One of the most enduring legacies of the UPA-II is that of the Radia tapes. It acquainted us with how the narrative is set, Cabinet berths negotiated, the disgraceful nexus between journalists and politicians and the political impunity to brush aside the scam. Not only was this issue hastily swept under the rugs but also all the dramatis personae involved in brokering the deals in Delhi’s power corridors have escaped unscathed from its implications.
Some of those who have had central roles in these tapes have suddenly disappeared from the face of Earth. Others who were in the thick of the controversy have rubbished the tapes as doctored and extenuated themselves from any wrongdoing. In fact, it is a glorious irony that one of them, Vir Sanghvi, who allegedly sought the lobbyist Niira Radia’s opinion on how ‘slanted’ does she wanted an article to be is today hosting a news programme with the name ‘Virtuosity’. The other journalist who featured in Radia tapes, M K Venu, today, has started his own leftist propaganda organisation ‘The Wire’ to counter the ‘supposed’ propaganda run by the MSM, notwithstanding the fact that he actively promotes fabricated and concocted stories through his social media account.
Another liberal lodestar, perhaps the cynosure of this story is Barkha Dutt, who sounded as an alleged conduit for Congress in the Radia tapes, relaying the information sought by Ms Radia and seeking directions from her when in doubt. According to the conversation transcripts between her and Niira Radia, Ms Radia was lobbying against the reappointment of Dayanidhi Maran to the post of Union IT and Communications minister and Barkha was actively mediating between the two parties to somehow end the stalemate and form a government at the centre.
In the 2009 elections, the Congress emerged as the single largest party but evidently, it was short of the 272-mark to claim a stake at the government. Congress needed DMK’s support to form the government. As a result, DMK came with a set of demands including Cabinet berths and ministerial positions for some of its ministers. The ensuing impasse sparked off a series of negotiation which the transcripts between Radia and Barkha allude to.
Niira and Barkha talked multiple times over amidst the raging imbroglio. It can be inferred from the conversation between the two that Congress and DMK were not on the same page as far as the conditions of extending the support to Congress was meant. DMK was presented with labour, fertiliser, Chemical and IT ministeries by Congress in return for DMK’s support. However, the lack of communication between the Congress party and DMK chief Karunanidhi caused the stalemate. According to the transcript, DMK’s Maran was not relaying the correct information to Karunanidhi, so Radia asked Barkha to ask Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad to speak to Karunanidhi and convey Congress’ stand on the matter to him.
However, in her defence, in a debate on NDTV alongside senior journalist Dileep Padgaonkar, Swapan Dasgupta, and Manu Joseph, Barkha appeared to brazen it out saying, “I was desperate for news, I took it from whoever I did. My error of judgment is that one got to be careful about how one talks to somebody who has a special interest and I acknowledge that inadvertent, innocent error of judgment.”
The impasse was eventually sorted out and A Raja from DMK was handed the ministry of IT and Telecom by the Congress then. It is pertinent to note that it was under A Raja, that the serious charges of arbitrarily allocating the 2G spectrum and crony capitalism were levelled against the government by the CAG.
It is now being reported that Barkha Dutt is going to be a part of a new news channel sponsored by Congress Minister Kapil Sibal, who had famously expounded the 0 loss theory in regards to the arbitrary 2G spectrum allocation. The Supreme Court, however, didn’t buy his theory and later cancelled the arbitrary spectrum allocation and ordered the government to have a fresh auction for the 2G spectrum bands.
It is also noteworthy to mention that the most of the opposition leaders who were part of the UPA-II coalition government have come together to display their show of strength and unity in a Mahagathbandhan rally held today in Kolkata organised by West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee. The agenda of the meet was to somehow depose Modi out of power in the 2019 elections. Each one of them purportedly sees a potential chance to strike negotiations for ‘lucrative’ ministries on the condition of extending their respective party’s support to form the government at the centre. And a friendly media channel funded by Kapil Sibal with their favourite journalist, Barkha Dutt, might just give them a much-needed push, with or without Niira Radia.
In any civilised country, a journalist who was a political conduit would be shunned to oblivion. In India, the Congress ecosystem reportedly led by Kapil Sibal, no less, has co-opted Barkha Dutt yet again, the stains of the Radia scandal washed away in a Hail Mary pass by the Congress. A last ditch effort for the Congress to turn the narrative in their favour.
The emergence of a strong leader in Narendra Modi has set desperation among the opposition leaders who are staring at their increasingly irrelevant political careers. Radia tape case serves as a reminder to us about the potential outcomes when seemingly incongruous and ideologically disparate parties come together to form a government at the centre. If this happens, this time around the opposition will not be naive enough to let their conversations of striking underhand negotiations for Ministerial berths be drawn out in open, much less be snooped on by the administrative agencies.