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Thursday, September 29, 2022

A murky tale of media, big business and politics – the Purie, Birla, Bahl and Congress tango

The Radia tapes expose in 2010 showed how news media, big corporate houses and political parties had formed an unholy nexus to influence policy & ministerial appointments, defraud the exchequer and further their interests. Virtually the entire who’s who of Bharat’s public life was outed in that scandal.

Ten years on, not much has changed, except that the ruling party at the centre has dissociated itself from the games this self-serving cabal plays. Having lost their access to corridors of power and the power-broker role they played in past governments, certain media and big business houses have continued scheming and framing narratives to re-install the Congress/’secular’ ecosystem back in power.

Now, twitterati @thakkar_sameet has made a stunning expose on the media-business-politician nexus, which we reproduce below with minor edits to improve readability.

HinduPost has not been able to independently corroborate these revelations, but many of the facts stated therein can be verified from public sources. We believe it is important that such disclosures are placed in the public arena, so that common citizens can draw their own conclusions –

The story starts in 2011 when ‘India Against Corruption’ was at its peak. English-language media was leading the charge and the agenda was set up by Arnab Goswami (then with Times Now). Congress’ Ahmed Patel and P Chidambaram met Aroon Purie (owner of India Today), Raghav Bahl & Rajdeep Sardesai (Founder & Editor-in-Chief of CNN IBN respectively), and Prannoy Roy (NDTV.) Attempts where made to separate all channels from the line taken by Times Now, especially Arnab Goswami. But it was too late. People were already on the streets and the ecosystem was checkmated.

During this time, Living Media Ltd., Aroon Purie’s media conglomerate which owns India Today, Headlines Today and Aaj Tak, was financially under stress and he asked Ahmed Patel and P Chidambaram to bail them out.

Come 2012, when Ahmed Patel and P Chidambaram persuaded business tycoon Kumar Mangalam Birla to bail out Aroon Purie and Living Media. In May 2012, Kumar Birla picked up 27.5 % stake in Living Media Ltd. One of the first stories, after Birla picked up this stake, on Headlines Today was ‘Snoop Case of Gujarat and Ishrat Jahan Encounter case.’ This was just 6 months before the 2012 Gujarat Assembly elections.

But none of the allegations stuck despite best efforts of the ecosystem, and Narendra Modi won Gujarat elections in 2012. But this didn’t stop Headlines Today’s anti-Modi campaign – till June 2013 it tried its best to prevent BJP from announcing Modi as PM candidate.

Once Narendra Modi was announced as the PM candidate, Aroon Purie and Kumar Birla changed their position, sensing the winds of change. During this period, Kumar Birla increased his stake in Living Media from 27.5% to 35%, possibly without necessary approvals.

Come May 2014, things turned upside down for the corporate world, especially those corporates who were close to the Nehru-Gandhi family. In August 2014, Modi Government started probing the murky financial dealings of NDTV. Fearing that he will be next, Kumar Birla tried to sell his stake in Living Media. But Aroon Purie met Arun Jaitley along with Kumar Birla and pleaded for assurance that Government will not go after their media house.

Aroon Purie’s friendship with Jaitley came to his rescue. Birla put off the decision of selling his stake in Living Media, and India Today survived.

But there were more twists in this tale. After Nov-December 2018 assembly elections in several states went in favour of Congress, Aroon Purie and Kumar Birla again started their anti-BJP campaign, whether it was showing of Rahul Gandhi on magazine cover or playing up the Rafael ‘scam’, with each passing day the India Today group turned more and more anti-BJP.

All was hunky dory for the ecosystem and Aroon Purie till 26th February, 2019 (day of Balakot air strikes in response to Pulwama suicide bombing). That day was the biggest blow for the ecosystem. It sealed 2019 for Narendra Modi. So the cunning duo of Purie and Birla made yet another u-turn and their editorial position became pro-BJP.

Modi returned to power in 2019. This time there was no Jaitley to help the likes of Purie. Government ads to India Today and some other channels were significantly cut in Modi govt. 2.0. Facing a cash crunch, Purie again reached out to Congress. Birla too was angry at the government because of the Vodafone-Idea AGR dues issue. Enter Congress’ deal-making duo & Sonia’s right-hand men: Ahmed Patel and Kamal Nath.

Kamal Nath, then CM of Madhya Pradesh, promised to add revenues and political clout to both Aroon Purie and Kumar Birla. After the deal with Kamal Nath, India Today once again started doing anti-government stories over the economy. They got even more emboldened after Congress formed governments in Maharashtra and Jharkhand towards end of 2019.

India Today’s vicious anti-government stand was clear as day during their coverage of the anti-CAA protests and Delhi elections. Whether it was the JNU episode or fake tapes on ABVP, with each passing day India Today group was trying to become the Times Now of 2011 to 2014 by turning anti-CAA protests into Narendra Modi’s IAC moment.

During this period, Kumar Birla also added fuel to fire by publicly stating that we will have to ‘shut shop’ if government doesn’t intervene. All this was a calculated move to up the ante against the Government, both on economic and social front.

Amit Shah managed to dig out an issue with Kumar Birla’s 7.5% stake increase in Living Media during 2012 to 2014. Shah asked Aroon Purie to meet him. Aroon Purie along with Supriya Prasad (Managing Editor, Aaj TakIndia Today) went to meet Shah, who without any pleasantries put some documents in front of them and told them that their shop could get closed.

Aroon Purie got worried and asked what mistake he had committed to invite Shah’s anger. Shah asked them to introspect on the reason, and said that after Delhi elections none of his party spokespersons will be on their debates. Saying this, Amit Shah got up and went for another meeting.

Aroon Purie after hearing all this called PMO for an urgent meeting with PM Modi, but this was declined. Purie then asked Kumar Birla to pacify Shah. Birla also didn’t get chance to speak with Shah, so he called RS Prasad (Union Minister holding Law and Justice, Communications and Electronics and Information Technology portfolios).

RS Prasad told him that he will get back to him after talking with Amit Shah. A call was arranged, in which Amit Shah asked Purie to stop running disinformation campaign against the Government. Purie agreed, and then Shah asked Purie to release Rahul Kanwal from India Today. Purie said it will be counter productive. Shah replied that it doesn’t matter and cut the call. Aroon Purie conveyed this to Rahul Kanwal and asked him to see if he could calm down Shah’s anger. Rahul Kanwal tried to call Amit Shah to which Shah didn’t reply.

Next day, early in the winter morning of Delhi, Rahul Kanwal was at Amit Shah’s home without appointment. Somehow, Shah gave him time. Rahul’s first sentence was “I am sorry. I was just toeing Kaali Purie’s orders. I have nothing against BJP.” Kaali Purie is Aroon Purie’s daughter, and Vice Chairperson of the India Today Group. Shah replied that all this doesn’t matter, and that Kanwal would soon become the next Barkha Dutt in the media market.

After the Delhi elections, there was talk of Delhi Aaj Tak channel being shut down.

Come March 2020, with the arrest of Yes Bank chairman Rana Kapoor and the chances of Kamal Nath losing power in Madhya Pradesh, another media baron got worried – Raghav Bahl of The Quint.

Raghav knew his game was up as he was already facing an ED money laundering probe and with the added stress from Kapoor’s arrest and Kamal Nath on the verge of losing MP, he decided to sell The Quint. He contacted his friend, a politician from Maharashtra who runs the biggest bidi business in country – scam-accused NCP leader Praful Patel.

The Bidi king was aware of Kumar Birla’s plan of winding down Delhi Aaj Tak so he asked if he is interested in buying Bahl’s digital news media company. Kumar Birla showed interest.

In the third week of March, a meeting was set up between Raghav Bahl, Aroon Purie and the bidi king at a five star hotel in Bandra, Mumbai. Aroon Purie also showed interest in buying The Quint. So both Raghav and Aroon decided to meet again, this time in NCR. Aroon Purie, without knowing that both bidi king and Raghav Bahl are under watch of investigative agencies, came back to Delhi.

Next day, both Aroon Purie and Kumar Birla received a call that the 7.5% stake increase issue will go under inquiry and they both could pay a heavy price for it.

In the meantime coronavirus and lockdown came so all these matters were put on hold. The sudden pro-BJP or pro-Hindu turn of India Today is nothing but a sucking-up exercise.

For a long time both Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have given a long rope to Aroon Purie. One hopes that now they will take action. 

Corroborative References







HinduPost Note

The above revelation, even if partially true, shows how deep is the rot that has set in among Bharat’s elites. Ideally, one would not condone government interference in media or legitimate business dealings, but each and every institution has been so deeply infected by the Congress ecosystem that rectifying the situation sometimes requires wielding the ecosystem’s own arm-twisting tools against it.

While English-language media’s crookedness is well known to public at large by now, Bharat’s established business houses also need to take a deep hard look in the mirror to introspect on what kind of legacy they are creating for themselves and the country.

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