Wiretap on lobbyists, journalists reveal links at top?

New Delhi: Days after the resignation of A. Raja as communications minister over the 2G spectrum scandal, Open magazine has uploaded on its website what it claims are phone chats among leading lobbyists, industrialists, politicians and journalists, giving a sneak peek into what it says are the “networks of power” reflecting “how this country is run”.

The transcripts of conversations on the website – both as transcripts and audio files – pertain to the time after 2009 elections when the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was putting together the ministerial list.

The bulk of the conversations purportedly refer to the intense lobbying – and even counter-lobbying – that went into securing ministerial berths for members of the DMK and how each person in the fray was trying to outdo the other.

The introduction to what are called X-Tapes, on the website of the magazine brought by the RPG Group, says: “The phone lines of the head of Vaishnavi Communication, Niira Radia, were twice placed under surveillance by the Income Tax Department (based on a tip-off by the Central Board of Direct Taxes) for a few months in 2008 and 2009. Niira Radia is a woman of formidable networking and PR skills, so much so that she represents both the Tata and the Mukesh Ambani group. Some of these recorded phone conversations are now available with Open; they were placed before the Supreme Court this week by petitioners Centre for Public Interest Litigation, represented by senior counsel Prashant Bhushan.

“He had moved the Supreme Court with a plea that the 2G spectrum investigation that involves Raja should be monitored by the Court in view of the mounting evidence.”

Quoting the petitioners, it said: “These conversations were given by the Directorate of Income Tax (Investigations) to the CBI more than a year back. A copy of the taped conversations of Radia with Respondent No. 5 (A. Raja), other politicians, Ratan Tata, other corporates, senior journalists and certain middlemen in a CD are annexed as Annexure P35… Some of the transcripts of the conversations which relate to the lobbying for making Respondent No. 5 as Telecom Minister are annexed as Annexure P36.”

These recordings, which appear to be only a small part of the recordings made available by the IT department to the CBI, were made in the period of surveillance from May 11, 2009 to July 11, 2009, the magazine said.

It went on to say that the magazine was in no position to endorse the contents of the recordings. But as the material was now in the public domain, it was placing them on record. It said the transcripts formed “just a small part of the information contained in the recordings submitted to the court”.

The magazine did not make any attempt to get the versions of the personalities named in the transcript.

In response to a mail from IANS, Open editor Manu Joseph said: “I am confident of the authenticity of the tapes. Otherwise we would not have carried the story.

“Also, the transcripts are from a set of recordings that have been presented as evidence in the Supreme Court in a petition filed Nov 15 by the Centre for Public Interest Litigation.”

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