New Delhi: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former Telecom Minister Arun Shourie claimed that senior party leader Venkaiah Naidu was lobbied, to ensure the BJP wouldn't oppose 2009 Budget proposals that allegedly favoured billionaire businessman and Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani.
Speaking to CNN-IBN, Venkaiah Naidu denied being lobbied by Nira Radia to help Mukesh Ambani in the 2009 budget.
"I was not a part of the lobby. I don't know why these things are being said. I was asked to speak a week ahead of the budget which i did and it was appreciated," said Naidu.
Earlier, Shourie had confirmed Nira Radia tape revelation to Karan Thapar on 'Devil's Advocate' on CNN-IBN. This is the first concrete proof that Nira Radia's influence extended to the Opposition ranks as well. Here's a brief transcript:
Karan Thapar: Let's start with the Nira Radia tapes, you yourself are a subject of discussion. The voice speaking to Nira Radia reveals that he has arranged for you to be replaced by Venkaiah Naidu as the lead speaker from the BJP side in the Rajya Sabha on the 2009 Budget. Let me first ask you did this actually happen?
Arun Shourie: Yes, there is no doubt in that. I was asked to open the debate on the budget, I worked for one week to speak of the matter and at the last minute after I reached the house I was told that the previous night Mr Venkaiah Naidu had decided to speak suddenly. Therefore as he had been party president he will speak first. My turn would come after all the 13-14 speakers have spoken and then I would be the second speaker for the party.
Karan Thapar: Now the second thing that the tape suggests that if you would have been the lead speaker you might have taken a hard position on a proposal in the budget which was going to help Mukesh Ambani hugely. But by replacing you with Mr Venkaiah Naidu the person had ensured that the line taken by the BJP would be more accommodating and understanding?
Arun Shourie: Yes, it was certainly their objective, I mean its clear from the tapes that was the objective. They may have apprehended this because I had spoken about that particular proposal in an adverse way in a party meeting...I may or may not have spoken about this on the floor of the house.
Karan Thapar: But this was their fear?
Arun Shourie: This was their fear.
Karan Thapar: Now the voice speaking on the tape speaking to Nira Radia, who I have been referring to all along hasn't been identified. Have you recognised that voice?
Arun Shourie: No doubt everybody who listens to the tape and I hope that everyone listens to the tape will know that it is my good college friend NK Singh. What is the problem with that?
Karan Thapar: The gentleman who was secretary to the Mr Vajpayee at one point of time?
Arun Shourie: He was secretary to the Prime Minister, he was I am sure finance secretary at one stage, he was a member of the Planning Commission and my college friend.
Watch the entire interview on 'Devils' Advocate at 8:30 PM on Sunday only on CNN-IBN.