Tapes reveal Radia's close proximity to key ministers

Controversies

The conversation between corporate lobbyist Nira Radia and her “contacts”, including ministers and scribes, was recorded by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) (investigation) over a period of time to probe tax evasion cases. The leaked tapes running into hundreds have now turned out to be a mine-field of controversies.
From the controversial JD(U) Rajya Sabha member N K Singh, Radia gets a minister-by-minister primer on the pluses and minuses on the “Shivji ki baaraat” (a reference, as he explains, to a kind of Noah’s Ark with many creatures, from scorpions and serpents to elephants and tame deer) that is the UPA-2 team.

The excerpts of the tapes published in “Outlook” reveal Radia’s close proximity to key Central ministers with various favours and “deal fixing” discussed and carried forward.
“Spectacular jump for Anand Sharma (commerce), spectacular decline for Kamal Nath (highways),” says Singh sagely, adding that Praful Patel would be “unhappy” for not being elevated as full civil aviation minister.

“But he (Patel) has destroyed the sector,” pipes in Radia. “He has worked as a minister for Naresh Goyal (Jet Airways) and now Vijay Mallya (Kingfisher). He cannot brush off this charge.

“I think that perhaps Mukesh (Ambani) has swung it for him,” says Singh in a back-to-back conversation with Radia, on  Deora landing the plum petroleum portfolio for a second successive term.

Gas dispute

In a different conversation, her aide Manoj Warrier too fills her in on a chat with P M S Prasad of Reliance Industries who told him that the news about the Ambani brothers arriving at an out-of-court settlement in the gas dispute had been leaked by Deora to “deflect attention” from the real matter, the dividing up of resources including gas.
To Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s foster son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya, she complains that Unitech (the real estate firm which bought 2G spectrum under A Raja’s regime for a song) is avoiding her, even bouncing Tata cheques.

When Bhattacharya mentions that the Unitech bosses probably think that the new commerce minister Anand Sharma is “proprietary”, Radia adds her own input.
“Haan, he (the Unitech boss) told me, he told me very clearly on the phone abhi tou Anandji aa gaye hain. Look at the great thing.. how much confidence Sonia Gandhi has in him...”

In a brief chat with a person named Raja, she is told to call from a Tata phone.
In an expletive-filled conversation with a highflier who wants a meeting with Ratan Tata, she is told by the unidentified caller: “The meeting can be in London, New York, Bombay or South Africa.”

In the end,  Bhattacharya’s conversation with  Radia captures the concentric circles in which lobbyists, fixers and operators move and operate.

Says Bhattacharya: “I met Sunil (Mittal of Airtel) in that idiot, kyaa hai naam uskaa (what’s his name?), Suhel Seth’s house. He said he couldn’t handle it on his own, and he needed somebody and I mentioned you.”

The magazine is expected to come out with more  “leaks” revealing the dirty underbelly of corporate-politico nexus.

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