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New Radia tapes exposed, show lobbying for Raja

delhi Updated: Dec 11, 2010 20:40 IST

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Outlook magazine Saturday released what it called the second tranche of tapped conversations of corporate lobbyist Nira Radia and claimed they point to a nexus between politicians, corporates and the media to lobby for A. Raja to help him retain his communications portfolio.

The magazine says the tapes pertain to the time the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was voted back to power in May 2009 and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was deciding on his new cabinet, amid murmurs of an alleged scam in the allotment of second generation (2G) telecom spectrum, or airwaves.

"It is clear they (the tapes) shine a grisly mirror on the interplay between government and big business, with the media at the end of the frame, at the time Manmohan Singh was forming his cabinet," the magazine said on its website.

In one of the conversations, Radia is purportedly heard telling Tarun Das, then chief mentor of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), that DMK chief M. Karunanidhi was insistent party member Raja retain his portfolio, despite questions over the manner in which airwaves were allotted to telecom firms.

The tapes are part of the evidence under scrutiny by the Supreme Court in a public interest litigation that wants the apex court to monitor cases against Raja. The court had Friday declined to stay the publication of the Radia tapes.

Raja, a senior leader of DMK, had resigned as communications minister Nov 7 after reports that the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had indicted him in the 2G spectrum saga for causing a notional loss of billions of rupees while allocating the airwaves in 2008.

"Karunanidhi wants Raja because he is a Dalit. The prime minister is only insistent that former shipping minister T.R. Baalu should not be in the cabinet," Outlook quoted Radia as telling Das in one of her conversations.

"She also indicates to Das that the octogenarian Tamil Nadu chief minister was trapped between a daughter who threatens to commit suicide and a wife who wants to do this," said the magazine.

Radia then requests Das to convey to the Congress that they should only talk to DMK Rajya Sabha member Kanimozhi, who has a direct line to her father, Karunanidhi, and that the Congress must not talk to Dayanidhi Maran, another contender for a ministerial berth.

The magazine says it has unearthed 800 new tapes, over and above the 140 that were released in the last tranche.

The interception of phones was done by the Income Tax Department and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) while probing an alleged "criminal conspiracy" between certain public servants and private individuals in the grant of telecom licenses in 2007-08.

The latest expose comes in the wake of an exchange of open letters between Tata group chairman Ratan Tata and former telecom entrepreneur Rajeev Chandrasekhar on the telecom policy and the awarding of 2G spectrum and an assurance by the government Friday to the apex court that it will check further leaks.

The government, explaining the reason for Radia's phone being tapped, has also said in an affidavit to the Supreme Court, "A complaint was received by the finance minister dated Nov 16, 2007 alleging that Radia had within a short span of nine years built up a business empire worth Rs.300 crore."

The complaint also alleged that "she was an agent of foreign intelligence agencies and that she was indulging in anti-national activities." The affidavit said, "On this complaint it was directed that the matter should be examined."

The 2G spectrum saga has also led to a complete paralysis of parliament for three weeks, with the opposition unrelenting in its demand for a parliamentary probe - which the treasury has outrightly ruled out.