By Girish Nikam
The nexus between the corporates, bureaucrats and politics is an issue which has dogged this country for a long time. However it has been routinely passed over, though periodically some song and dance of it is made in the media, before it gets buried in the next “breaking news”.
What this tape clearly indicate is the other danger of ex-bureaucrat-turned politicians’ influence over the Government and its policy making process, in nexus with the Corporates and their lobbyists. This tape shows how Niira Radia and an ex-bureaucrat-turned politician, both working in favour of the interests of the Mukesh Ambani-led Corporation, is plotting not only to neutralize the media, but also is trying to manipulate the internal functioning of a major political party like the BJP, in its choice of speakers in the Rajya Sabha on a crucial issue like Budget discussions, so as to suit their purpose.
It is also interesting to note how plotting is done to manipulate the government policies, in this conversation which lasts for over nine minutes, before it gets disconnected.
Further, nowhere in the conversation is the name of the male voice mentioned, though this site has decided to name the voice as that of N.K.Singh, after due deliberation and having consulted people who are familiar with him and his ways, and of course his voice. This decision has been taken also in the light of none of the people recorded in the vast number of tapes in the public domain already, have questioned the authenticity of it. In fact most have authenticated it by their defence.
N.K.Singh, one of the high profile former bureaucrats of this country, is an alumnus of Delhi School of Economics and St.Stephen’s college, Delhi, who joined the IAS in 1964 in the Bihar cadre.
He went on to hold some of the most crucial posts including Revenue Secretary (1996-98) and was the key man in policy making, during the entire NDA government, having first served as the Secretary to Prime Minister between Aug.1998 and April 2001, and as he himself claims on his website, “acted as the Prime Minister’s main advisor for economic and other issues”( http://nksingh.com/profile.pdf). He was then elevated as Member, Planning Commission, where he served from May 2001 to June 2004, until the advent of the UPA Government.
He then shifted to Bihar, his home state, as Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission of Bihar, after Nitish Kumar became the Chief Minister in 2006. His proximity to Nitish Kumar proved beneficial as he was sent to the Rajya Sabha on a Janata Dal(U) ticket in April 2008.
As mentioned earlier, despite his name not being mentioned in the tape, we are very sure that this voice belongs to N.K.Singh, though in the transcripts, we prefer to refer to him as “Unknown voice”. Please read on how this once one of the most powerful bureaucrats, and even now one of the most influential voice in the country and a Rajya Sabha member, is plotting and planning on behalf of Mukesh Ambani along with Niira Radia:
July 9,2009, 9.31.49 a.m
Unknown voice(UV): Hii Niira
Radia to Unknown voice: Hi, I just wanted to tell you that I still think that HT(Hindustan Times) is little compromised. We met up with both the Editors, Sanjoy Narayan and Sukumar(R.Sukumar, Editor of Mint newspaper, part of HT Group), Sukumar is OK, of Mint, (UV—ummm). But Sanjoy Narayan yesterday, Manoj(Modi, right hand man of Mukesh Ambani) was in town, you know Manoj Modi is here,(UV—haan) and the sense I got from the conversation and see the type of stories that they are still carrying, you know they are still carrying that the Government is not a respondent in this matter(Natural gas pricing issue in which the Ambani brothers are fighting each other), when the Government is clearly a respondent, because the other side(Anil Ambani’s) has circulated a part of our SLP(Special Leave Petition in supreme court) by crossing out the “Government is a respondent part” by inking it with white ink(UV—ahh, ohh), and showing it only as an intervener(UV–hmmm, hmmm) and the only paper which believes it is the Hindustan Times.
UV to Radia— I saw that, I saw that piece, of course it is slightly mixed up with the fact of Anil(Ambani) yesterday having met, all these(?) guys, so I think it is not very clear, I mean the story has been morphed as if to say that this is a) from the fact of court thing and mixed up with Anil’s meeting with these(?) guys
Radia to UV—– Correct, but that the thing that what they(Anil Ambani side) tried to do, was that they called everyone and tell that Government is not a intervener, sorry not a respondent—\
UV to Radia— no, what I mean is that Government is an intervener or not, I mean is only ah ah, person is the Government and b) the Court.
Radia to UV—- Correct,
UV to Radia— if the court decides that I am not entertaining you as an intervener, (Radia— yes), so that’s the end of the story. But the court, u know, impleads Government as an intervener, so be it. These are not matters a) whether Government wants to be an intervener or not is Government’s choice, and second, whether it is entertained or not is the Court’s decision, right?
Radia to UV—- point I am making is that everybody else took no notice of it, but except only Hindustan Times.
UV to Radia— achha main, I am meeting Shobhna(Bhartia, Owner of Hindustan Times Group), in an hour’s time and I, I will speak to her about this, ah?
Radia to UV— yeah, we were in this discussion with them yesterday, with Manoj Modi( Right hand man of Mukesh Ambani) and we took them through everything and we are hoping that they understood everything, but I thought the body language was a bit, you know you can feel that they are a bit, I mean, when we asked what do you think we should have done, Manoj said that to them(Sanjoy Narayan and R.Sukumar), and their reaction was that the two brothers should merge again.
UV to Radia—the two brothers?
Radia to UV— should merge(ha ha)
UV to Radia—-oh, not bad yah,(Radia—ha ha ha ha), very good actually, very good philanthropic advice. (Radia—haaaaa haaaa haaaa haaa, but they–), now Niira I am in another fire fighting(Radia—oh), so I have slightly shut my mind from this(Radia—ok), because I am in the immediate issue of what is going to happen to Pranab Mukherjee’s (Finance Minister of India), announcement on the tax benefit( full deduction under Income Tax Act for business of laying and operating cross country natural gas or crude or petroleum oil pipeline network for distribution on common carrier principle) to them(Mukesh Ambani group) on the gas.(Radia—ok) Given that he has withdrawn it(Radia—correct) in a way. Because he has made it applicable only for NLEP VIII(actually NELP—National Exploration and Licensing policy—VIII is eighth round). So this Revenue Secretary is doing some degree of championship there. Ahhh, So now I am working out a strategy how to get this back. One of the complications in this is that, between you and me, Mr.Arun Shourie(the BJP member in Rajya Sabha) has gone and got himself completely on the other side(Anil Ambani side). (Radia—yes). Because he has been promised a Rajya Sabha(ticket) by, Tony(Jesudasan, Anil Ambani’s top media manager and lobbyist) and company(Arun Shourie was to retire shortly as member of Rajya Sabha at that point of time).
And yesterday I just checked, Samajawadi(Party) has a 50 percent surplus votes in UP, and in combine with 50 percent surplus votes of BJP can give the BJP(Radia—ummm, ummm) and extra ticket(Seat), and why should the BJP deny itself getting an additional Rajya Sabha(seat) on somebody else’s strength. So that, that’s the promise given and therefore he was very very very critical of this whole gas(pricing) thing and said in the BJP Parliamentary Board meeting day before yesterday( Radia—haan haan),. Now whatever he said in the meeting day before yesterday is one aspect(Radia— umm, umm), but what attitude BJP will take on this whole issue of the debate on the Finance Bill (he meant Budget discussions probably) which is beginning from Monday, in both Houses of Parliament is of vital importance( Radia—umm, ummm). Because if large number of opposition MPs, and Samajawadi(party) will definitely join, begin to say that Pranab Mukherjee has given a bad largesse to benefit only one company(Reliance Group of Mukesh Ambani), then a) Pranab Mukherjee is on the defensive and therefore the question of extending it (Tax concession to Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance for Gas exploration) retrospectively, goes out of the window.(Radia—ummm).
So this whole managing that stuff in a way, and also I think, you know, that Arun is speaking, Shourie is speaking as a listed speaker in the Rajya Sabha for the BJP. Now but fortunately what we have managed to do is make him Arun(Shourie) the second speaker and made Venkaiah (Naidu, another BJP member), the first.(see ET story on this issue here, http://m.economictimes.com/PDAET/articleshow/4764839.cms) So I don’t know what is Mukesh’s relations with Venkaiah—
Radia to UV— I thought (inaudible)—
UV to Radia— pardon me?
Radia to UV— I said , I thought (inaudible) saab has good relations with Venkaiah.
UV to Radia— He had?
Radia to UV— I thought so.
UV to Radia— Then I am going to get him flown in today(from Bombay to delhi, presumably), to talk to Venkaiah, because if he is the first speaker, and he already takes a party line, then it will be very difficult for Shourie in his second intervention(as second speaker of the party—BJP), to take a different line. (Radia—ummmm), Then we have to orchestrate who will speak,(Radia—ummm) you know, this is the immediate problem right now. Because, frankly, if this doesn’t go through, this tax thing, then its major initiative taking that fails to materialize. Because he has, Anil(Ambani) has also organized this. A) he tried to controversalise(sic) this and b) he made the department make it prospective and not retrospective( Radia—ummm).Whereas really, all the roadshows that was done on the National Exploration policy(NELP), was on a condition and explicit understanding of a seven year tax break. So overlooking all the understanding and ignoring everything and spreading this disinformation(by Anil Ambani), that seems to have gathered momentum in the last 64 hours, and it’s the hottest issue right now. Let me attack this, and I take note of what you tell me about HT(Hindustan Times), aah.
Radia to UV—- No, no problem, I just, I just, I just wanted to tell you, because all the queries were coming in and I was feeling pretty bad(UV—yeah, yeah), and they kept saying that we are going to earn Rs.81,000 crores benefit out of it(tax concession) and it is being, you know, given to us retrospectively, you know, and those sort of queries was being put out in the media.(UV—I know—), we killed(news appearing about it) most of them. None of them has appeared (UV—yeah, yeah), but thinking whether—
UV to Radia—- No I don’t want this to come out in Parliament. Because that’s the most immediate thing that influences the Government mind. Because if those guys, like PM(Prime Minister) and FM(Finance Minister) are sitting there, and if several MPs begin to talk all this— that influences the minds in the immediate sense of the term. (Radia—- umm, ummmm) not everybody may read whatever is written in so most of papers and journals. Whatever is spoken there (inside the House) is directly to heard by these guys.
Radia to UV— Correct, correct and the essewhat—–
UV to Radia— I think having done what we (Anil Ambani) did, he is unable to undo the damage which has been given in the interpretation. So the request made by the Petroleum ministry for them to reconsider will be routinely turned down by the Revenue Secretary. You know, in effect if that happens and the Revenue Secretary benefits (not quite audible) out of this, because that means its starts from the A ground , and that means we are not there. Because all road shows that were done, this was one of the conditions(Tax break) on which the investments came in. (Radia—correct). Somebody will have to point out that this was, this was an assurance given (Radia—umm), in promoting the investment basket. And this opportunity, you cannot retrospectively, curtail an opportunity. Instead of giving a largesse, this is only sticking to a commitment given earlier. This is the point of view which has to be——(gets disconnected).