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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Nobody fears SONIA GANDHI

Source: rediff
Arun Shourie feels the government has reached the tipping point
In part one of this interview, Arun Shourie, former newspaper editor, twice member of the Rajya Sabha, former Union minister, right-wing thinker and author, explained the minefield of the 2G spectrum scam and the Niira Radia tapes. Part I: 'BJP and Congress are one party'
In the concluding part of the interview with Rediff.com's Sheela Bhatt , he explains why Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh are losing control over the government and the Congress party.
One of the issues revealed in one of the Radia tapes is that you were not given a chance to speak on a Budget-related issue in Parliament.
In her conversation with N K Singh, a former bureaucrat and now a Janata Dal-United MP, she says she didn't want you to be given a chance to speak by the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party).
Did you discover the alleged pressure on your party from the tapes or did you know about it before?
Do you think corporate people can influence the BJP?
Why don't you listen to the tape? I was astonished when I reached Parliament that day. But what can you do? I didn't know that such pressure had worked.
I don't blame the corporates as much as the political process and then these lies are being put out (in defence by the BJP).
And my friend N K Singh says this was a social chat. Arre, look at your tone. You are talking for nine minutes to Radia. Out of that for five minutes he speaks on how he was successful in subverting the BJP's speakers in the debate on the Budget.
N K Singh now says he rejected the proposal that favoured Mukesh Ambani's Reliance when he was revenue secretary.
How interesting! Then what about the tape? This concession (to Reliance's gas project) was made by (Union Finance Minister) Pranab Mukherjee.
A revenue secretary, who has written some clarification, overruled this concession. (N K Singh says on the tape) 'We have to get it restored, otherwise we are nowhere. The initiative they have taken will go nowhere.'
Therefore, Arun Shourie who has taken the difficult position in the BJP's party meeting, has to be managed, he says. He then says, we have got Venkaiah Naidu to speak first.
Somebody has analysed Venkaiah Naidu's speech, in which the sentence is there (supporting Reliance) that all these tax concessions must be continued and given for the gas infrastructure. Where is the doubt?

That's why you are saying that the BJP and Congress are the same.

From all sorts of circumstances. Why is the investigation into the IPL (Indian Premier League) not being pursued? Because you find the same group (the Congress and the BJP) is everywhere.

It is now only the pretence of the government and the Opposition. Actually, they are the same.
Unless, the people of India wake up these things will go on. No issue will reach its conclusion. This is cancer. This is not a scandal.

Have you seen a detailed debate on Indian defence, on the dangers that India is facing from China?

When I was writing on it three years, five years and even ten years ago about China they would say 'paranoia'! I wrote on Islamic terrorism, about Pakistan.

Have you seen anybody taking up these issues in New Delhi? Television will debate the issue to find out who is responsible.

Someone says Nehru, some will say Indira Gandhi, some will blame (P V) Narasimha Rao or Manmohan Singh. The debate is over and now let's go and see Shilpa Shetty!
That's the problem! Just drama that is going on and on. Inside Parliament, it is arranged drama.
  You have heard the 100 plus Radia tapes uploaded on the Outlook Web site. It gives us an insight into India 2010. It's a very important insight. That's why I am urging people please, please listen to it. I am urging people to please publish verbatim.
Please bring out books. Please bring out CDs and reproduce it. So, that people would know how things are managed in government, in the Opposition and in the media.
How polices are being made, how personnel are being fixed. It's a wonderful glimpse. We owe a great degree of thanks to Niira Radia, and, to the persons who recorded these calls and to the person who leaked it.
And, a very important point: These tapes also show the power of the Internet.
Apart from Open and Outlook, the whole print media blacked it out, but Internet users had perseverance. The Hindu has taken it up now. Individual journalists like Girish Nikam and others are pursuing it. Now, the tapes have got some focus.
What has surprised you in Radia's conversations?
Nothing has surprised me. This is what I have been saying since long is the state of affairs. That is now confirmed by these tapes.
This is not the state of affairs of India. The Radia tapes reveal the state of affairs in New Delhi.
When you were a journalist and a top editor, you shifted to politics.
In those years when you were moving from media to politics, obviously, even your phone call would suggest that you crossed that red line. Don't you think so?

I don't think so. You can tap my phone, anytime. What red lines? I consider myself a writer.
When I was in government everybody said I am not a politician. That's true. I am not a politician. I don't think my behaviour with my contact would be different than my writing.
If you ask me today, 'Do you know Radia?' Yes, I met her once. What is there to hide?

Did you ever think that Radia would be so powerful?

I thought she was an articulate lady. I never thought that she knows everybody -- very effective in her job. We can't blame her.

What's the solution for the Indian media?

First, the media should write about itself. It is extremely short-sighted about the media to black out these things. The Mitrokhin Archives (external link) revealed how (the then Soviet intelligence agency) the KGB boasted that they were able to plant 400 stories in such and such Indian newspapers.
The Indian media blacked it out. Then, privatetreaties.com (external link) of The Times of India that other people have now adopted has been completely blacked out.
Only two, three journalists are exposing it on the Internet. Again, on the issue of paid news, only P Sainath of The Hindu wrote about it.
When the Press Council of India was forced to appoint a committee to look into the allegations about 'paid news', the Press Council itself suppressed the report.
These Radia tapes should be a gold mine for Indian media to show how things work in New Delhi. The whole issue has come down to Vir Sanghvi and Barkha Dutt. That is not the whole issue.
The arguments forwarded by many media outlets is that the source of the Radia tapes is not known and nobody is sure if they are doctored or not.

That's just the dammed rationalisation. Has any single person disputed the voices on the Radia tapes? No. Has anybody been able to prove that tapes have been edited? No.

Barkha Dutt has written to that effect.

She has written, but what else did you talk about? Is that not clear enough? We can't go by the rationalisation that has been offered.

Another issue that has cropped up relates to privacy.

How many private things in Indian journalism has not been disclosed? Every second day the Indian media is disclosing people's private matters. Only in this matter are they sanctimonious about the Right to Privacy.
Do you think Ratan Tata is right when he says that?

It's a separate matter. The distinction has to be there between private talk and the matter that has impact on public policy that is not covered by the Right to Privacy law. I don't think even Ratan Tata has asked to that effect.

He only says that his private conversation with Radia that relates to personal things should not be leaked. There are personal things like what kind of food he likes etc. But, why should the tapes of his conversations, which are in the public domain, not be heard?

Take the case of WikiLeaks. Is the Indian media reporting or not?
Are they verifying the authenticity of the source? Are they contacting the persons concerned? Are they checking if these cables are edited or not? No.

Yet, they are carrying it. These are arguments manufactured for shutting your eyes.
Do you think the (EM>United Progressive Alliance UPA-2 is increasingly losing its sheen?

The cancer is now in the fourth stage in our governance structure.
It has reached what (writer Malcolm) Gladwell has called the tipping point.
I feel the prime minister has lost complete control of the government. Sonia Gandhi has lost control over the political processes and of the Congress party.
Nobody fears her. Till now, she was the supreme court. The way Congressman feared her, they don't fear her now.
That is why you see how she took time to take action in Andhra, Maharashtra and corruption in the Commonwealth Games. They kept saying the government is not doing anything on the CWG.

There was an sms doing the rounds where someone asked why the government did not act when the country was getting such a bad name? The answer was that nobody told the prime minister that the Games are going on!
Similar is the case of Sonia Gandhi. She has unlimited authority within the Congress, and therefore in the government.
When the country's name was jeopardised, if not the prime minister, she should have acted. Both have lost authority in their respective space.

In May 2009 everything was looking so hopeful and good for the Congress party. Why this transformation?

Because of the tipping point. Things go wrong inside the body and we don't realise.
Second, I have seen during Rajiv Gandhi's time that the prime minister and rulers are often misled by the fact that they control the situation within Parliament. But they don't realise that the situation outside Parliament is going out of their hands.

This is what happened to Rajiv Gandhi. He had three-quarters majority in the House. He thought he controlled everything. He was in control, but things outside Parliament slipped out of his hands. The same things are repeating today.

They must be thinking that we have won. We have managed other smaller parties. The Opposition party is our pocket borough! We have managed them. They were confident of them. Call them for dinner and praise them a little bit in public.
People can be driven by flattery; you don't even need to give them money.

Some small fry could be praised in public. They became instruments in the hands of the government. The government felt cosy in that position. Suddenly things went out of hand.
Do you agree with the BJP's demand for a JPC (Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the 2G spectrum scam?

The JPC will derail the investigation. The government will get a perfect alibi for two years that the probe would go on.
There were JPCs on Harshad Mehta, Ketan Parekh, insecticides. What happened to them?
If a JPC is formed, then the issue of 2G spectrum will be killed. The CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation is now doing the job.

A Raja is out and there are many indications that they are pursuing the matter. I know from personal knowledge that the CBI has got details of the transactions involving many, many telecom players and Raja.
The best way is for the CBI's investigation to be monitored by the Supreme Court.

There is the petition to that effect by advocate Prashant Bhushan. He says it should be monitored by independent people. I think it should be monitored by Chief Justice S H Kapadia in whom we have faith.

The CBI itself has said the investigation will be over by March. We should wait till then.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

'BJP and Congress are one party' : Arun Shourie

Source: Rediff

Arun Shourie discusses the real meaning of the Radia tapes with Rediff.com's Sheela Bhatt Arun Shourie Arun Shourie is a former newspaper editor, twice a member of the Rajya Sabha, a former Union minister, right-wing thinker and author of 25 books.
He is currently working on this 26th book at the Lavasa complex near Pune, an attempt to understand human suffering through various religions.
Despite the spiritual thrust of his latest book, Shourie, 69, keeps a sharp eye on New Delhi [ Images ].
Here he takes readers through the minefields of the 2G spectrum scam and the Niira Radia tapes and explains how the political milieu in New Delhi has reached the tipping point.
The first of a two-part conversation:
How can we make sense of what is happening in New Delhi after the expose of the 2G spectrum scandal and the release of the Niira Radia tapes?
What's the bigger message that comes out of Radia's conversations?
This shows the extent of corporate penetration into government, into the media and into details of policy making.
The main point that emerges from the tapes is the level of corporate penetration. These tapes have shown that everybody is now linked to everybody else.
Democracy survives on counter-rallying power. It survives when there are alternate sources of authority. But now those have joined hands. There is, what my friend (Union Urban Development Minister S) Jaipal Reddy has once called, an invisible government of India [ Images ] which is completely stable.
The visible Government of India keeps changing, but that invisible government of India remains completely stable.
That is the real danger because now the Opposition is no different from the ruling party, whichever is the ruling party. The influence of those puppeteers behind the scene works on both sides. As a result, no issue is pursued to conclusion.
Is the 2G issue a new one? No. It is two years old. I know how I have taken documents to editors, to senior people in government. How can it be that only one reporter in one newspaper The Pioneer was following it? He was not withholding information, but not one newspaper or television channel touched it.
Today also the reportage is about what (former telecom minister) A Raja says, what Arun Shourie says. Is that the end of the story? I hardly read newspapers now. I just don't watch television. There is nothing to be learnt.
Why are journalists going for sound bytes? Why don't they take the documents home, study it and come to their own conclusions? I can't understand.
I feel completely distanced from this profession (journalism) and, of course, politicians. They are in bed with each other and with everybody.
Don't you think the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party [ Images ]) also has a lot to answer for in the current situation?
I don't see the difference between the two. I feel they (the BJP and the Congress) are one party. They are jointly ruling. It is a dinner party. They meet at dinners. They meet socially. They decide on what has to be done about issues.
It is all very cooperative behaviour. They (the BJP) are shouting (for a Joint Parliamentary Committee). They know that it will kill the investigation.
A JPC will raise side issues and that is what both sides want. Because the corporates behind both sides are the same. They don't want the 2G spectrum investigation to proceed.
If you see the bigger picture of 2G spectrum, it is a battle between the old operators and the new operators in telecom...
But that's the separate issue...
It was during the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government led by the BJP that (then Union minister) Ananth Kumar introduced Niira Radia to the New Delhi set-up.
Yes, that's one point. I remember there was a report in that regard in the Indian Express which had an eight column front-page story just below the masthead. The story was about Ananth Kumar and Niira Radia's association with each other. I don't recollect if Annath Kumar was then the civil aviation or tourism minister.
I was astonished to read that such person has been named in the report. I was told by a very senior official about the observations made by some agency. He was in a position to know about the minister. He told me that the report about Ananth Kumar and Radia's association is correct and that is why no action was taken against the published report.
See, issues are not taken up in New Delhi by anybody. The political parties and corporates have complete liaison with the media. Its not just Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi, it is the whole lot involved with each other.
That's why political parties are not taking up the issue of the Radia tapes. The cpi-m (Communist Party of India-Marxist) shouted about the tapes, but the next day the story came that West Bengal [ Images ] Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya [ Images ] was dealing with Radia for the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation.
Now can the CPI-M [ Images ] shout 'crony capitalism' in the same way?
The problem is the homogenisation of India's political parties. All are becoming clones of each other. That means there is no counter-wheeling power any longer in the country.
Do you accept the argument of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's [ Images ] supporters and Congress leaders that there are limitations to a coalition government?
Also, a Congress leader claimed that you can't ask the government to abdicate the duty to govern by taking action under pressure.
Why have they taken action now? Has the coalition fallen? No. These arguments are not right.
The prime minister of India has unlimited power. Our system is so structured that the PM knows everything.
Yashwant Sinha [ Images ], when he was finance minister, told me an incident. He got a message from a leader of the state that s/he wanted to see him. He asked Prime Minister (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee if he could can meet that person. Vajpayee said he could meet her/him.
When Sinha went to the state he met the particular leader without anyone knowing about it. He had lunch and talked about all sorts of things. At the end of it, the leader gave him an envelope. He kept it in his pocket. He came to New Delhi and only then opened it.
It was a legal brief on why cases against that leader should not be pursued by the Enforcement Directorate. He put the envelope in his drawer and did nothing about it. He forgot the case.
Several days later he met Vajpayee and spoke about his meeting with the state leader. Vajpayee listened quietly and kept looking at him. At the end of the meeting he asked Sinha, 'Aur woh lifafa (what about the envelope)?'
Sinha was astonished since he had told no one about the meeting and he did not act on what was requested.
Unless the prime minister deliberately shuts his eyes there is no difficulty in knowing everything. It would be incredible that the prime minister would not know. The system is so structured.
Second, all the telecom dealings were done in public. The Prime Minister's Office would certainly read the newspapers. There was so much commotion in Sanchar Bhuvan that people were beaten up the day the allotment of 2G spectrum was announced.
The point is that the prime minister himself wrote a letter and as politely as possible gave instructions that please examine the issue of auctioning of spectrum and determining its price in a fair and transparent manner.
And his minister disregards that.
Do you think that the PM would not know that?
It was the letter signed by him that was ignored.
Coalition dharma doesn't mean that I will become protector of the corrupt.
I feel the prime minister must have known about the 2G issue. That's evident from all sorts of facts.
Second, coalition compulsions do not give you the licence to abdicate your duty.
If your minister is doing something wrong, as captain of the team, the prime minister owes the responsibility to the country to stop the minister.
If the PM had confronted (Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam [ Images ] chief M) Karunanidhi with all the evidence, I don't imagine he would have told the PM, 'Don't take action against Raja'.
It is possible that the Congress party must have prevailed over the PMO in that matter.
I don't know. I have heard the opposite. Six months ago, the Congress party had told the prime minister that you remove Raja and it is your responsibility to explain this matter to Karunanidhi. That is what senior leaders of the party have been saying.
I don't know the inner party politics of the Congress. But your point of view or mine is immaterial.
The material fact is that nothing was done. People are asking, 'Raja ke khilaf karwai kyon nahi ki? (Why was action not taken against Raja?)'

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