Sunday, June 18, 2006

Not done, Mr Bajaj

If you have problems with facing an interviewer known to be a little 'in your face', you have every right to decline such an interview.

But once you do decide to go on such a show, you have to provide sensible answers to questions. Especially questions you can fully well anticipate.

What you cannot and should not do is what Rahul Bajaj did tonight on CNN IBN's 'Devil's Advocate'. Get loud, aggressive and even more obnoxious than the perceived obnoxiousness of the interviewer. As the transcript is not up yet, I am paraphrasing what I heard:

Karan Thapar: Sometime ago you said to CNBC, in reply to a question on whether you would enter politics,"Mujhe pagal kutte ne kaata hai kya?" Yet you are in politics today.

Apparently not. Mr Bajaj, newly elected Rajya Sabha MP believes he is not a 'politician'. And went to great pains to clarify this in a rather high decibel manner. A clarification which extended to mentioning things like, "Karan, I don't know which school you went to... you are being illogical.

Karan Thapar, rather stoic till then, could not resist rattling off the names of all the institutions he's attended (Doon, Oxford, Cambridge). To which Rahul Bajaj rattles off all the schools he's attended (something, something, Harvard) and proceeds to conclude he's been at 'better' ones.

It was pathetic. I mean, sure the 'paagal kutte ne kaata' kya question was a bit harsh - most TV interviewers fawn over their guests - but Rahul Bajaj could have calmly said,"I changed my mind... my country needs me". Etc etc etc.

He could have maintained his dignity.

When asked why he took support of the BJP and Shiv Sena despite his family's decades old ties with the Congress party, Mr Bajaj had no straight forward answer. More heated words, more obfuscation. And Mr Bajaj still believes he is no politician!

I could not bear to watch anymore but I must say, if Mr Bajaj can't take a little bit of needling from a harmless TV interviewer I don't see how he will make himself heard in a coherent manner in Parliament.

Speaking of interviews, here's an interesting Q & A with Karan Thapar on how he got into journalism and some of the 'scraps' he's been in so far.

A Karan quote, summing up his stand: When tackling politicians who are to be made accountable you have to persist to the point when you get an answer. If you don't - find out why the answer is not forthcoming...

In response, some people choose to cry on the show, while others shout to make the point that they can be 'just as rude'. But the camera never lies. Viewers can decide for themselves... and after today's interview Mr Bajaj has fallen in the eyes of at least one viewer!

Karan Thapar pic: courtesy Telelife magazine

Update: Here is the transcript of the interview


  1. Well i disagree with u. karan met his own self in rahul bajaj. iam not supporting mr Bajaj, but being a journalist does not give any person any license to irritate or belittle one. Karan definitely is trying to project his ego by grilling the rich and famous( nothing wrong in that). If karan has the right to ask "awkward" Q's the other person has the same rights to give awkward answers ( u scratch my back, I scratch yours). With regard to declining an interview from mr karan do u think that a leader will escape from such a situation?

  2. the link which you gave of karan's bio doesnt work. pls check.

  3. I agree with Harish.
    I saw the entire interview and thought that while at times Mr Bajaj did hit blows below the belt, he came out triumphant in the interview as he gave it all back to Karan.
    It was a tit for tat interview and if interviewer has the right to get personal, i think so does interviewee.
    Overall, +5 to both Karan and Mr. Bajaj.

  4. Hey,
    Neat post!
    Though I personally dont like Karan as an interviewer--for one I dont think a good interviewer necessarily needs to get rude and obnoxious to prove his worth and secondly The idea is not to listen to him but the interviewee which rarely happens in his interviews since he never lets his guests speak anywayz...cutting them off all the time!

  5. I guess it is very important to read the entire transcript to understand the entire scheme of things.

    I feel that Rahul Bajaj acted smart and managed to came out of the difficult situations. Karan seemed to have got frustrated which was reflected in his personal attacks towards Bajaj.

    Karan is definitely good but I found Rahul Bajaj at least a shade smarter than him.

  6. Hi Rashmi,

    Once again,a good blog :-)

    But here ,I have a few points to make :--

    -- Mr Bajaj you are wonderful with words but the problem is that you are short on logic

    I don't think any good journalist has the right to attack his guest with such offensive words.

    And,if I go,simply by the transcript of this interview(believing that it covers more or less every possible detail),it looks to me ,that Karan thapar was the one who started off this debate of who was better than the other,had he not quoted that Rahul was illogical ,the discussion wouldn't have gone to such extremes.

    Also, as the interview proceeds further ,it looks as if these two people are literally fighting rather than discussing something.Now it might be hot selling,when it comes to showing such heated up discussions in public,but the interview loses it essence once such things start off.

    So,all in all,the funda is simple,you hit me,I hit you.No bawling later on.


  7. i enjoy karan thapar interviews...i also like rahul bajaj's uninhibited and "in your face" attitude...all i can say is that's how rahul bajaj is and you can't blame him for that. its not that he's picking on any particular his interview on bbc hardtalk with stephen sackur he was as acerbic..i wish we as indians stop judging how a persons mannerisms ought to be from a stiff 'victorian' outlook..rahul bajaj does not put on a facade..even though he might be naive and brash.. and i like that about us..

  8. Rashmi,
    I had read other Interview of Karan and I liked him... but he is a loser in this one with Mr. Bajaj.
    Bajaj, correctly and repeatedly stressed his point of not being the politician and yet being an MP. He is a politician if he joins a party, but as an independent nominee he is just like any other citizen of India, trying to gain access to that high platform of Rajya Sabha from where he can have the power and the authority to serve India. And he did stated that very clearly in his words, but Karan was so engrossed in his pride and ego that he was reluctant to digest Bajaj's sayings.
    Hat's Off to Mr. Bajaj for this take.

  9. Mr Rahul Bajaj, unlike many industrialists that we can boost of today, far exceeding in their contributions to the country with much better innovative ideas and products and having earned in return only modest profits compared to him, is the countries loud mouth and loves to take on the media, which thankfully spares him difficult questions.

    I am with the many who do not always agree with the way Karan goes about his interview, but I feel with a person like Mr Bajaj, seated before him, he should be allowed to assume his `usual,’ typical posture of his.

    All interviewers in the past, who used kid gloves with Bajaj, have only repented their attitude later.

    I think Mr Bajaj, in his new avatar, has made himself available for such a treatment and the media should put him to test as often as possible. (When did an industrialist open his mouth so wide?)

    The only other person, capable of such rudeness, was T N Sheshan, but perhaps one could justify it looking at what he gave to India. He was a giver.

    Mr Bajaj, is the biggest benefactors we know of in this country. He would like all of us to forget that he was the biggest beneficiaries of the monopoly regime that ruled this country. The secret of his families friendship with the Congress, or should we say the Gandhi’s (?) is completely bared if one sees at the advantages he pulled his way during this regime. (the license raj).

    One also does not know who should bear the burden of explaining to the public the new equation between, Bal Thackeray, and Mr Bajaj, (as Bajaj bowed down to touch Thackeray’s feet,) the earlier one being that of a trade unionist and an industrialist ( The Shiv Sena,’s trade wing – Kamgar Sena—is the biggest trade union at Bajaj Auto, where the salary structure revision is now overdue for the last two years.)

    If anything, Mr Bajaj, as he did with technology in Bajaj Auto, has been only too late in following the new trend that Vijay Mallaya, Anil Ambani, Raj Kumar Dhoot, (his former Bajaj Auto dealer, now the Videocon owner), ushered in.

    Karan’s interview gave me a gyan that the same Bajaj, who laughs at sycophancy, had named his children after those of the Gandhi clans’. Don’t worry Karan, you did a good job of the opportunity with Bajaj. He never cut such a sorry figure before a camera.

  10. Hi,
    I am just 1 min through the video of the interview. Its already starting to look like 2 dogs at each others throats.

    Did you catch the video of the interview of Karan with P.Chidambaram? I think it was an interview where Karan's "in the face" demeanour was met with cut to size very effectively.


  11. Goes on to show that such a man could not have made any good in life had he not inherited such wealth from his parents. Absolutely disgusting and hilarious to see. Shayad pagal kutte ne kaat hi liya ho, who knows.

  12. Rashmi, perhaps you didn't get to hear what you wanted to hear :)

    Mr Bajaj has risen in the eyes of atleast one viewer!

  13. At last Karan got someone who could talk to him in his language...

  14. Here is the link for the interview.

    Nobody can beat Bajaj.


  15. i saw the interview on CNBC and mr bajaj's conduct was unbecoming an individual of his standing. karan thapar is a shrewd and sharp guy and when short on logic and repartee mr bajaj resorted to shouting when a more composed response would have helped him wriggle out comfortably. for all those who think that mr bajaj's was the only way to tackle the 'rude' karan thapar i suggest u watch him interview shashi tharoor which was aired on CNBC last night.

  16. Karan Thapar's antics might bring him victories over poor souls like Arjun Singh. But against indomitable people (Jayalalithaa, for example) he can break no ground. The same happened with Mr Bajaj.

    In fact, when Mr Thapar kept on arguing for 15 minutes on whether Mr Bajaj was a politician or not, one felt that Mr Thapar did not have enough questions for the rest of the interview. Mr Thapar did not have an answer when Mr Bajaj asked him, "Even Lata Mangeshkar was in the Rajya Sabha. Does that make her a politician?"

  17. I agree with the blogger. I was equally surprised to find a Harvard educated Bajaj shouting and obfuscating on questions which he should have handled in a cool manner. Especially once you see the video you easily get the feeling that he is not what you thought of him before.

  18. While Karan Thapar considers himself Bob Woodward of Indian journalism, Bajaj sahem thinks that he is no less than Henry Ford or Bill Gates.
    But, they both are the products of the same schools and have the same upper class and caste pedigree.
    They are far from the realities of India, Bajaj needed Rajya Sabha seat to satisfy his ego and Karan uses his media power to enjoy his own thirty minutes of fame.

  19. Rashmi,
    Quite provocatively written a note!

    Wonder, do dogs with unparalleled lienage and domineering pedigree nurture high levels of linkage disequilibrium?


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  22. Anonymous8:08 AM

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