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Amar?s disc secrets are out

Delhi?s political circles are reverberating with gossip about the famous Amar Singh tapes, writes Vir Sanghvi.

india Updated: Feb 24, 2006 08:44 IST

So, the waiting is finally over. For over a month now, Delhi’s political circles have reverberated with gossip about the famous Amar Singh tapes — recordings of telephone conversations allegedly featuring the Samajwadi Party MP.

Around a week ago, it was rumoured that a computer disc containing some of the conversations had been delivered to some media organisations. The disc, it was said, was professionally prepared and had the title Amar Singh ki amar kahaani printed on it. Apparently, it was contained within a copy of India Today. A note was attached to the magazine, directing the recipient to Page 2, where the disc was pasted.

Because of the ethical grey areas surrounding the tapping, media organisations were unsure whether to carry the contents of the disc. But on Thursday, Amar Singh himself broke the embargo. In an interview to NDTV — one of the organisations which had received the disc — he discussed most of the alleged conversations in detail, apparently confirming the authenticity of the tapes even though he maintained that his voice could have been morphed.

Why did Amar Singh choose to solve the media’s ethical dilemma himself? Did he not recognise that once the matter is in the public domain, it is certain to feature in every newspaper in the country?

In a city full of conspiracy theories, various views abounded. One version had it that he hoped to forestall the actual broadcast of the tapes. A second portrayed him as having been outwitted by NDTV. And a third — propounded, ironically, by a member of his own party who hates him — had it that Amar Singh was pleased that only the least incriminating conversations had been leaked to the press, and wanted to restrict the focus to these relatively innocuous dialogues.

But just how innocuous are these conversations anyway?

Though salacious interest will focus on the conversations with Jayaprada and Bipasha Basu, there is nothing terribly sensational or incriminating in any of them, despite rumours to the contrary.

In fact, only two sets of conversations can legitimately be said to be in the public interest. The first is the conversation between Amar Singh and Mulayam Singh which appears to focus on judges. Amar Singh went to great lengths in his NDTV interview to deny that these conversations amounted to trying to fix or manipulate the judiciary, but obviously, his detractors will take a different view.

The second set of conversations relates to the manner in which UP is being run as a crony-capitalist paradise. There are conversations between Amar Singh and friendly industrialists which suggest an unhealthy nexus between business and politics. There are other conversations in which bureaucrats are instructed to favour particular industrialists. And there are at least two conversations with Anil Ambani, one of which focuses on how to handle a rival industrialist, while the other talks about the ‘aarti’ Amar Singh will receive when a deal is concluded.

Nobody who knows Amar Singh well will be surprised by the contents of these tapes. And, in fact, it is entirely possible that Amar Singh will argue that there is nothing that he is ashamed of in his dealings with industrialists or his approach to judges.

But several questions remain. One: in the era of sting journalism, is it in the public interest to broadcast a secretly-taped conversation which provides evidence of manipulation of the judiciary and illegal gratification by politicians? Two: who is circulating these tapes? Amar Singh has asked the Supreme Court to order a judicial inquiry, but in his NDTV interview he appeared to blame Mukesh Ambani. And three: is this just the tip of the iceberg? Are there more conversations? And as spring approaches, are we into the season of the Amar Singh tapes?

First Published: Feb 24, 2006 02:28 IST