In the second interview, the same Rahul Gandhi was seen smiling a lot, looking eye to eye and even setting the agenda of the interview which was taken by a more pliant Javed Ansari on Headlines Today. [Read: What Rahul said in his interview to Headlines Today]
Was it a genuine improvement on Rahul's part or was it a projection of an artificial coming of the age?
The second factor looks more likely. And here is why it is so:
Rahul's desperate attempt to reach out to the middle-class after Jan 27 debacle
First, Rahul Gandhi is desperate to get closer to the middle-class vote-bank and with voting turnouts in each of the four phases of the Lok Sabha election breaking the barriers, it became all the more necessary for the future leader of the grand-old party to establish his case. The previous interview was a debacle and Rahul was reduced to a subject of mockery with many even questioning whether he had in it to face an interview. The April 12 interview was perhaps a desperate push by the party to see its leader's dented image gets repaired, specially before the middle class.
Rahul got a chance to express himself more freely
Second, Rahul Gandhi did not get much chance to express his thoughts last time, thanks to Arnab Goswami's relentless grilling on uncomfortable issues like the Delhi riots of 1984 and corruption in the party. He had lost his way in the middle and could only put up a vision for the women, i.e., their empowerment. His party had also expressed its displeasure over the questions that were put across in Times Now.
Rahul Gandhi, through a 'peaceful' interview, killed many birds with one stone
The interview of April 12 was more of a cakewalk for the 43-year-old leader. He was allowed enough time to speak on his visions which he often speaks at his rallies but fails to draw attention of the elite
channels, may be because of his repeated words more meant for the ruralites' consumption. Rahul Gandhi used the April 12 interview to reach out to the elite section and that too on his own terms.
Bold statements help the ordinary worker
Thirdly, the second interview never touched tricky issues as the first had, hence giving Rahul Gandhi the freedom he sought. Instead of defending his party on issues like corruption and policy paralysis, Rahul Gandhi was seen going on the offensive and making bold and confident statements like: "If our MPs elect me as their leader, I won't back off" or "Remaining in power for 10 years itself is a big achievement". These words, just before filing his nomination from Amethi where he is set to contest two powerful rivals, would surely have done a world of good to an ordinary Congress worker on the ground.
A chance to defend personal attack on Narendra Modi & distance himself from SP
Fourthly, Rahul Gandhi also clarified his stand on the personal attack he recently made against Narendra Modi. The Congress leader perhaps understood that he crossed the line in making a dig at Modi over his marital status and chose the interview to defend himself. He distanced himself from the Samajwadi Party, considered a 'natural ally' of the Congress at the Centre, on the recent controversy that erupted over some of its leaders' sexist comments. He also ended the interview by speaking and smiling on his marital status. This was a deliberate attempt to get closer to the voters through his softer skills which will make him look a typical urban male who is shy to speak on his own marriage. With a tough client like Arnab in front of him, exploring these softer sides would have been impossible for Rahul Gandhi.
Need to draw level with Modi in terms of TV appearance
Finally, with Narendra Modi making frequent appearance on news channels now (ETV Rajasthan, NewsX and India TV) and getting positive feedback, it becomes an imperative for Rahul to eclipse his ordinary record of January 27 and revive the image. The April 12 interview gave him a perfect base to improve his record. The channel in which he appeared even conducted a research on the feedback to the interview on social media immediately after and it was seen that Rahul did much better this time.