[Reader-list] Full transcript of Nira Radia tapes...

Appu Esthose Suresh appu.es at gmail.com
Fri Nov 19 12:50:58 IST 2010


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

“What kind of story do you want? Because this will go as Counterpoint, so it
will be like most-most read...” —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.
VIR: Yeah.
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.
VIR: Yeah.
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.
VIR: Right.
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 prob•lem. 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: Yeah.
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
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.
VIR: Okay.
RADIA: How what has happened as far as the order is concerned is completely
against national interest.
VIR: Okay.
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.
VIR: Right.
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.
VIR: Okay.
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 commit•ted 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.
VIR: Okay.
RADIA: Anil Ambani is getting the benefit without spending a cent on it…
VIR: I’ll make those points, no?
RADIA: Yeah.
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
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…
VIR: Yeah.
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.
VIR: Yeah.
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.
VIR: Okay.
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.
VIR: Okay.
RADIA: And I’ve been, you know, we re-united since yesterday. The problem
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.
VIR: Right.
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.
VIR: Okay.
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.
VIR: Okay.
RADIA: Which blames Baalu, Raja and Maran Cabinet posts independent to
Alagiri and MOS to Kani.
VIR: Okay.
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.
VIR: Okay.
RADIA: He is far too, too senior for Maran. So, what he has told his father
that if you make Maran a Cabinet minister…
VIR: Yeah.
RADIA: …I’ll not come into the Cabinet. And the father cannot afford to
upset him because…
VIR: Obviously.
RADIA: …simply because of his position.
VIR: Yeah.
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.
VIR: Okay.
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
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
VIR: Okay.
RADIA: He has no problem with three Cabinet berths at all. In fact, it is
the Congress that messed it up.
VIR: Mm...hmm.
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].
VIR: Yeah.
RADIA: And Kani [inaudible; 0:03:27] will take them to her father directly.
VIR: Okay.
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.
VIR: 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.
VIR: Okay.
RADIA: And some Tamil Nadu Congress guys also want just now to meet her.
VIR: Okay.
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
VIR: Hello.
RADIA: Sorry to disturb you.
VIR: Hi, no problem.
RADIA: They had a meeting.
VIR: Okay.
RADIA: MK Narayanan [National Security Advisor at the time] had come.
VIR: Okay.
RADIA: And as suggested it was Kani only.
VIR: Okay.
RADIA: And they had a… they are still stuck to their four formula and one
VIR: Okay.
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.
VIR: Okay.
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.
VIR: Okay.
Radia: So, I believe Maran has given about 600 crores to Dayalu, Stalin’s
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…
VIR: Yeah.
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.
VIR: Okay.
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.
VIR: Yeah.
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.
VIR: Yeah.
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.
Radia: Hmm?
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
RADIA: Yeah.
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…
VIR: Yeah.
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.
VIR: Okay.
RADIA: That, the old man is very clear about.
VIR: Okay.
RADIA: But as far as the other two are concerned, he doesn’t mind. He is not
very fussed about chemical, fertilisers and labour.
VIR: Okay.
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…
VIR: Yeah.
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.
VIR: Yeah.
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.

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