With Reliance Industries and the Tata group—two of India’s biggest corporate accounts —under her belt, Niira Radia’s areas of interest were clear—telecom and natural gas. Her brief (at the time of the tapes) was twofold. Ratan Tata needed her to ensure that Dayanidhi Maran did not get the telecom portfolio. Her hectic lobbying through Kanimozhi or ‘Kani’ (daughter of DMK supremo Karunanidhi and a member of parliament) and the apparent interventions of Barkha Dutt and Vir Sanghvi (who were liaising with the Congress Party) on behalf of A Raja, were clearly successful. A grateful Mr Raja, who could always be asked to ‘behave’ by the friendly ‘Kani’, was great for the Tata group.
Mukesh Ambani’s main concern those days was the allocation of natural gas which was fought all the way to the Supreme Court. Ms Radia successfully ensured the right media coverage by controlling access to her big clients or smoothly hinting at withholding advertising. She even dictates the line and length of a proposed interview with Mukesh Ambani to Vir Sanghvi. His subsequent articles clearly demonstrated Ms Radia’s influence. In one conversation, she discusses instigating the Shiv Sena and Raj Thackeray to organise a protest against Anil Ambani’s power project.
Interestingly, both her powerful clients had a common problem—a man called Anil Ambani. Mukesh was involved in a fight to deny him natural gas and her other big client, Ratan Tata, was fighting him in power and telecom. Ironically enough, telecom minister A Raja, who owed his Cabinet post to Ms Radia’s lobbying, was ‘won’ over by Anil Ambani on the spectrum allocation issue. But she quickly worked at creating a common front against Anil Ambani by enlisting the support of Sunil Mittal of Bharti Airtel.
Then there is her claim that civil aviation minister Praful Patel has pocketed a whopping Rs10,000 crore on purchases for Air India and Indian Airlines and that his sole intention was to strip the airlines which would help Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines. All in all, a stinkball of sleaze and corruption that gives the public a dose of reality. — Sucheta Dalal