Lobbyist Niira Radia’s role in the 2G scam raised questions for journalists and others who cosied-up to her for professional interests.
  • 1. What Are the Radia Tapes?
  • 2. Who Is Niira Radia?
  • 3. Who Sanctioned the Tapping?
  • 4. What Was A Raja's Link With the Radia Tapes?
  • 5. What Was the Role of Ranjan Bhattacharya?
  • 6. How Barkha Dutt Was Embroiled in the Controversy
  • 7. Vir Sanghvi: 'What Kind of Story do You Want?'
  • 8. Others Who Were Involved
  • 9. The Legal Tussle's Timeline
  • 10. Political Fallout
  • 11. Ethical Issues Raised by Radia Tapes
Radia Tapes: How One Woman’s Influence Peddling Led to a Snake Pit

In the history of scams in India, the Niira Radia tapes will be remembered as an episode that didn’t just cause embarrassment to the then ruling coalition, the UPA, but also cast a shadow on journalistic ethics, especially when eliciting information is the only concern, with no thought given to the means of doing the same.

Recorded between 2007-2009, these tapes included around 5,000 conversations between lobbyist-cum-entrepreneur Niira Radia and her clients – that included top-notch businessmen and politicians – as well as gossip with senior journalists who also seemed to be a conduit of information in the chain of events.

Probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in relation to the 2G scam, these tapes rocked the corridors of power with the transcripts revealing a cosy nexus between policymakers/ministers, corporate honchos, middlemen and scribes. According to Manu Joseph, former editor-in-chief of Open magazine, that first published the tapes, ‘The Radia Tapes raised many questions, it showed us how lobbying is done, how this country is run, how things work’.

At the heart of controversy were some of the top-notch businessmen, journalists and a PR professional all of whom seemed to be pushing for a deal between DMK and Congress with A Raja as the Telecom Minister after the general elections in 2009. Lobbying is an unregulated domain in India and that could be one reason why PR professionals are able to manipulate policies in favour of their paymasters.

The Quint revisits the controversy as we try and unravel the main characters and the plot behind India’s own version of Watergate scandal.

  • 1. What Are the Radia Tapes?

    In November 2010, Open was the first news magazine to publish, what was considered to be a huge risk, a cover story titled, ‘The X-Tapes’, sharing a tranche of telephonic conversation that sparked widespread outrage.

    Two days later, another weekly news magazine Outlook published audio files as well as transcripts of 140 conversations between lobbyist Niira Radia and politicians such as A Raja, Kanimozhi and Ranjan Bhattacharya, the foster son-in-law of former prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. These audio files also included tapped conversations between Radia and journalists such as Barkha Dutt, Shankkar Aiyar, Shalini Singh, late Jehangir Pocha and Vir Sanghvi among others.

    Lobbyist Niira Radia’s role in the 2G scam raised questions for journalists and others who cosied-up to her for professional interests.
    Cover page of Outlook magazine in November 2010.
    Source: Outlook Archives

    These conversations, collectively referred to as the ‘Radia Tapes’, were recorded by the Income Tax Department over a period of 300 days between 2007 to 2009.