want to be dragged in Congressi, Leftist, BJP, RSS kind of discussions irrespective of your personal affiliations.

    Hope sanity prevails.
    Thanks & Regards,
    A Disappointed Bengalurean

  10. aiden says:

    One of the best of Rahul Gandhi. No dramas . No paid audiences , no wild gestures. Simple interaction . Watched from beginning to end and loved it.

  11. aiden says:

    Very well written article.shame on media. The students were asked questions . They had freedom to reply how they wanted. Arnab, there r so many issues for debate. Whats ur problem with Rahul Gandhi. R u jealous?And my reply to all Rahul Gandhis questions. Abig NO. I live in a bjp ruled state and see rubbish everywhere.

  12. skeptic says:

    Can someone publish statistics on the troll army that works for political parties? Also what are the techniques used, software and others? I am sure the ladies were bowled over, but who cares except the same troll army that is answerable to the high command. And since when did BJP end up saviour of Bangalore? Mr yeddy was no better than siddu.

  13. Ganga Madappa says:

    Several of our readers asked us why we published the piece on Rahul Gandhi’s visit to Mount Carmel College. We strongly believe in the importance of the first person report – especially when it is about providing a voice for young people. And publishing Elixir’s article was to do just that. It was not about a national level politician, or to support any party – for us it was about the students’ reaction to the event, and how it was reported by the media.

    See more at: Why we published the student piece on the Rahul Gandhi event – http://goo.gl/D4Q4hm

  14. Vaidya R says:

    So the expectation from people is that RG could not have had a sane conversation with a bunch of students. I wonder how many people realise that this is how things should work. Have a conversation, get asked questions. Some you answer well, some not so. People can be convinced by some very vague answers if the intention comes out right, and totally reject a well-articulated answer if they don’t agree with it. It is also quite possible that you agree with some points, and disagree with others. End of the day, you might like the interaction, but if it were down to voting, you might not even vote for him.

    And clearly, this piece is about calling out the reporting, saying how biased it was. And the comments seem to just want that! It should be our right and expectation to get proper reporting of facts without silly hashtags that tend to bias us. But no! We want everyone to laugh at those who we laugh at, and deify those we consider God. No wonder there’s less reporting, and more analysis and opinioneering. We only get the media we deserve.

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