An array of emotions swept the Congress rank and file when Rahul Gandhi, or RG as he is known, was anointed the Vice President of the AICC, in the Congress Working Committee meeting in Jaipur. The youngsters in the party were elated while the ‘old guards’ got emotional. The sentiment which was uniformly cutting across the spectrum of age was hope. This was perhaps the first time, in the last three years, that the Congress was on the offensive and hopeful. The new Vice President in an hour long speech made interesting points and observations. Nicely mixing hope with emotions which appealed to even the ordinary Congress worker. But, all this was in Jaipur, in a secure auditorium with restricted access.
Now we come to New Delhi, the headquarters of the Congress at 24 Akbar Road. This also hosts the office of the new Vice President. Four days after his taking over as the Vice President RG decides to visit the party headquarters to have a brief meeting with the party functionaries. The meeting was scheduled for 5 in the evening. As the word spreads the excitement around the Congress headquarters increases but so does the security. The National Students Union of India (NSUI) and the Indian Youth Congress (IYC) is present in large numbers to welcome the Vice President.
As the hour of RG’s arrival approaches, the Congress headquarter turns into a fortress. Starting from the Delhi Police Commandoes to the elite Special Protection Group (SPG) are all over the place. All the workers are either thrown out of the premises or sent to the rear while the entry of the public in the premises is closed. The NSUI and IYC members are also thrown out. It is only the clerical staff of the party and the party functionaries who are present in the premises.
Around 4:15pm all the journalists are also asked to move to the media briefing room. By 4:30pm all journalists are locked up in the media briefing room, patiently waiting for RG to come. Nobody is allowed to go outside the room, neither is anybody allowed inside. The chairs from the podium have been removed and only the microphones are put up on the table, indicating that if at all he speaks it will be a monologue. It is also clear that the party functionaries want RG to interact with the media in a controlled environment. After an hour’s wait he comes escorted by senior leaders like Janardhan Dwivedi and Motilal Vohra. Dwivedi automatically assumes the role of the Master of Ceremonies and allows only two questions to be asked. RG does not take specific questions but goes on to speak about his views on the kind of politics which the Congress should do. The media appearance concludes quickly and he is let out.
The question which comes to my mind is that what is the secrecy behind his visit to the Congress Headquarters? There was no information a day before, whether he will come or not. On the day he was supposed to come there was complete guesswork about what time will he come? Will he interact with the media? If so what will be the mode of interaction, will he take questions? The managers of this visit did not have this communicated to either the party functionaries or the media. The end result of this was that inspite of a good, non controversial photo opportunity what went out in the press were a serious of flip flop. If the media managers of the new Vice President still have a fossilized attitude of managing the media it will only hurt the image of the new VP.