Ratan Tata-Cyrus Mistry spat: How Ni­ira Ra­dia re­turned to Tata fold in full swing

Fiji Sun - - Sunbiz -

Shrug­ging off ghosts of her taped con­ver­sa­tions that once trig­gered a furore, Ni­ira Ra­dia is back do­ing what she al­ways loved: strate­gic ad­vice. The cor­po­rate lob­by­ist is now backed by two of Ratan Tata’s most trusted lieu­tenants, Tata Trust’s trus­tees NA Soon­awala and Ra­yaroth Kut­tam­bally Kr­ishna Ku­mar. A con­fi­dante of Tata, Ku­mar had re­tired from Tata Sons in 2013 and is cur­rently associated with his con­sul­tancy firm, RNT As­so­ciates, and the group’s char­i­ta­ble trusts, which con­trol 66 per­cent of Tata Sons. Both have ad­vised Ratan Tata to seek her help to han­dle the in­sur­mount­able cri­sis of Cyrus Mistry, sacked as chair­man of Tata Sons (by the Tatas) over a host of man­age­ment is­sues. There are talks within Tata Sons to let Ra­dia han­dle some of the com­mu­ni­ca­tion strat­egy of Tata Tea, In­dia’s largest pack­aged tea brand with a dom­i­nat­ing mar­ket share.

There are also talks of her help­ing the group in its global op­er­a­tions, in­clud­ing those in Lon­don. Ra­dia, who last sur­faced in the me­dia in Fe­bru­ary this year when news­pa­pers car­ried her pho­to­graph with Tata at the in­au­gu­ra­tion of her hospi­tal in the out­skirts of Mathura, is ad­vis­ing the group to deal with the murky fall­out. Her prox­im­ity with some of the top Bharatiya Janata Party lead­ers is well known in the Delhi po­lit­i­cal cir­cles.

It has to be re­mem­bered that Ra­dia was in­stru­men­tal in shift­ing the Nano’s plant from West Ben­gal to Gu­jarat af­ter Ma­mata-Ban­ner­jeeled protests in Sin­gur in 2008. Naren­dra Modi was then chief min­is­ter in Gu­jarat. “She had brought the two (Tata and Modi) closer and she was never out of the power cir­cuit,” said a top source in Delhi, ex­plain­ing how Ra­dia grew more ac­tive ever since the Cen­tral Bu­reau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (CBI) dropped all charges re­lat­ing to her con­ver­sa­tions with min­is­ters, lob­by­ists bu­reau­crats and top shot ed­i­tors in the height of the 2G tele­com scam in 2019-10. The tran­scripts of her tele­phone con­ver­sa­tions, printed on the cover of two news mag­a­zines, had her con­ver­sa­tions dur­ing 2008-09 when the 2G scam was un­fold­ing.

The con­ver­sa­tions stretched right up to the time when the UPA-2 cabi­net was formed af­ter the 2009 polls. She was in­ter­ro­gated by the En­force­ment Direc­torate and the CBI and even­tu­ally re­leased and all 14 cases of “crim­i­nal­ity” dropped for lack of ev­i­dence. It was then ru­moured that there was a tacit un­der­stand­ing that she would wrap up her lu­cra­tive ad­vo­cacy busi­ness - Vaish­navi Com­mu­ni­ca­tions - and stay away from lob­by­ing. Ra­dia, re­al­is­ing the odds were not in her favour, walked the ex­tra mile to get out of what many de­scribed as a messy case. In 2010, she had even funded a Kr­ishna tem­ple in South Delhi on her birth­day, which, in­ci­den­tally, co­in­cides with Indira Gandhi’s. Ra­dia en­tered the health­care busi­ness through Nay­ati Health­care. The com­pany set up its first mul­ti­su­per spe­cial­ity hospi­tal in Mathura.

The 351-bed fa­cil­ity was in­au­gu­rated by Ratan Tata in Fe­bru­ary.

“It is heart­en­ing to see a full fledged spe­cialty hospi­tal be­ing es­tab­lished in Mathura with con­sid­er­able per­sonal sacri­fice, driven by pas­sion and a gen­uine de­sire to serve the com­mu­nity,” Tata had told re­porters at the in­au­gu­ra­tion.

Ra­dia had then told jour­nal­ists that she had no re­grets about her past and her foray in the cor­po­rate world was “a great learn­ing”. She told re­porters in Mathura about her plans to set up more hos­pi­tals in some north­ern states like Pun­jab and Jammu & Kash­mir. Tata’s pres­ence at the Mathura event was an in­di­ca­tion that her bridge with one of the most pow­er­ful busi­ness ty­coons re­mained un­af­fected. Her weigh­tage with Tata Sons never dipped, ex­cept the Mistry camp kept her at an arms length.

But this time around, re­al­is­ing her con­nec­tions in the power cor­ri­dors of the In­dian cap­i­tal, both NA Soon­awala and R K Kr­ishna Ku­mar is learnt to have ad­vised Tata to use her to con­trol the dam­age from some of the “neg­a­tive” re­port­ing against the group in the me­dia.

This, es­pe­cially af­ter Mistry’s camp leaked the for­mer chair­man’s ex­plo­sive let­ter re­lat­ing to his ouster. Her col­leagues called up mid­dle rung jour­nal­ists in Delhi and Mum­bai while Ra­dia met up with some top notch ed­i­tors per­son­ally, ex­plain­ing Ratan Tata’s side of the story, among them be­ing the muchtalked sale of the Searock Ho­tel in Mum­bai that many in cor­po­rate cir­cles claim is one of the main clogs in the Tata-DoCoMo deals. She ex­plained how it was im­por­tant for Ratan Tata to check­mate Mistry be­fore he “sold off the fam­ily sil­ver”. A news­pa­per in the In­dian Cap­i­tal even re­ported that many of those she con­tacted this time “were the same me­dia per­sons who fig­ured in the con­tro­ver­sial Ra­dia tapes”. Un­like ear­lier times where she would di­rectly call jour­nal­ists, bu­reau­crats, min­is­ters and lob­by­ists, Ra­dia - this time - let her of­fice do much of the ground­work and set up ap­point­ments be­tween her and the me­dia heads. The only fe­male lob­by­ist among Delhi’s top notch power bro­kers, known for her worka­holism, grasp of hu­man psy­chol­ogy and tech­ni­cal jar­gon, is play­ing it su­per safe in her sec­ond ride with the rich and pow­er­ful.

Cor­po­rate lob­byst Ni­ira Ra­dia.

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