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Will the real Tarun Tejpal stand up please?

Will the real Tarun Tejpal stand up please?

Author: Anil Narendra
Publication: The Organiser
Date: April 1, 2001
 
Shri Tarun Tejpal and his team of "tehelka.com." must he congratulated for their explosive and sensational expose. Indeed they have done a commendable work to expose corruption especially in defence area. However, there are some serious questions that also need answers. The tehelka team says their objective was to expose the corrupt system. While there can be no denying that the entire system has got corrupt and needs immediate surgery, but was that the only objective?

The entire operation has been conducted like a typical James Bond kind of 'spy operation'. The dot corn set up a factitious, decoy company selling non-existent product to break into the secret cover of wheeler-dealers inside and outside the government. Tehelka which had exposed the cricket seam very much the same way last year began its prove into defence deals in August 2000. It set up a special team of two staffers, Aniruddha Bahal and Mathew Samuel, to sell the non-existent hand held cameras, working their way from a section officer in DGOS through the ladder to lieutenant colonels, brigadiers, generals. The total cost of the operation, "Westend" to tehelka was Rs 11 lakh in bribes, entertainment and consideration.

To begin with who funded "Operation Westend"? No one is prepared to accept that the cat an operation like this came to only Rs. 11 lakh. The kind equipment used in this operation has not been seen or heard of in this country so far. A lot of background work must have been done to reach the right people. Who helped in the preparation of the dossiers of such officers? Bureaucrats etc? Then the question arises, who provided them with the details of the kind of specific equipment the Defence Ministry requires. Special types of spy equipment must have been used. All that you have to do these days is to turn the antenna of your miniature camera in the direction of the scene of action and they are that sensitive that they will record everything. While costs range between Rs 60,000 and Rs. 5 lakh a piece, the variety on offer is as diverse as it gets.

The line of questioning pursued by the tehelka sting team gives the clear impression that Operation Westend could have more than just journalistic inquiry into defence deals, that behind the hidden cameras there could be a hidden hand playing politics. At several points during the operation, the tehelka team appears to be bending backwards to rope in prime minister's office in the larger picture. Special efforts have been made to somehow involve Shri Vajpayee's principal secretary, Shri Brajesh Mishra and his foster son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya, They ask leading questions, appear eager to pass on money to both and have probed hard for any hints that might indicate their involvement. For instance, the tape shows Shri R.K. Jain saying: "maybe the PM must have got some money (in the Sukhoi deal) and forwarded to George Fernandes also." Jam added, "but you see, the place where you are sitting, you can make any amount of money you want".

Does the release of the Tehelka tapes and the recent stock market crash have anything in common, is it a mere coincidence? Also there is the question, if there is a financial gain angle to the tehelka expose? The CEO of tehelka, Tarun J. Tejpal has accepted that he is negotiating a new deal with Zee TV. Zee TV is to pick up a 26 per cent stake in tehelka. Zee was also the first TV channel to go public with the tehelka tapes. Coming to the present share holding of tehelka.com, apart from Tejpal, his brother and Aniruddha Bahal, tehelka's biggest- share holder is a foreign institutional investor called First Globe Stockbroking Private Limited- Incidentally, First Global is also one of the various investors in the market, who are being investigated by SEBI for being part of the bear cartel that caused the stock market to plunge after the budget.

Zee teleflims connection is even more curious. According to sources, Zee is looking at buying 26 per cent stake in tehelka at around 15.7 crore, that puts tehelka's valuation at around Rs 60 crore. A mind boggling sum especially when you look at the complete collapse in the valuation of all dot com. over the past one year. What is even more interesting about the Zee deal is that Zee's stock has been hammered by hear operators-such as First Gobal- over the last one year and are today a fraction of the peak value. So how are Zee and First Global getting together now?

Coming to the credibility of the expose and the men behind them, one is sorry to say, they have exposed themselves. In the morning their reporter makes serious allegations against the Home Ministery and in the afternoon that very day, the editor, Tejpal not only contradicts his own reporter but sends a letter of apology to the Home Minister. Samuel Mathew, speaking in Thiruvananthapuram, alleged that an Israeli firm bribed the MHA officials. Editor in chief, Taruj Tejpal shot of an apology letter within hours of Samuel's charges, stating "the statements of our reporter was baseless. We could not substantiate the charges against MHA official. In fact, in the 100 hours video tape a few arms dealers had made loose comments. Finally, we edited such irrelevant portions while bringing out the four hour long master tape", Tejpal said.

It is hoped that someone takes the matter to the court. In the court Tehelka will have to prove all the charges levied. If the government is guilty they will face the consequences. On the other hand if tehelka can't prove their charges they in turn will be exposed. This way the nation will get to know as to how all are involved, both sides. May be in the process the real objectives of the exercise may also come out. What the tehelka tapes are trying to do is to shake the entire system to a point of complete collapse. By singling out the defence ministry, it is on the one hand, trying to demoralise the Jawans and on the other hand creates political instability in the nation. The objective seems to go much beyond just exposing corruption. Who will benefit if on the one hand the government of the day collapses and on the other hand, there is total confusion and demoralisation in the armed forces and the ministry dealing with them?

The tehelka tapes have once again exposed the intelligence gathering apparatus of both the Government of India as well as the defence forces. Two journalists posing as representatives of a fictitious firm manage to penetrate the defence establishment so easily should be a matter of serious concern. It seems that the intelligence sleuths are bent upon proving that they are worthless. It happened in Kandhar, Kargil and now right here in the heart of the capital. For nine months, these reporters were walking in and out of senior military officers residences without raising any suspicion. With this kind of security, "fidayeen" of Lashkar-e-Toiba could also walk in the Defence Ministry or a Lt General's house and blow up the place, without the military intelligence or the I B and RAW getting a wind of it.

I. B., that has an annual budget in excess of Rs. 3000 crore simply to ensure that apart from keeping tabs on other aspects that threaten the country's security, it is also supposed to keep the government informed if there is any activity with in the Government than can destabilize it. That the IB and military intelligence failed to alert the NDA government on this activity, is a major failure of the security agencies. So much so that the portal even said that they apprehended a track down by the IB and even switched from their regular sim cards for their mobile phones to cash cards to guard against tapping.
 


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