We bring you the full transcripts of alleged conversations between Niira Radia, Barkha Dutt, Vir Sanghvi and others, published in Open Magazine. The magazine's story seeks to expose the networks of lobbyists and power brokers that dictate how this country is run. MiD DAY will keep you updated on the controversy as it unfolds
Earlier this week, Telecom Minister A Raja of the DMK was forced to resign after pressure mounted on the government over irregularities in the allotment of the 2G spectrum. But this decision to sacrifice an individual in no way changes the system that Raja embodies. Evidence filed on the 15th of November in the Supreme Court seems to shed some light on the networks of lobbyists and power brokers that actually dictate how this country is run.
While Raja is gone, these networks survive, shaping and influencing our lives in ways we cannot imagine. Thanks to a fortuitous set of circumstances, the transcripts that follow shed some light on one such network of power.
The phone lines of the head of Vaishnavi Communication, Niira Radia, were twice placed under surveillance by the Income Tax Department (based on a tip-off by the Central Board of Direct Taxes) for a few months in 2008 and 2009. Niira Radia is a woman of formidable networking and PR skills, so much so that she represents both the Tata and the Mukesh Ambani group. Some of these recorded phone conversations are now available with Open; they were placed before the Supreme Court this week by petitioners Centre for Public Interest Litigation, represented by senior counsel Prashant Bhushan. He had moved the Supreme Court with a plea that the 2G spectrum investigation that involves Raja should be monitored by the Court in view of the mounting evidence.
In a rejoinder in the case, the petitioners submitted, "These conversations were given by the Directorate of Income Tax (Investigations) to the CBI more than a year back. A copy of the taped conversations of Ms Radia with Respondent No. 5 (A. Raja), other politicians, Ratan Tata, other corporates, senior journalists and certain middlemen in a CD are annexed as Annexure P35 ¦ Some of the transcripts of the conversations which relate to the lobbying for making Respondent No. 5 as Telecom Minister are annexed as Annexure P36.''
These recordings, which appear to be only a small part of the recordings made available by the IT department to the CBI, were made in the period of surveillance from 11 May 2009 to 11 July 2009. We are in no position to endorse the contents of the recordings, but as the material is now in the public domain, we can now place them on record. What follows is just a small part of the information contained in the recordings submitted to the court.
The conversations presented below focus on two important events: 1) the aftermath of the Bombay High Court judgment of 15 June 2009 on the dispute between brothers Anil Ambani and Mukesh Ambani over the allotment of gas; 2) efforts by Niira Radia to mediate an understanding between the DMK and the Congress between 20 May 2009 and 24 May 2009 at the time of the Cabinet formation of UPA-II. For a period of time, with direct communication breaking down between the DMK and the Congress, a section of the DMK (Raja and DMK chief M Karunanidhi's daughter, Kanimozhi) was in constant touch with Radia on what was going on and how the Congress needed to react. In turn, Radia relied on a number of people to pass information on to the Congress and back to the DMK. In a way, these were the people who eventually ensured Raja was given the telecom portfolio.
The transcripts that follow are from Niira Radia's conversations with highly influential people. Going by the evidence of the phone taps, these include journalists Vir Sanghvi and Barkha Dutt, and Ranjan Bhattacharya (foster son-in-law of former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee), who seem to have played out the roles of mediators between the Congress and Radia, who was in turn speaking to Raja and Kanimozhi. According to these tapes, Vir Sanghvi seems to have relied heavily on his discussions with Radia to write his column on the gas judgment. The transcripts that appear here do not suggest any direct role for the person Radia is in conversation with, rather they reflect the power and the ability she commands to influence events.
THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT
»Ahmed Patel: Congress president Sonia Gandhi's political secretary
»M Karunanidhi: Tamil Nadu chief minister, often referred to as "the Leader" or "Leader" in the recorded conversations
»Ghulam Nabi Azad: former J&K chief minister and currently the Union Health minister. Azad is the Congress party's general secretary in charge of Tamil Nadu affairs
»M K Azhagiri: (pronounced Aragiri): Karunanidhi's elder son and since last year, the union minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers
»M K Stalin: Karunanidhi's younger son and deputy in the Tamil Nadu government
»Dayanidhi Maran: The former Union Communications and IT minister. He is also Karunanidhi's grandnephew and was removed as minister in UPA-I after Dinakaran, the Tamil paper his brother Kalanithi owns, published a survey saying people in the state would prefer Stalin rather than Azhagiri to succeed Karunanidhi. Violence followed
»T R Baalu: Union minister for Shipping, Road Transport and Highways during the UPA's first term
»Dayalu Ammal: Karunanidhi's second wife and Azhagiri and Stalin's mother
»Rajathi Ammal: Karunanidhi's third wife and Kanimozhi's mother
»Amar Singh: Former Samajwadi Party General Secretary and a crony of Anil Ambani
VIR SANGHVI IN CONVERSATION WITH NIIRA RADIA
On 15 June 2009, the Bombay High Court directed Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) to honour an agreement signed with Anil Ambani's Reliance Natural Resources Ltd (RNRL) as part of a family asset division that assured the latter supply of gas from the KG basin at a discount price of $2.34 per unit, a private deal that the Supreme Court later ruled was invalid since the gas was State-owned even though RIL was the gas field's operator. Here, Niira Radia discusses the implications of the High Court judgment with prominent journalist Vir Sanghvi
DATE 20 June 2009 TIME 12:09:59
VIR: Okay, now I can talk.
RADIA: I just got out of this treadmill. On this battle. I need to, I'm trying to get Mukesh to come out and talk.
RADIA: But the thing is this, we have to, if he talks, we have to carry it as is, in the sense that you know he, I think, they're very conscious of every line and everything that goes out.
RADIA: Because it's a battle. It's a battle at the end of the day for him, you know. And also, whether we bring it into print.
RADIA: That's the other issue. I think the ¦
VIR: But see Anil can't afford to give interviews because he will be asked about Amar Singh, so many things, so that the advantage Mukesh has is that he can talk and there is nothing for him to be embarrassed about. So many skeletons in Anil's closet that he doesn't want to clarify. If he comes on, he says, 'Amar Singh is my close friend,' he is fucked. If he comes on, he says, 'I have no relations with Amar Singh,' Amar Singh will kill him. I mean there are so many awkward things, so Anil has decided to avoid the media. Mukesh doesn't have that problem. Mukesh can talk straight, can say things. You can rehearse. You can work out a script in advance. You can go exactly according to the script. Anil can't do any of those things, no?
RADIA: Right. But we can do that, no?
VIR: But Mukesh has to be on board. He has to sort of realise. It has to be fully scripted.
RADIA: No, that's what I mean. I think that's what he's asking me.
VIR: Yes, it has to be fully scripted.
RADIA: He is saying is that, 'Look Niira', that 'I don't want anything extempore.'
VIR: No, it has to be fully scripted. I have to come in and do a run through with him before.
RADIA: Yeah, yeah.
VIR: We have to rehearse it before the cameras come in.
RADIA: Yeah, yeah.
VIR: Then it is worth doing.
RADIA: Correct, correct.
VIR: Otherwise, there is a lot at stake.
RADIA: Yeah. That's right, that's the one point. The other thing was that when Rohit on this particular article of [inaudible] because Anil is going all out and we are going to start talking. It is not as if we are not going to start talking. But I think the challenge that I'm facing is that I think we need to set the tone.
RADIA: How what has happened as far as the order is concerned is completely against national interest.
RADIA: You know and even if we were to assume that they get gas or they get coal, or they get iron ore or whatever one gets. If you look at how Tatas has always gone into those areas and done something for the people even before they have been able to extract anything out of it.
RADIA: Here, the culture of, you know, if it's set at a power plant in Shahpur, which Rohit will brief you, or is setting up a power plant in Dadri ¦ One would ask a question, have you actually done anything for those people even though you are taking their land from them? I can say today you know with my hand on my heart whether it is Kalinga Nagar that we are fighting the Maoists or Singur where we fought Mamta, we continue doing work whether our plant came up or not. You know sometimes ¦
VIR: What kind of story do you want? Because this will go as Counterpoint, so it will be like most-most read, but it can't seem too slanted, yet it is an ideal opportunity to get all the points across.
RADIA: But basically, the point is what has happened as far as the High Court is concerned is a very painful thing for the country because what is done is against national interest.
RADIA: I think that's the underlying message.
VIR: Okay. That message we will do. That allocation of resources which are scarce national resources of a poor country cannot be done in this arbitrary fashion to benefit a few rich people.
RADIA: That's right.
VIR: Yeah. That message we will get across, but what other points do we need to make?
RADIA: I think we need to say that you know it's a lesson for the corporate world that, you know, they need to think through whenever they want to look at this, whether they really seriously do give back to society.
VIR: So I will link it to the election verdict. The fact that there has been so much Narega, that Sonia has committed to including everybody, that it should be inclusive growth. It shouldn't just benefit the few fat cats. It shouldn't be cronyism. It shouldn't be arbitrary. That's how the message for this five years of Manmohan Singh should be that you have to put an end to this kind of allocations of scarce resources on the basis of corruption and arbitrariness at the cost of the country, otherwise the country will not forgive you.
RADIA: Yeah, but Vir, you have to keep in mind that he has been given the gas field by the Government to operate. He spent ten billion dollars on it.
RADIA: Anil Ambani is getting the benefit without spending a cent on it ¦
VIR: I'll make those points, no?
VIR: So I'll make those points. The people, because the system is so corrupt and open to manipulation, by manipulating the system, by not paying anybody you can get hands on resources. Therefore the only way Manmohan Singh hopes to survive is to get a handle on the resources and have some kind of way of allocating them that is transparent, fair and perhaps done by him.
RADIA: But there you will be attacking Mukesh only, no.
VIR: Why, why, why, explain that.
RADIA: You see, because a resource has been allocated to Mukesh in this case.
VIR: So, what point do you want me to make?
RADIA: The point I'm making is that here, the point is limited to the fact that you cannot have a High Court deciding on this. You cannot have a tribunal deciding on this.
VIR: What about ministers?
RADIA: Even ministers.
VIR: Spectrum and co is ministers, no?
RADIA: Yeah, even ministers. You want to really look at, maybe there's an EGoM [Empowered Group of Ministers] that got set and is looking at the pricing issue, and natural resources should be decided not by any of this arbitrary mechanism. It has to be one for the country. And there should be some sort of a formula that Manmohan Singh has to...
VIR: Yeah, that is the message, you know. There should be a formula by which resources will be allocated in a transparent, non-arbitrary sort of way. That has to be a message, no?
RADIA: Yeah. And also, you know, going to court.
VIR: That the people want resources, they have to be back to society. They have to pay the Government. They have corporate social responsibility. They have to care about the people who are going to be displaced, the people who are going to lose things. You can't just go ahead and rape the system.
RADIA: Yeah. But you want to say that you know, more importantly that here a family MoU has taken precedence over national interest, and what the judge has done ¦ I mean you'll have to attack the judge here because the judge has, what he's done, he's given preference to an MoU. He has held on to the MoU and said, 'Okay, this had to be implemented.' But he has forgotten what's good, that's why it raises a bigger constitutional issue.
VIR: Which is?
RADIA: Which is natural resources is really a constitutional issue. It has to do with the country and the nation.
VIR: It's not between two brothers and their fight.
RADIA: It's not and therefore the judge's interpretation of an MoU ¦
RADIA: It cannot be the basis of the way how we can proceed on these sorts of issues. I mean, you have to attack the fact that the judge has only gone into the MoU. His entire judgment is on the basis of the MoU.
RADIA: And therefore a judgment between two family members cannot be how you decide the future.
VIR: Okay. Let this Rohit come, let me explain to him, and I'll talk to you and tell you what line I'm taking.
RADIA: Okay. And you'll do it for next Sunday, is it?
VIR: No, no tomorrow
And now, a conversation on an entirely different issue. In May 2009, as coalition talks between the DMK and Congress broke down, Niira Radia was apparently involved quite actively in opening channels between the two parties through, among others, Vir Sanghvi
VIR SANGHVI "I won't get into Sonia in the short term, let me try and get through to Ahmed"
DATE 22 May 2009 TIME 13:03:19
VIR: Hi Niira.
RADIA: Hi Vir. Where are you, Delhi or ¦
VIR: I'm in Jaipur. Coming back this evening.
RADIA: Okay. I just wanted to ¦ I've been talking to my Tamil Nadu friends.
RADIA: I just need to ¦ I don't know whether you are in the position to get through to anyone at Congress. I just met Kani just now.
RADIA: And I've been, you know, we re-united since yesterday. The problem is ¦
VIR: I was supposed to meet Sonia today, but I've been stuck here. So, now it's becoming tomorrow. I've been meeting with Rahul, but tell me?
RADIA: No, I'll tell you what---they are not understanding that they are actually communicating with the wrong guy. Not because I detached Maran, but actually the father has not nominated Maran to negotiate. Now, you know, it's like a banana republic where the Cabinet ¦
VIR: Then why Maran became the face? They all hate Maran.
RADIA: No. He is not, he is not. I know, no. But the Congress is under the impression. They have already apparently indicated to Maran that the Prime Minister will not give infrastructure berth to DMK, which ¦ but he himself is desperately pushing for an infrastructure berth for himself.
RADIA: But the problem is that there is a leader which is Kani's brother, which is Alagiri, who's won that election and he is a mass leader.
RADIA: Now what has apparently ¦ Maran has gone and indicated to Congress that he will accept a MOS independent, and you leave it with me, everything will be okay.
RADIA: Which blames Baalu, Raja and Maran Cabinet posts independent to Alagiri and MOS to Kani.
RADIA: Now, Alagiri is a very, you know, he is, he is a mass leader. He controls half of Tamil Nadu for Karunanidhi's point of view.
RADIA: He is far too, too senior for Maran. So, what he has told his father that if you make Maran a Cabinet minister ¦
RADIA: ¦I'll not come into the Cabinet. And the father cannot afford to upset him because ¦
RADIA: ¦simply because of his position.
RADIA: Right now, the Congress doesn't seem to be understanding this.
VIR: So, who should they talk to?
RADIA: They need to, look, they need to talk directly to Karunanidhi, they need to talk to Kani.
VIR: Sonia spoke to him yesterday, you know.
RADIA: No, she didn't speak to him. Only Prime Minister spoke, even that was Kani was translating for him. It was very brief that, you know, let's try and resolve this issue. There is nothing at all and whatever. They need to get Ghulam Nabi Azad to speak to Kanimozhi.
RADIA: Seriously, that's the only thing that will work and Kani will take them to her father.
VIR: I won't get into Sonia in the short term, let me try and get through to Ahmed.
RADIA: No. But they need to speak to Kani [Kanimozhi, DMK Chief M Karunanidhi's daughter], and Kani will take him to their, her father directly.
RADIA: He has no problem with three Cabinet berths at all. In fact, it is the Congress that messed it up.
RADIA: Had they, had they not kept on insisting and kept on pushing Maran forward ¦ themselves have been pushing Maran forward. They would have left it to Raja and, and Baalu even if they wanted, or Raja and Alagiri and Kani would taken independent, nobody will, it is Congress they started this whole Maran dialogue.
VIR: Oh, I have been thinking that DMK nominated Maran.
RADIA: No. No. No. No, they did, they've sent a list earlier with five portfolios and Maran's name because father was pushed ¦ so he had to send a list with everybody's name on it. But he was hoping that Congress would come back and say, 'Okay, we will accept Raja,' or 'We will not,' or 'Not Raja, we will give you only three portfolios,' right? But they have not able to, the communication that's been happening in Congress with DMK has been completely warped. They are talking to the wrong guys.
VIR: Okay. Let me try and get through to Ahmed.
RADIA: The, the simplest way is Kani [inaudible; 0:03:24].
RADIA: And Kani [inaudible; 0:03:27] will take them to her father directly.
RADIA: And they can have this, you know, whatever are the, the concerns, whatever they want to say, let them say in front of Kani.
VIR: And he'll never mind. He will not mind.
RADIA: Yeah, they should say, they should say, 'We don't want Maran.'
VIR: Okay, done. Let me just try and get through and I'll let you know soon.
RADIA: But the moment you drop Maran, your problem gets resolved because Alagiri has done okay.
RADIA: Okay. Give him this message. She is right now ¦
VIR: I just ¦
RADIA: [Inaudible; 0:03:51] She is in her South Avenue residence.
VIR: They have a mobile , you know?
RADIA: I just met her.
RADIA: And some Tamil Nadu Congress guys also want just now to meet her.
RADIA: I don't think it needs to be done at that level. It needs to be done at, at Ghulam Nabi Azad level or ¦
VIR: Well, I'll talk with Ahmed. I'm going to talk to him.
A follow-up discussion on cabinet berths for the DMK's leading lights, including of course the Telecom Ministry for A Raja
NIIRA RADIA "Thanks ¦That was really great, you know, you all, I mean it was exactly as you had said"
DATE 23 May 2009 TIME 22:26:42
RADIA: Sorry to disturb you.
VIR: Hi, no problem.
RADIA: They had a meeting.
RADIA: MK Narayanan [National Security Advisor at the time] had come.
RADIA: And as suggested it was Kani only.
RADIA: And they had a ¦ they are still stuck to their four formula and one independent.
RADIA: But these people will also think about it and let him know tomorrow morning. He is ¦
VIR: But they will not send him about the family or whatever, right?
RADIA: No. He clarified everything that you had told him.
VIR: Okay, very good.
RADIA: I think that there was no issue, and there was, and there was lot of relief from this Chief Minister's side.
RADIA: And he realised that, you know, this is all being done by ¦
VIR: By Maran.
RADIA: ¦yeah. [inaudible; 0:00:42] But the thing is that it appears that he is still under a lot of pressure to take Maran, you know, so ¦
VIR: Where is this coming from, this pressure?
RADIA: It's coming from Stalin and his sister Sylvie.
Radia: So, I believe Maran has given about 600 crores to Dayalu, Stalin's mother.
VIR: 600 Crores, okay?
RADIA: 600 Crores, is what I'm told.
VIR It's hard to argue with that kind of pressure?
RADIA: Isn't it. So, he is ¦
RADIA: ¦but no, but he doesn't know, the father doesn't, I mean...
VIR: Doesn't realise what?
RADIA: Doesn't realise that. But this is the feedback that Alagiri has got.
RADIA: And ¦
VIR: So, basically what they want is a little more flexibility and posts right? They want probably more cabinets or something?
RADIA: They are saying one more cabinet and Kani was independent charge.
RADIA: But if they stick to three and give independent charge, then Kani gets her independent and then Alagiri, Baalu and Raja come in?
VIR: That is not so bad, you know.
RADIA: Yeah, so I think ¦
VIR: ¦unless Maran is one of the cabinet.
RADIA: Yeah. But yeah, unless Maran is one of the cabinet. But I don't think he can give it to three family members.
RADIA: That will send a very wrong signal.
VIR: That's right.
RADIA: So, the best thing is, you know, if I don't know whether Narayanan can say that, I mean he can't say who should be the people. But he could probably go back and say that, you know, Baalu and Raja and Alagiri is the best option and Kani, you know.
VIR: And it's good for the Government also. That doesn't seem to be giving it to the family.
RADIA: Yeah. Yeah but then I don't know whether he is in the position to take names, you know.
VIR: Because Baalu and Raja are saying it is being spread by Maran saying that we don't, nobody wants them because they are crooks to advance his own career, you know.
RADIA: Yeah. Yeah. So, if there was anything that could be said which is, that, that you know, you know, if, if Narayanan was to come back tomorrow and say by looking, I think, we think that may be the three, and we'll see a little later for the fourth one. But for now let's just look at Alagiri, Baalu and Raja ¦
VIR: And, and, and see Maran ¦
RADIA: ¦and we can give independent to Kani.
VIR : Yeah. Makes sense.
RADIA: And, and that would be a, a good thing for him to say. And they are asking for environment and forest.
VIR: See, Narayanan will talk to PM. Then they have to communicate, he won't talk to the Congress President.
VIR: He won't talk to Congress president. So, somebody ¦ he's PM's man, he has gone on behalf of PM. So, they will, PMO will send its feedback to Congress party. So, that stage my friends will get a ¦.
RADIA: So they will in any case speak to Ahmed, you know.
VIR: Yeah. Yeah, they will. And nothing will happen without his getting involved.
VIR: So, I'll speak to him right away and convey this?
RADIA: Yeah. But maybe that, you know, he would have to specify then that we are not too comfortable with Maran ¦
RADIA: ¦and let it be Baalu and Raja because so much has been said and then it would also, also send a wrong message that if you don't take Baalu and Raja now. But I don't know whether they will say that?
VIR: I don't know. Well let's, let's. No, harm trying.
RADIA: But therefore Kani, is asking for, he is not told Narayanan this, but they've suggested a couple of ministries.
VIR: Which one?
RADIA: But they are saying okay, telecom is going to Raja in any case.
RADIA: That, the old man is very clear about.
RADIA: But as far as the other two are concerned, he doesn't mind. He is not very fussed about chemical, fertilisers and labour.
RADIA: How funny, he would prefer that she gets independent charge Environment and Forest or something like that. You know, where she can get her teeth in and she is I think, she is very upright with it. So, they shouldn't have any problem with that, or by the way aviation also.
VIR: What about Civil Aviation?
RADIA: And Civil Aviation.
VIR: It gives her the, it gives her the profile she would need, you know.
RADIA: She wants the aviation because, why she says aviation because she can do Chennai airport, Salem and Madurai and all that, you know ¦
RADIA: ¦it gives her the, the foothold for the political side.
VIR: We don't have anyone there. Let me talk.
RADIA: Yeah. And she is intelligent and she will do just, because they are saying Environment and Forest and Aviation for Kani in independent charge.
VIR: I'll pass this on?
RADIA: Yeah. Thanks. Thanks to you.
RADIA: That was really great, you know, you all, I mean it was exactly as you had said and ¦
VIR : Okay.
RADIA: They were very relieved and she was so relieved. So, wants to say thank you to you personally.
VIR: I'll pass it ¦
RADIA: Let's hope tomorrow it will---and Alagiri has got all those messages. My person came back and confirmed.
VIR: Oh, very good.
BARKHA DUTT IN CONVERSATION WITH NIIRA RADIA
As talks between the DMK and Congress ('them') broke down over joining the Government in May 2009, Radia was actively involved in opening channels between the two parties through, among others, television journalist Barkha Dutt
"Oh God. So now what? What should I tell them? Tell me what should I tell them?" BARKHA DUTT
DATE 22 May 2009 TIME 09:48:51
RADIA: Hi, did I wake you up?
BARKHA: No, no, no. I've been up, ya, most of the night. The stalemate continues, yaa.
RADIA: Yeah. Listen, the thing is that they need to talk to him directly. That is what the problem is.
BARKHA: Haan so, apparently PM's really pissed off that they went public.
RADIA: But that's Baalu's doing, naa ¦ he was not instructed by Karunanidhi to do that.
BARKHA: Oh, he wasn't?
RADIA: This is not. He was told to come away and tell Congress that.
BARKHA: And he went public
RADIA: Well, the media ¦ media, the media was standing outside.
BARKHA: Oh God. So now what? What should I tell them? Tell me what should I tell them?
RADIA: I'll tell you what it is the problem and I have had a long chat with both his wife and with the daughter right
BARKHA: Haan, haan.
RADIA: The problem is if the Congress has a problem with Baalu, if they have no problem with anyone. They need and go talk to Karunanidhi. They have very good relationship with Karunanidhi directly.
BARKHA: Correct, haan.
RADIA: Because you see, in front of Baalu, in front of Maran, they can't talk.
RADIA: So they have to tell him directly, there [are] enough Congress leaders in Tamil Nadu. They need to go in and tell him exactly the biggest problem is that the following of Alagiri is saying that you cannot give [inaudible] a cabinet [inaudible] and keep Alagiri in the MoS state.
BARKHA: That's right. But will Karuna drop Baalu?
RADIA: He ¦ look, if you tell him that Baalu is the only problem. I would imagine, he will drop him.
BARKHA: But you see the problem right now is also over the choice of portfolios, naa ¦
RADIA: No. They've not said anything. The portfolios have not even got discussed.
BARKHA: Congress claims, for whatever it's worth, that the DMK wanted surface transport, power, IT, telecom, railways and health.
RADIA: You see, you see my honest advice ¦
RADIA: ..is that you tell them that they need to tell him directly that we are happy because Kani's [Kanimozhi, DMK Chief Karunanidhi's daughter] got no issue being about independent. But Alagiri is now telling her that you cannot take an independent charge if Maran remains cabinet minister.
BARKHA: I see.
RADIA: And Congress is sending messages through media and through various sources, saying that. And Maran is telling everyone that he is the only acceptable person.
BARKHA: Person, yeah, yeah, yeah. That I know.
RADIA: But that's not correct, naa?
BARKHA: No, I know. We've taken that off. We've taken that off.
BARKHA: Also, but, but the Congress needs to tell Karunanidhi that we have not said anything about Maran.
BARKHA: Okay. Let me talk to them again.
RADIA: Yeah? The choice of candidate we will leave to you. We have some reservation about Baalu. And let them tell the reservation. And we have not said anything about Maran. We are not talking
In another telecon, Barkha Dutt offers Niira Radia the assurance that she is on the job as a reliable go-between
DATE 22 May 2009 TIME 10:47:33
BARKHA: Haan, Niira?
RADIA: Barkha, what I'm told is that the Congress yesterday, apparently, God knows who they are talking to in the DMK.
BARKHA: Haan, well must be Maran ¦
RADIA: Relayed no, they relayed that the infrastructure portfolio should not be given to Maran or Baalu.
BARKHA: No, that's because they want to keep it for themselves.
RADIA: No, they wanted to; they didn't want any infrastructure, that's what Prime Minister said, so he said that's why they give him labour, fertiliser, chemical and telecom, IT, they said for Raja. So what has happened is, is that message not relayed to Karunanidhi?
BARKHA: Oh I see!
RADIA: They might have told some minion down the line or told Maran who is not relaying the truth.
BARKHA: I think they have told Maran.
RADIA: Yeah, now what they need to do is, they need to speak to Kani so she can set up the discussion with her father, because even the Prime Minister's discussion was ¦ she was the one who's translating, and it was a very brief discussion for two minutes.
RADIA: That we'll try and work it out, and the let's not you know take it a hasty easy decision. That's the type of conversation that happened.
BARKHA: No, I'll set it up as soon as they get out of RCR.
RADIA: What she saying is that, you know, that someone senior like Ghulam [Nabi Azad, senior Congress leader] because he is the one who is authorised to speak. ¦.
BARKHA: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
RADIA: Right? Was to speak to her then she can tell her father that I have got this message from the Congress.
BARKHA: Theek hai, not a problem. That's not a problem, I'll talk to Azad I'll talk to Azad right after I get out of RCR [Race Course Road, presumably, the PM's residence].
RADIA: Yeah, and then she said when father lands, I can speak to him.
The two conversationalists touch base again
DATE 22 May 2009 TIME 15:31:29
RADIA: They will speak to her?
RADIA: Who? Ghulam?
BARKHA: Ghulam. Yeah.
RADIA: You know, the problem is she's catching a flight at five haan, going back. Dayanidhi Maran is attending the swearing in when only Raja has been authorised to attend, so he's gone and told his leader that Ahmed Patel has told me especially to attend the swearing in.
BARKHA: Ahmed says this is rubbish ¦
RADIA: But I am telling you but this. Karunanidhi's very confused.
BARKHA: No, but why can't Kani stay also and attend it?
RADIA: She doesn't want to attend no because her father told her to come back. She has to follow what she's father says, no. Call Ghulam then.
BARKHA: Let me call him.
RADIA: She's leaving at five. She's catching a flight at five.
Niira Radia and Barkha Dutt discuss cabinet composition possibilities with Raja's inclusion or non-inclusion the big question
DATE 22 May 2009 TIME time 18:09:06
BARKHA: No, you see Congress's condition is Baalu should not get surface transport. Not Baalu, DMK should not get surface transport, beyond individuals right?
RADIA: Correct, correct, and they are not individuals. Let me tell you one thing's for sure, 3 plus 4 was yesterday; because of Maran, they wanted to make it 4 plus 3.
RADIA: So, now it is back to 3 plus 4 that was already worked on the table?
BARKHA: No, so why does this formula not sound right then?
RADIA: Because of Alagiri naa, if you make Alagiri ¦ not cabinet. No, he's not got cabinet.
BARKHA: Oh, Alagiri got what, according to these things?
RADIA: You see, according to her, he's got Health, but he can't be cabinet. Either Maran is not cabinet, either Raja is not cabinet or Baalu's not.
BARKHA: Alagiri's got Health and that's a big compromise by Congress because they said we won't give them Health. So that's their face saver. No, but Alagiri, Health can be cabinet?
RADIA: Agreed, but then Raja is MoS.
BARKHA: Raja is MoS!
RADIA: Then is Baalu MoS?
BARKHA: Nahin ho sakta. Nahin, nahin, nahin, if Baalu gets the Heavy Industries and Alagiri is in the Fertiliser, according to ¦. Baalu gets Fertilizer; Alagiri gets this thing, Health.
RADIA: Maran gets Telecom and IT.
BARKHA: Maran gets Telecom and IT. Raja gets demoted.
RADIA: Who gets ¦?
BARKHA: Raja. Nahin hoga?
RADIA: I am telling you nahin hai (laughing). Trust me, nahin hai.
BARKHA: Achcha, theek hai.
In yet another telecon, Barkha Dutt explains her situation to Niira Radia
DATE 22 May 2009 TIME 19:23:57
BARKHA: You see, what happened was everybody I know in the Congress was at the swearing in, so I haven't been able to speak with the top guys, and now I just finished and I am going to make my set of calls.
RADIA: Kani just landed in Chennai. Just now. I just spoke ¦
BARKHA: Where is Daya? Where is Maran?
RADIA: Daya didn't turn up for the swearing in because he was called back, because he went and told Karunanidhi that I have been asked by Ahmed Patel to come for the swearing in. But the leader said then you join the Congress.
BARKHA: (laughs) So now?
RADIA: So Raja was the only one who's authorised to attend which he's done and Raja's catching the 8:40 flight ¦
NIIRA RADIA WORKS THE PHONES
'He (Raja) told me he said he needs help in the media. So I promised him I'll help him. I'm helping him Ratan wherever I can but the thing is that every time you try and help him, he goes and makes stupid statements, you know.
KANIMOZHI IN CONVERSATION WITH NIIRA RADIA
"Yes, yes. That I know. I'm just saying be careful, because he's trying to get somebody from the Congress (to) say things against Raja to dad"
SUHEL SETH IN CONVERSATION WITH NIIRA RADIA
"I haven't even gotten up, I cannot put pen to paper ¦ Otherwise, I am there and you want me to speak to anyone, not that you don't know anyone."
NDTV ON REMARKS AGAINST BARKHA DUTT
In response to the Open Magazine cover story dated 20th November, 2010 NDTV would like to object in the strongest terms to the clear misrepresentation of conversations between Barkha Dutt and Ms. Nira Radia, that took place in May 2009.
In the pursuit of news and information, journalists talk to an array of people from all professional backgrounds; this case being an an unfolding political story on cabinet formation, after the general elections.
To caricature the professional sourcing of information as "lobbying" is not just baseless, but preposterous.
At every stage effective journalism involves engagement with a multitude of characters in the process of gathering news and information. To call this process "lobbying" is a serious and defamatory distortion of journalistic practices.
Ironically, when Barkha Dutt raised this smear campaign with the magazine's editor, Manu Joseph, these are the responses she got.
1. "Dear Barkha; thats not true. I can send a copy of the magazine to you right away or you can check the story on the website. We have carried the Radia transcripts which include some of your conversations with her. In fact there is not much remarkable and you will not be embarrassed by it. There is one bit in the strap where the word "go-between" is used which I dont like myself. I would love to carry your response in the next issue if you would like to send one. My email id is email@example.com."
Once again,when she asked the magazine's Editor why the basic tenets of journalism had not been followed in seeking her response before publishing these accusations, this is the reply she received.
2. "Dear Barkha, In the attachment is the cover story (divided into introduction and the transcripts).
We knew we were going ahead with the story only on Monday as Prashant Bhushan had submitted a petition in the Supreme Court on Monday attaching the same recordings that we had. We had to make a decision and we did. I wanted to get your response, but there was a possibility that if the word of the story got out (and, you know very well, it is not an exclusive) some people might do their best to ensure that we didn't carry it.
If you would like to respond to the story at any length, please let me know (by Tuesday).
The fact that the very editor of the magazine that has published this story accepts the distortion in the story's caption and goes on to say that there is nothing "remarkable" in the content speaks for itself.
NDTV believes the magazine should first verify and corroborate facts before participating in a defamatory smear campaign.
These are unsubstantiated, baseless and defamatory allegations and we reserve the right to take appropriate action.
Group CEO, and Executive Director, NDTV
OPEN MAGAZINE REJOINDER TO NDTV
Via Twitter: No content of the Open Magazine has been taken down. If openthemagazine.com does not open, it is because the traffic is unprecedented. Open Magazine Editor Manu Joseph's SMS to Barkha was distorted and used by NDTV as his statement. His response soon once traffic on website eases.
BARKHA DUTT'S RESPONSE
Via Twitter: Amazed, angered and saddened at inability of some to distinguish between gathering info and ridiculous labels like lobbying/powerbroking.
In fast changing news situations, journalists talk to a range of people, maybe even humour them politely. But that's it.
Vinod Mehta has been guest on several TV shows hosted by me. Would like him to point out one instance of compromise in coverage. Can he?
Smear campaign astounding. Onus on Open and Outlook to prove quid-pro quo of any kind, before villifying individuals and their work.