Mr Salman Khurshid is one of the most affable, suave and good-looking ministers in the Central Government of India – he is the Law Minister of India.
He gave a national press conference at 3:00 PM India time today and it ended in a public relations disaster.
In my opinion, first of all there was no need for a press conference – in fact, when I heard about the press conference news in one of the TV channels I was puzzled. Why should Mr Khurshid defend himself against allegations of impropriety against him via a news conference – he should have delegated it to his wife, who is actually the person who runs the Trust which is under attack for issues pertaining to disbursement of Government of India funds to disabled people.
As a business professional, I could sense that this exercise was not going to go too well, notwithstanding the fact that Mr Khurshid is a good speaker and aggressive defender of ideas. What he did not realize full well was the antagonism against him in the national media, not just with the TV Channel (Aaj Tak/India Today Group) which launched the attack against his Trust. People around the country were getting fed up of the scandal-prone and scandal-plagued Indian Government and the main party which runs the government – the venerable Congress Party. The constant TV news barrage on a series of scandals has numbed the people of India, who don’t seem to be able to take any more of this type of negative news. And, Mr Khurshid has often been on TV news channels, defending the Congress Party and the UPA Government for the past many months against allegations of corruption.
The Prime Minister of India said in a recent interview that “mindless negativity is affecting India’s image in the world” – absolutely correct, though the media ridiculed him. Given the corruption scandals plaguing India, it is all too easy for anyone to come to the conclusion that the Prime Minister was against negative news coverage and protests about corruption.
The big mistake that Mr Khurshid made was the unnecessary ground rules that he tried to impose on the press conference at the start of the conference ; his order against the India Today reporter, asking him to leave the press conference for his incessant questioning ; and his negative answers regarding the fudging of the affidavit by a government official, thereby negating the veracity of his claim about the conduct of the camps for the disbursement of funds to the diasbled in the State of Uttar Pradesh.
The key learning: one should never lose cool despite the circumstances. I thought Mr Khurshid would know better. He should have avoided mentioning about the “people on the streets” – his vitriolic comment that he does not need to answer to the people on the streets is not appropriate for a person of his stature, who rightfully claimed that he was a “democrat” at the beginning of today’s press conference.
People in the streets are the people of this country. Though Mr Khurshid might have referred to the Anti-Corruption Social Activist Mr Arvind Kejriwal who is leading the protest against Mr Khurshid, it is very important not to denigrate the “people on the streets”. These folks are indeed capable of bringing down anyone, not least Mr Khurshid and the Government. One has got to be careful about what one says, even more so when he is the Union Law Minister.
I wish him all the best in his fight to defend his rights against media allegations, but it might go either way.
Let us watch the fun! While foreigners laugh at us!!
14th October 2012