Breaking down the ‘Interview of the Decade’

( If you want to jump straight to the analysis, the notebook is on  GitHub )

Ma’am “The first time you met Indira Gandhi… do you remember it?” Rajdeep Sardesai asked Sonia. The question did not feel odd to start the interview with after all they were in Indira Gandhi’s birth place ‘Swaraj Bhawan’ at a time of her centenary celebrations. As the interview progressed it became clear that it was going to be all about Indira, more like a daughter in law speaking about her mother in law.  There was no big breaking news in the “Interview of The Decade”.

When Rajdeep attempted to ask a question on Vote Bank Politics, “No politics… Mrs Gandhi only today” she curtly reminded him. “Fair enough” said Rajdeep! making no attempt to counter. It was clear there was no room for ‘uncomfortable’ questions. The twitteratti as usual was quick to point out Rajdeep’s previous position on interviews!

I think Rajdeep has a lot of questions to answer about the questions he did not ask! I believe the bigger story lies in what was avoided. But let’s leave that for the political analysts and journalists to decide. Let’s breakdown what we have! The Interview.

All analysis of the interview was done based on the interview transcript  from the India Today website – Interview Link . Analysis was done in Python using Pandas and NLTK,  The entire code and data can be found here – GitHub .

The 37 minute interview was similar in duration to other interviews Rajdeep has done. Does Rajdeep speak for a longer time than the one he is interviewing? probably not as much as other journalists  but he used more word than Sonia Gandhi for this interview. The graph below shows the cumulative word count for Rajdeep and Sonia.


Cumulative Word count vs Time

Sonia Gandhi spoke 88 times during the interview , used over 2000 words averaging about 26 words per answer (14 words per answer if we exclude stop words like then, that,etc).  There were two questions for which Sonia had a lot to speak about, she took more than a minute to answer each of them. No surprise that the two questions were about Indira. The first question was about her first interaction  with Indira Gandhi and the second was about the time of Indira’s death. She appeared emotional while answering both.time.png

Did the length of the question have anything to do with the length of her answer? It looked like in some cases the questions could be answered with only a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ or probably Sonia chose to answer just with that.  The scatter plots below show the number of words in Rajdeep’s questions vs number of words in Sonia’s answers. Most of the interactions appear to be under 20 words each.


‘Gandhi’ was the most used word in the interview, Not that Gandhi obviously! It was all about the “Saas, Bahu and Pariwar”.

Word cloud for all the words in the interview and Individual word clouds for Sonia and Rajdeep. ( All word clouds in the blog post were created in Python –  WordCloud )

Screen Shot 2016-11-24 at 10.21.58 PM.png


Word clouds for Rajdeep and Sonia Gandhi

It seemed like she answered a lot of questions with really short answers. The histogram below shows the frequency of words used in every answer (after removing stop words) . Out of the 88 times she spoke,she answered 17 times using 3 words or less! (21 times if we Ignore stop words). Most of her answers were under 10 Words!

Even if you watched the interview without paying complete attention you would have noticed she answered a lot of questions with “absolutely” . She used the term 14 times!

Screen Shot 2016-11-25 at 2.26.04 PM.png

Sonia Gandhi’s agenda was clear, to not let the interview move into any other direction other than Indira Gandhi. Understandably she refused to take the name “Modi”, even after Rajdeep Sardesai brought it up  4 times. When asked if congress needed a leader like Indira to take on Modi ? “I don’t agree with that” Sonia replied.

Rajiv,Rahul and Priyanka found 6,3 and 2 mentions respectively.

Number of times Corruption, Office of Power, Shadow Prime Minister, Bofors, National Herald, Defense, Terrorism, Policy etc was mentioned? No surprise there, ZERO!

Screen Shot 2016-11-25 at 4.09.41 PM.pngShould journalists be more open about what happens behind the scenes? Should journalists hold themselves to higher moral standards? Did it deserve to be called the “Interview of the Decade” ? One of Rajdeep’s recent tweet probably has the answer  “ yeh public hai yeh Sab jaanti hai, andar Kya hai, Bahar Kya hai, Sab pehanchati hai!” (The Public Knows and Understands everything!)


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