Niira Radia: Hi
N.K. Singh: Hi Niira
Niira Radia: I just wanted to tell you that I still think HT is a little compromised. We met up with both the editors – Sanjoy Narayan [of HT] and Subu Kumar [Possibly she means the editor of Mint, R. Sukumar] Subu Kumar is okay of Mint. But Sanjay Narayan yesterday... Manoj was in town. If you know Manoj Modi was here. And the sense I got from the conversations — and that I see the type of stories they are still carrying… You know they are still carrying that “Govt is not a respondent” in this matter when the Govt is clearly a respondent. Because the other side has circulated, a part of our SLP [Special Leave Petition] by crossing out the “govt is a respondent” part by inking it with white ink...
N.K. Singh: Ah, oh
Niira Radia: ... and showing it only as an “intervener”.
N.K. Singh: Uh, hun
Niira Radia: ... And of course the only paper that believes it is Hindustan Times at the end of the day
N.K. Singh: I saw that piece. And of course it’s likely mixed up with the fact of Anil having met all these guys. So I think it’s not very clear. I mean that story has been “masked” [or morphed?] as if to say that this is: a) A fact on the court thing and b) Mixed up with Anil’s meeting with these guys.
Niira Radia: Correct. But the thing that… what they tried to do was to tell everyone. And they called everyone that govt is not an intervener, sorry, not a respondent and…
N.K. Singh: Correct No what I mean is whether govt is an intervener or not, I mean the only person who is to decide this is: a) The govt and b) The court.
Niira Radia: Correct
N.K. Singh: And if the court decides that I'm not entertaining you as an intervener. (Inaudible) that’s the end of the story but it the court sort of pleads the govt as an intervener, so be it. These are not matters: a) whether govt wants to be an interferer or not is it the govt’s choice. Second, whether it is entertained or not is the courts decision. Right?
Niira Radia: Yeah but point I am making is that everybody else took no notice of it, but except only Hindustan Times.
N.K. Singh: Achaa I'm meeting Shobhna [Bhartiya, head of HT group, presumably] in an hour’s time and I'm going to speak to her about this
Niira Radia: Yeah, we were on this discussion yesterday with Manoj Modi, we met up Sanjay and we took them through everything. We are hoping that they have understood everything but I thought the body language was a bit… you know still… you can see that they are a bit… and when we asked what do you think we should have done? Manoj said that to them (Sanjoy Narayan and R.Sukumar, presumably), and their reaction was that the two brothers should merge again.
N.K. Singh: Their two brothers…?
Niira Radia: Should merge (Laughs)
N.K. Singh: Oh not bad yaar
Niira Radia: Laughs
N.K. Singh: Real good actually. Very good philanthropic advice
Niira Radia: Laughs
N.K. Singh: No right now I'm in another fire fighting. Because I was likely shut my mind from this. Because I'm in the immediate issue of what is going to happen to Pranab Mukherjee's announcement on the tax benefit to them on the gas [full deduction under Income Tax Act for business of laying and operating cross country natural gas or crude or petroleum oil pipeline network for distribution on common carrier principle]. Given that he has withdrawn it, in a way, because he has made it applicable only for only for NLEP VIII [actually NELP—National Exploration and Licensing policy—VIII is eighth round]. Right. No, this is revenue secretary doing some degree of championship there.
Niira Radia: Right
N.K. Singh: So working out a strategy. How to get this back? One of the complications is that between you and me, Mr Arun Shourie has gone and got himself completely on the other side.
Niira Radia: Yes
N.K. Singh: Because he has been promised a Rajya Sabha (seat) by Tony [Jesudasan, Anil Ambani camp's lobbyist] and co. and I yesterday checked, yes, Samajwadi has 50% surplus votes in UP which combined with surplus votes of BJP can give the BJP an extra ticket and why should therefore BJP deny itself from getting an additional Rajya Sabha on someone else’s strength? But that’s the promise given and therefore he was very, very, very critical of this whole gas thing and said in the BJP parliamentary board meeting, day before yesterday. Now whatever he said in that meeting, day before yesterday, is one aspect. But what attitude BJP will take on this whole issue of the debate on the finance bill, which is beginning from Monday, in both house of Parliament is of vital importance. Because if large number of opposition MPs and Samajwadi will definitely join in begin to say that Pranab Mukerjee has given a bad largesse… it will benefit only one company then a) Pranab Mukherjee is in the defensive and therefore the question of extending it to… huh… retrospectively goes out of the window. So this whole managing that stuff in a way and also I think, you know, Arun is speaking, Shourie is speaking as a listed speaker in the Rajya Sabha for the BJP but fortunately what we have managed to do is make him the second speaker but made Venkaiah [Naidu] the first. So I don’t know what is Mukesh’s relations with Venkaiah.
Niira Radia: (inaudible) had good relations with him.
N.K. Singh: Pardon?
Niira Radia: I thought PMS Prasad [Director in Reliance] had good relationship with Venkaiah.
N.K. Singh: He has?
Niira Radia: I thought so
N.K. Singh: Then I'm going to get you [him?] flown today to talk to Venkaiah because if he is the first speaker then he already takes a party line then it’ll be very difficult for Shourie in his second intervention to take a different line.
Niira Radia: Hmm…
N.K. Singh: Then we have to orchestrate who will speak. This is an immediate problem right now. Because frankly if this tax thing doesn’t go through then that’s a major initiative that fails to materialize because he has, Anil has also organized this: a) He tried to controversialise it b) He got the department to make it prospective and not retrospective. Whereas, really, all the roadshows that were done on the national exploration policy was on the explicit condition and understanding of this seven years tax break. So over looking all the understanding and ignoring everything and spreading disinformation that seems to have gathered momentum in the last 64 hours. That’s their hottest issue right now. Where we attack this and I take note of what you tell me about HT. Huh?
Niira Radia: No, no problem… I knew that was an issue cause all these queries were coming in. It was pretty bad in terms of… They kept on saying that were going to earn 81,000 crores of benefit out of that you know and that he could have given it to us retrospectively and all that. That’s the sort of queries that they’ve put out in the media.
N.K. Singh: Yeah that’s right.
Niira Radia: We killed most of that. None of that has appeared. So just checking whether…
N.K. Singh: No, I don’t want this to come up in features in Parliament. Because that’s the most immediate thing that influences government mind. Because those guys, Like PM and FM are sitting there and several MPs beginning to talk all this. That influences them in a very immediate sense of the term. Not everybody agrees what’s written in so many papers and journals. Whatever is spoken there is directly heard by these guys.
Niira Radia: Correct. Correct. And the FM's view you on this?
N.K. Singh: I think having done what he did, he is now unable to undo the damage which has been given the interpretation. So the request made by the petroleum ministry for them to reconsider has been routinely turned down by the revenue secretary. You see? So in effect, if that happens, and the revenue secretary... [seems to be a jump] we will benefit out of this. Because then it becomes completely from the eighth round. And that means not here or there. Where as all roadshows that were done, this was one of the conditions on which the investment came in.
Niira Radia: Correct
Somebody will have to point out that this was an assurance given in promoting the investment basket and this opportunity you cannot retrospectively curtail an opportunity. Instead of giving a largesse, this is only sticking to a commitment given earlier. This is the point of view which has to…
(audio ends abruptly)