The Congress has been caught on the wrong foot over names of some senior leaders figuring in the tapes of corporate lobbyist Niira Radia.
In the 5,800 phone conversations leaked to the media — Radia and others can be heard referring to Congress ministers Murli Deora, Kamal Nath and Anand Sharma, besides party spokesman Manish Tewari.
Some of these tapes posted on a website of a news magazine have damning references to not only these Congress leaders but NCP leader and civil aviation minister Praful Patel too.
The conversations also suggest how key portfolios were allocated when the Congress-led UPA government came to power for the second consecutive term in May 2009.
A visibly embarrassed Congress has so far avoided any comments on the issue and the general refrain is that the matter is sub-judice. “Obviously, such things are damaging for the party. They don’t raise the party’s prestige,” a Congress functionary said.
On the other hand, the Radia tapes have given a boost to an otherwise weak opposition.
BJP veteran LK Advani was quick to attack Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi. “Now we realise that the PM and the Congress president do not form the government. Look at... who are deciding who should get what portfolio,” he said.
The Congress is putting up a brave face. “The opposition, especially the BJP, is taking shelter behind these tapes to question the formation of the government. In fact, they find themselves cornered on the corruption issue,” a leader said.
The party also prefers to talk about former telecom minister Arun Shourie’s remarks in a television interview that he was removed as the first speaker from the BJP in a debate in the Rajya Sabha on the 2009-10 budget because he was to criticise certain proposals that favoured industrialist Mukesh Ambani.