Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Hibi Eden does a Rahul Gandhi

Hibi Eden MLA
Photo: Augustus Binu 
On the 31st of January this year, I did an analysis of Rahul Gandhi's disastrous first television interview (PR lessons from Rahul Gandhi's interview). This interview went on to one of the biggest reasons for the defeat of the UPA in the 2014 general elections. As expected Gandhi family loyalist and former defence minister AK Antony's report in the reasons for the party's failure put the blame on hostile media and minority appeasement. Call it what your may but doing that interview was hitting the self destruct button on their election campaign.

Yesterday, Rahul Gandhi's friend and Kōhai, Hibi Eden MLA, did the same. Before get into the details, watch this video.


It's in Malayalam but you can get a summary in English here. I don't hold a brief for Sunny Alapatt or his nominator, the IUML. I don't even understand how someone like Sunny Alapatt can become a syndicate member of, CUSAT, a technical university and what contribution he provides for higher education. It reeks of political favouritism. 

Be as it may, the focus of this post is going to be why this is a PR disaster for him. Here are the points to consider from the video and report above:

  1. It paints a picture that Hibi Eden is more concerned about personal gains, i.e., getting himself nominated to a post than serving the people. It is not as if being MLA of Kerala's largest city gives him a lot of free time to take on additional responsibility. The city and it's citizens are being pushed to the limits dues to potholed roads, unmanageable traffic and many other serious concerns. Should his priority be to fight for a syndicate membership? Correction: It was pointed out in the comments that I was wrong, he is already a syndicate member and now wants to be on the panel for choosing the next VC. The error is regretted. 
  2. Everybody loves a good fight but this was wasn't a good fight. It was mainly name calling - "Who are you?" followed by threats and then Hibi called Sunny Alapatt a "businessman" or "trader". You might think it's harmless and it isn't technically a bad word but in a city like Kochi "traders" and "businessmen" make things happen. It is the very "businessmen" and "traders" like Sunny Alappat who form the base for the Congress and UDF in Kochi and across the state. If you put things in that perspective, he probably did more damage than calling him an asshole. 
  3. Hibi has always tried to position himself as a young leader, new generation, forward thinking, mild mannered, educated, polite... you get the picture. But this public outburst has put credibility to a lot of stories (rumours, not verified!) one hears about him and his coterie. I was at a dinner in Bangalore recently and was told by a close friend that Hibi runs a gang of "enforcers" in Kochi to settle real-estate and business disputes for a fee. At 1:03 on the video above, you will see a man in dark shirt emerging to put Sunny Alappat in his place with threats. 


Here is a screen grab from the video:

Screen grab from Asianet News YouTube video at 1:03

How is the man in the dark shirt? Why is the police not taking action against him? All this happened in front of the Chief Minister. Still no action. The biggest problem for Hibi's image is from this episode is he started it. It's clear from the video that he raised his voice first and initiated the confrontation. 

It is also important to ask ourselves, as citizens, what kind of "leaders" we deserve. When we complain about low or falling quality of education, high "donations", absent teachers, failing infrastructure, management quota fees, lack of campus placements, it is good to keep in mind, the person responsible for all this is you and I. 

We voted them and others like them to power. 

Update: Here is a report from Reporter TV, video is from a different angle, Hibi's enforcers are more visible here: