In this conversation between Niira Radia and the former CII head, they discuss cabinet formation in UPA-II. Radia wants Tarun Das to convey to the Congress that its leaders should talk to Kanimozhi, not to Dayanidhi Maran. She also pushes A. Raja for the telecom portfolio. The conversation reveals the divide in the Karunanidhi family, with Azhagiri and Kanimozhi on one side and the Marans on the other.
Tarun Das: I’m going to South Africa for two matches tonight. And now I’m going in for the swearing-in ceremony for which I have been invited without your friends from the DMK.
Niira Radia: Yeah... But can you please tell the Congress, please, they are listening to Dayanidhi Maran. They are talking to the wrong people. Karunanidhi does not even know what’s going on. He gave them (Congress) a list on Monday night, which was Dayanidhi Maran for railways; Azhagiri, surface (transport); Kanimozhi, health; power, Baalu; and telecom, Raja.
NR: He (Karunanidhi) knew power and railways would get dropped. He needed them (Congress) to come back and say I cannot give you this and this. He’d have dealt with the rest of it himself. Instead, Congress went into a bit of a tizzy, didn’t know what they were saying to him, and it went all wrong and it allowed for Dayanidhi Maran to drive the bargaining. Whatever they’re telling Dayanidhi is not going back to Karunanidhi in its correct form. He’s (Maran) distorting everything that’s going to him.
NR: He’s (Karunanidhi) got one daughter saying she will commit suicide and his wife saying I will do this.... So if the Congress dealt with that list they may have got away with just two members of cabinet, because Azhagiri had agreed to be MoS independent if Dayanidhi was not made a cabinet minister.
‘I’ll take (Raja) to him. Sunil has been very arrogant too.’
NR: But Dayanidhi kept saying to his leader that Congress and Ahmed Patel have been in touch with him and Ahmed Patel has asked him to come for the swearing-in, while the leader has not authorised him to negotiate. They should have dealt with it through Kanimozhi who has been with him right through. Even the PM did that. They should have gone through Kanimozhi and she would have taken them directly to her father. The matter would have been resolved there. He does not want four. The only reason that four are being asked is because Azhagiri cannot be an MoS when Maran is a cabinet minister. So when they offered three and Maran kept on telling them that they wanted him to be a cabinet minister...
TD: Why don’t they keep Maran out? Why do they have to have Maran?
NR: He (Karunanidhi) needs a little help from the Congress on that because he thinks that Congress is supporting Maran. If Congress gives him a message that we have not given any message to Maran at all then they will get away with two cabinet because Kanimozhi and Azhagiri have both agreed that we will stick to MoS independent and Raja and Baalu can come—it does not matter—or we will bring someone new (instead of Baalu).
TD: Manmohan Singh does not want Raja and Baalu.
NR: He’s okay with Raja but he does not want Baalu.
TD: Yeah, Baalu has been terrible.
NR: He does not want Baalu so if someone can tell that to Karunanidhi about Baalu he’ll be fine with that. But he’s said about Raja that he cannot leave him out because he is a Dalit. I have to keep him in. And he’s closest so he won’t leave him out.
TD: But can he be put somewhere apart from telecom?
NR: You are far better having Raja in telecom because... he will behave himself. Trust me, he will behave himself.
TD: But there are too many people against him.
NR: That’s only Sunil Mittal...Raja has promised he will speak to Sunil Mittal and deal with the matter.
TD: Sunil has lobbied against him, I believe, I haven’t talked to Sunil.
NR: But telecom is being given to them (DMK) and I will tell you one thing that Karunanidhi will give telecom only to Raja and not to Dayanidhi. He’s very clear about that.
TD: Okay. I will talk to them (Congress).
NR: I can assure Sunil this will not be a problem. Raja will not go against him. He has to trust me on that one.
NR: I’ll take him (Raja) to him...Sunil has been very arrogant with him as well....it’s not just one-sided...if he hadn’t been the way he was this problem wouldn’t have arisen.
TD: Okay, I will talk (to Congress). I will let you know.
NR: But tell them to talk through Kanimozhi...
TD: Okay, done.
NR: Just let them know that even Karunanidhi is no great shakes about Baalu or Maran if Congress gives them (DMK) a little hint. They should just say that we are not pushing for Maran and Congress will drop him like a hot potato. They hate him.