After a brief lull, a second carefully timed Niira Radia bomb exploded on the eve of the Tamil Nadu elections. Strangely enough, instead of embarrassing the DMK government, this set of leaks targets agriculture minister Sharad Pawar. Apparently, way back in January, Niira Radia told the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) that Sharad Pawar ‘may be’ controlling the controversial
DB Realty and may even have called the disgraced former telecom minister A Raja regarding a licence for Swan Telecom. Funnily, nobody is asking why the CBI chose to create this distraction just as Tamil Nadu was getting ready to vote. But that’s not all. Almost every media firm that played down the Ms Radia tapes (phone taps by the Income-Tax Department) had something new to add.
The Indian Express reported that the Income Tax Department has handed 15,000 new phone conversations to the CBI. We wonder why they waited until after the charge-sheet on the 2G scam was filed. Network18 reported how all companies jockeying for telecom licences had made fat donations to Tamil Maiyam, an NGO run by Kanimozhi, the controversy-embroiled daughter of chief minister M Karunanidhi.
The donations were trifling compared to the size of the telecom scam—estimated at Rs1,76,000 crore by the CAG (the Comptroller and Auditor General of India)—but large by NGO standards. And, guess what, Tata Teleservices and Reliance Capital are among those who have donated Rs25 lakh each, just five days before the licences were awarded in January 2008. The others were: Unitech and Indiabulls (Rs50 lakh), Sistema Shyam TeleServices (MTS–Rs10 lakh). Another bidder, S Tel, loaned Rs50 crore to the Karunanidhi family-controlled Kalaignar TV.
The Hindustan Times reported how RK Chandolia, private secretary to A Raja, tried to get a juicy dealership for the super-luxury Jaguar cars owned by the Tatas. He also got her to place two people with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) in London and the UK. If that weren’t enough, minister A Raja himself was recommending Osiyan, a value-added telecom services company to Unitech and Tata Teleservices—both Ms Radia customers.
(This article first appeared in the edition of Moneylife magazine, dated 5 May 2011 that was available on the newsstands on 21 April 2011.)