A crusader turns collector
Tehelka armtwisted Goa govt into funding its literary fest
After several preliminaries and high-power calls—some of them from Sonia Gandhi’s political adviser Ahmed Patel —''Tehelka'' publisher and chief operating officer Neena Tejpal met Chief Minister Digambar Kamat in Goa weeks ahead of ''Think 2011'', the magazine’s ‘festival of ideas’ that was held here from November 4 to 6.
“She came with a few other people to meet me and asked us to associate with the event. Since prominent people, including central ministers were coming, we agreed to help them,” Kamat told Deccan Herald on Saturday.
He denied there had been pressure from Delhi for him to support the festival, which has been shadowed by a controversy, or that a deal had been struck for “Tehelka” to hold off an expose on illegal mining in Goa. “No, no, that’s not true at all,” he said.
Also present at the meeting with the “Tehelka” representatives were Chief Secretary Sanjay Srivastava, former tourism secretary D C Sahoo, Finance Secretary S Kumaraswamy, Director (tourism) Swapnil Naik and others.
Neena Tejpal, sister of “Tehelka” editor Tarun Tejpal, was business-like and downright arrogant with the Goa chief minister, leaving his aides quite stunned. “If Tarun was here, he would have asked for Rs 1.5 crore. How much are you willing to give?” she asked Kamat quite bluntly, a government source told Deccan Herald. The source expressed shock at Neena’s tone and tenor, considering she was talking to the chief minister of a state. An embarrassed Kamat asked his aides to see which departments could be tapped for funding the fest and the chief secretary finally came up with a figure of Rs 50 lakh for the magazine’s event.
“Tehelka”, which prides itself for its investigative and public interest journalism, has been accused by theatre personality Hartman De Souza of burying a report on mining in Goa by its former correspondent Raman Kirpal because of the negotiations with the Goa government on “Thinkfest”. Tejpal has strongly denied the charges.
But a government aide said after the meeting with Neena Tejpal there was a strong buzz in the secretariat that Kamat was keen to oblige the “Tehelka” people because they have some “explosive material” on him.