Nira Radia has to be considered a real unwitting hero of sorts. The public has long suspected a politicians–corporate houses–media nexus in the ongoing season of scams. In one single stroke, with a partial release of her tapes, she has inadvertently exposed the powerful and the corrupt in the nation. The list of participants in her conversations (directly or indirectly) reads like a who’s who. Ratan Tata, Mukesh Ambani, Anil Ambani, A. Raja, Barkha Dutt, Vir Sanghvi, Prabhu Chawla, M.K. Venu, Kanimozhi, and many other names that have received casual mention in the conversations. I can’t help imagining Ram Gopal Verma rubbing his hands in delight. He would have liked some blood, of course. And who knows, that might even follow.
According to reports Radia’s phone was being tapped between August 2008 and November 2008 and again between May 2009 and July 2009. But why this woman was picked up for surveillance has to make for some juicy stuff. What is it that the IT or the government agencies really wanted to know? Money laundering? Tax evasion? P.Chidarambam is on record stating that potential IT offenders can be subjected to surveillance. With plenty of bigger crooks to target why was Nira Radia a good choice for surveillance? The tapping of phones started with just over six months to go for general elections (2009).
There can be many conspiracy theories, I repeat 'theories', but I will start with a four letter word – “NANO” !
1. Around the time the phone tapping was authorised the Nano plant at Singur had run into trouble and there were plans to shift it elsewhere. The Tata’s new location would have scored some political points for any party. As it transpired, it was shifted to Gujarat. The talk of Gujarat was doing the rounds for some time and so to eaves drop on Ratan Tata’s PR agent and try to hook up to any juicy political inputs would have been handy. And where was the Nano headed? Narendra Modi’s Gujarat! All the more reason for a Congress headed UPA to pick up any dirt they could have on the exchanges. Anything that could nail Narendra Modi to something.
2. According to reports the phone-tapping was approved by the Home Secretary or the Home Ministry. Given this tapping was requested by the IT department, was it routed through the F M? Did P. Chidambaram, then FM, approve of it?
3. Around March-April 2009 rifts started appearing in the Samajwadi Party with Amar Singh involved in quite a few confrontations. If he were to quit SP, which way would he jump? Given his proximity to Anil Ambani would there be interesting titbits to be picked up from the Radia conversations and her sources? She being the PR agent for Mukesh Ambani. Amar Singh also complained about his phone being tapped (a few years ago), was his proximity to Anil Ambani the reason? Who authorised tapping of Amar Singh’s phone?
4. In the Vibrant Gujarat event in January 2009 quite a few industrialists endorsed Modi as PM. Participants at the event included Ratan Tata, Mukesh Ambani, Anil Ambani and Sunil Mittal apart from many others. Did such pronouncements scare the UPA on which way the funds would flow during the general elections in May? Did this also influence the phone tapping approval?
5. On the CNN-IBN pages Arun Shourie mentions he was replaced as the first opposition speaker in the LS on the budget (2009) with N. Venkiah. This was supposedly to soften any opposition to budget proposals that favoured the Mukesh Ambani group. It is reported this was as a consequence of conversations on the Radia tapes. So was the budget framed to favour Mukesh Ambani? And if so, why? Will Pranab Mukherjee explain? Arun Shourie also clearly mentions that the voice suggesting the change was that of N.K. Singh. What was N.K. Singh’s interest?
6. The second round of phone tapping was authorised in May 2009 according to press reports. Was this again for IT purposes? It hardly seems likely. And this time the home minister was P. Chidambaram. As Finance Minister in August 2008 did he approve the phone tapping? And in 2009 if it was for IT purposes was the tapping approved by Pranab Mukherjee?
7. Is it possible that there might be some minister in the government who may have initiated the phone tapping for not having gotten a decent share of the 2G scam pie?
8. P. Chidambaram mentioned surveillance is justified for investigating IT and economic offences. Is he suggesting that any such offence can be prosecuted based on secret phone-taps? Are no documentary evidences of violations required for IT and economic offences? Has the government conducted any raids or procured any documents as a follow up to the phone conversations? This doesn’t seem to be so. So the entire motive behind the phone tapping is seriously suspect.
I can keep adding to these questions but it’s time the media started asking really serious questions over the whole issue. It is unfortunate that the media itself is on the defensive owing to the leaks of some tapes. That, however, may be the very purpose with which some select tapes were leaked. To put the media on the defensive to avoid the real questions about the conspiracies hatched by those in the government (and maybe even in the opposition)
My own assessment is that based on reports so far there seems to be no serious evidence of any wrong doing against Nira Radia. And she will probably not even be prosecuted. She does what lobbyists do. It is our government and our media that isn’t doing what it is supposed to do. The phone tapping appears to be nothing more than political eavesdropping and some senior minister in the government has to be involved. It wouldn’t be too hard to guess who.
Hopefully, the media will now wake up and start asking harsh questions and not run comedy shows like Cuckoo on the couch, Foodie, Secret Kitchen and so on. Real news media must ask real questions. If readers of this blog have any more such theories I welcome those authors and will be happy to carry their articles.