Operation West End and its aftermath: An edited excerpt from Madhu Trehan's 'Tehelka as Metaphor'
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Operation West End and its aftermath: An edited excerpt from Madhu Trehan's 'Tehelka as Metaphor'

'The Operation West End transcripts related to Surendra Sureka are most intriguing, in that they expose the planning of the meeting with Jaya Jaitly, how to give her the money, and the execution of the plan.'

By Madhu Trehan

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This edited excerpt is from Chapter 13 of Tehelka as Metaphor by Madhu Trehan, published by Roli Books in 2001.

"I either want less corruption or more chance to participate in it."

Ashleigh Brilliant, writer, columnist and cartoonist. British born living in California. Described by The Wall Street Journal as ‘history’s only full time, professional, published epigirammist’.

Operation West End tapes:

Murgai: This … as far as Jaya is concerned … what he wants is a proper meeting and explain his case..

Samuel: Not like hanky-panky. Everything I want to essplain.

Murgai: We'll give two [lakh] to Jaya in that. Initially. And one for you, one for me. All right? [Sureka nodded.]

Major General Murgai introduced Mathew Samuel to a Surendra Sureka, a businessman from Kanpur. The Operation West End transcripts related to Surendra Sureka are most intriguing, in that they expose the planning of the meeting with Jaya Jaitly, how to give her the money, and the execution of the plan.

Mathew explained to Major General Murgai and Surendra Sureka that West End was competing with three other companies in selling their product, and that the defence ministry would take the final decision. Mathew said, ‘That means George, I mean, George Fernandes. So that time, is the channel to George Fernandes is Mrs Jaya Jaitly. She will … she is the briefcase woman.’ For this, Mathew said, he was willing to pay the usual commission of three or four per cent. Major General Murgai assured Mathew that Sureka could obtain evaluation letter for West End. Sureka asked, ‘But what will be my interest?’ He elaborated that he would introduce West End to Jaya Jaitly, they could talk to her directly and tell her what percentage they would pay her. Sureka said he did not want to be paid for the introduction but was seeking something more permanent with West End. Major General Murgai explained the deal. Jaya Jaitly would be given Rs 2 lakhs, Rs 1 lakh would go to Sureka, and Rs 1 lakh would go to Murgai. Mathew, fearful of being searched, suggested that Sureka should arrange the meeting with Jaya Jaitly at a hotel. Sureka told Mathew that it would either be at George Fernandes’s or his own house. Sureka said, ‘She will meet you just alone only. Nobody else will be there. You can talk as much as you want.’ A worried Mathew asked, ‘You … you’ll be there?’ Sureka assured him that he would.

When Mathew, Murgai, and Sureka arrived at George Fernandes’s house, they met a grey-haired man in a kurta who was addressed by all as Gopalji. Mathew had two hidden cameras, one concealed in his tie and the other in a briefcase. The tie camera was wired to a battery that was connected through a hole in Mathew’s trouser pocket. While they engaged Gopalji in small talk, Mathew took out a wad of money and Sureka admonished him not to give it like in that way. He suggested that it should be covered properly. Though of course, Mathew preferred it to be given in a way that would be visible to the camera hidden in his tie.

Major General Murgai and Mathew Samuel were made to wait for a few moments in one of the rooms in the defence minister’s house. Surendra Sureka joined them and immediately asked for the money he had been discussed earlier. Mathew paid Sureka the Rs. 1 lakh he expected for the introduction and postponed paying Murgai.

Operation West End tapes:

[Samuel took out the money and gave it to Sureka.]

Samuel: Sir, this is one lakh. Count it, that.

Sureka: No, it's okay. You will go ...

Samuel: I'm sorry that I couldn't able to … train that ... he said he'll come at six o'clock. So, I waited there. You know that Krishna Saini? We are there? I couldn't able to wire transfer the money. I don't know that how to ... you had asked me to bring it in an envelope, so why didn't they allow me to bring the briefcase inside?

Sureka: Because of the security reasons ... they have cameras and everything ...

Samuel: There is no camera inside this.

Sureka: We have to be very, very alert. Otherwise, you get questioned immediately. [Pause.]

Murgai: You organize your things a bit.

Sureka: You should always keep a packet in a packet. Don't give like this. This will impress him. [Samuel put the money in plastic bag}

Samuel: You are not given ... that ....

Sureka: When you give somebody sweet, no ... why do you pack it?

Murgai: That is all right. But the point is, you still not understood. Who's got to give the clearance? I feel Choudary is well within his capability to take up the evaluation.

Samuel: And he ... I told you no, so he need the ... some reference for...if…

Murgai: Reference from where?

Samuel: If RM [raksha mantri] is ... RM will ...

Sureka: You give letter of copy of RM. You will get …

Samuel: I will give you a copy.

Sureka: That is my job, I will get it. I will get it done.

Murgai: We will get it done.

Samuel: If that RM will sign that ‘Go for evaluation’, he will do.

Sureka: Yes, I will get it done.

Samuel: And he will short-list the company also, he told me.

Sureka: No, that is his ... that is his ...

Samuel: One thing I will ask. If I will give letter to General Murgai tomorrow, when you can do?

Sureka: Within 10 days.

***

Jaya’s deposition before the Commission of Inquiry, in the presence of her own counsel, Nilay Dutta, showed that she had done considerable homework and was fully prepared with her arguments. The first point she made was that there was a discrepancy between the recordings of the two cameras deployed at her meeting, and this indicated that they had been switched on or off at different times and did not correlate. Alternatively, cuts had been made in the two recordings.

According to Jaya, if the two cameras, one in Mathew’s tie in her room and the other in a briefcase facing a sofa in the waiting room, were recording simultaneously the sounds of both should match. That is, in the event of a sound of a door banging, the sound should come at exactly the same time in both the cameras. She pointed out that five times the bang is recorded at different times, with the time gap increasing between the two by about eleven seconds. An explanation for that is that Mathew kept switching his tie camera on and off, while the camera in the waiting room continued to roll.

Jaya also protested about Tape No.22, where Mathew Samuel is seen getting into a Maruti van to go to Vasant Vihar. He is seen during the journey on tape but gets out of a Maruti Esteem. Jaya said, ‘Unless there is a break and two separate tapes are put together, a person cannot get into a Maruti van and get out of a Maruti Esteem, if that journey has not been broken at any place.’

Obviously, Tehelka made the mistake of treating the story like any other news story package, taking cutaways, in non-synchronized time. (Cutaways = footage taken to supplement the story, such as the gate of the house.) In a sting story it is imperative that only the footage of the operation should be used without adding cutaways later. Anything else raises the flag of doctoring.

***

If you are banging your head, so was everyone else.

Jaitly: At the end of this, after he has got into the car and is driving away. In this earlier tape No.73, he said, ‘jaldi speed leh lo.’ Here the entire conversation to the driver is different, as I said then, different; it is very foul language and he is driving and it suddenly ends. So there is a lot of switching on and switching off of tapes or editing which means that the true scene was not filmed. They do not tally and there are cuts in both.

Yes that is all very well but it is odd that the only areas that Jaya pointed out are ‘doctored’ are the points of accusation. They said she knew they were dealing in defence procurement and she accepted Rs 2 lakhs.

***

When the counsel for Tehelka, Kavin Gulati took his turn to question Jaya, her manner changed. Clever enough to anticipate his questions, Jaya was ready and lay in wait. A cheetah looking at a snake, aware that he is there to sting. Gulati was clearly in awe of her. He knew he had to get rough with her on his client’s behalf, but his sensibility of facing power, that too, in the shape of a woman, tamed him a bit.

Gulati: You do admit the meeting you had with Mr Mathew Samuel on 28 December 2001?

Jaitly: I would not call it a meeting, unless you define meeting.

Oops!

Gulati: A conversation?

Jaitly: Some event had taken place.

Gulati: But he was physically present in the room with you on that day?

Jaitly: I cannot vouch for it 100 per cent, because his face is never shown on the tape. I do not recollect his face. In fact, when I came to the Commission, and only when my lawyer pointed out to me that there is Mathew Samuel that I actually saw his face and even at that time I did not feel that I had seen that face before.

Gulati: You have just told the Commission of certain incidents. You said that ‘CD West End’ was put in the transcript,‘doh lakh doh’ was never said, and ‘Thank you’ was being said as a matter of courtesy. That is what you said yesterday. Now who are you having all this conversation with, if not Mathew?

Jaitly: I am not saying that it was not Mathew. I am only saying, if you ask me specifically, ‘Were you having a conversation with Mathew’, because you have offered me this transcript and these tapes, I have to take your word for it, just as I have to take so far, your word for these transcripts also.

***

‘They are not replying to us.’ The ‘They’ here is the defence ministry. Jaya threw a distracting bone to Gulati with ‘Should we go through the transcript’, and he fell for it and answered her question rather than eliciting one from her.

Gulati: You can answer the question any way you want.

[Once again, Gulati gifted Jaya a platform to yank the discussion into a tangent.]

Jaitly: They are very confused amongst themselves. One is saying, ‘wait for a reply’. One is saying, ‘first write a letter’. One is saying, ‘they are not calling us’. So I am not bothered with all this. I say I do not know how they function. We would not interfere. Only if there is any injustice and if an injustice is not getting a reply, a courteous reply saying, ‘you are rejected’, even then, other than getting a reply to them, is no question of any intention and I have clearly expressed the opposite.

Gulati: So, do I take it then that there was a discussion with regard to defence equipment and the ministry of defence?

Jaitly: If saying ‘I do not know anything about the ministry, I would not interfere’ is a discussion about the defence ministry, yes.

Gulati: And that you were willing to help them if they were treated unfairly?

Jaitly: It is the duty of every politician.

Gulati: My question to you is this. Did you as a matter of fact discuss anything about the ministry of defence or defence products and that you would be willing to help them if, as you say, they were being treated unfairly?

Jaitly: You have put three questions. I did not discuss any product. They have mentioned cameras and binoculars and I have passed it off completely. I have said, I do not know anything. I have discussed the defence ministry, as I said, by saying I do not know anything about the defence ministry and we do not interfere. In a general term, whichever may be the ministry, from the prime minister to the local municipality, if any public office is not dealing with the citizens as citizens expect them to do, in fairness and according to procedure, then it is the citizen’s right to come to anybody, and in that context, I have responded to them.

***

Jaya began dancing a salsa around Gulati, leaving him hearing only his own music.

Gulati: You have talked about testing of the product, whenever there is a new entry in that field, they have to test these things.

Now, observe Jaya’s dips and dives with which she makes Gulati a passive spectator.

Jaitly: I will give my own personal experience about that. I am talking in very general terms. As everybody here knows, I am more interested in handicrafts than anything else. My purpose in our politics is to promote the idea of Swadeshi and cottage and village industries. To that end, I have definitely approached all the ministers in our party, who are in the ministries, to say that can they not have products from the rural and cottage sector. So the ministers followed up and in response, the Central Cottage Industries Emporium, the Handicraft Handloom Export Corporation and the KVIC held exhibitions and discussions with both these ministries to see that jams, pickles and stuff like that which is supplied, is used. At that point of time, I know they were told that we have to test everything, the price has to be right and the quality has to be right. I presume that is the rule for everything.

***

Jam and pickles?! Compare that to what Jaya said on the tapes which was all about testing and evaluation by the defence ministry? Jaya’s jamming.

Gulati: Do you normally ensure that people get a fair deal in defence matters?

Jaitly: I have ensured that women who have been thrown out of their homes, because some Major or Captain has come and said that he’s thrown me out and married some other woman illegally, that is an unfair deal and a person is in defence, I have written to the ministry about such things. I have never written to the ministry, or taken up or spoken informally, or even entertained any issue and taken up, where there is any commercial interest involved.

Gulati: Then in what capacity were you willing to ensure that West End would get a fair deal, as you have stated in paragraph 5 on page 14, the last line?

Jaitly: A fair deal in this case means only a reply.

Gulati: But in what capacity were you doing it? You are not connected with the ministry of defence.

Jaitly: As a public worker. Whether the person is connected with the ministry of defence or not, every member of Parliament, every president of any political party, could be in the entire NDA or in the opposition, anybody can write to any ministry. If somebody comes to them saying we are not getting a fair deal, somebody can write them and say, give them a reply; please consider. Most of the time, they get a thing saying ‘Your matter is being examined’ and it ends there.

***

Ah, ‘anybody’ can write, but who will listen to ‘anybody’?

Gulati: Did you not think at any point during that conversation that a matter relating to the ministry of defence being as sensitive as it is, it was best left to the ministry to deal with its own issue and that you should not in any manner intercede on anybody’s behalf?

Jaitly: I do not think the defence ministry is so sacrosanct that if there are any real problems, a person who is well aware of his duties as a citizen in public life should refuse to touch it. Tomorrow those very same people may go out and tell the whole world that Jaya Jaitly refused to intercede because she was paid off by the other company who actually got the order.

There are many who believe that the ministry of defence is sacrosanct and should not be polluted with unusual requests or favours. George Fernandes being one of them.

Gulati: Has it ever occurred to you that if you or the minister of defence asked the ministry of defence or an official to consider a particular company fairly, would not that officer get an impression, or would not the ministry be obliged to consider the company’s case favourably?

Jaitly: There is no question of asking anybody to consider anybody favourably. At most, what anyone would say is, these people are shouting that nobody is writing a letter to them. That is all. There is no question of asking anybody to consider, neither do I approach any officer of any ministry.

***

This time Gulati did not let go.

Gulati: My question is slightly different. My question is, if an important person like you, or the minister of defence, tells a particular official in the ministry of defence, please consider the case, will it not ring bells in that person’s mind? Will he not be obliged to consider this case?

Jaitly: No, sir. The question does not arise. Neither do I do it and I do not know how Mr Fernandes works in his ministry.

***

‘The question does not arise’? In this ji huzoor culture where your next posting and promotion depends not on how well you performed your job but how well you pleased your boss? The question that does not arise is not doing what is suggested..

Gulati: At this stage I would like to confront the witness with the edited tape: the four and half hour tape; the portion where, according to us, a packet is being exchanged. I would like to put it to the witness.”

[The video film was shown.]

Gulati: My question to you is two-fold. (1) What is inside this packet, and (2) who was this packet being handed over to?

Jaitly: I would have no idea what is in the packet and I have no idea who he is handing it to.

Gulati: Then why did you say ‘Gopalji, aap rakh leejiye’?

Jaitly: I have not said that.

Gulati: Did you know that there was money inside the packet?

Jaitly: No, not really. Nobody thinks at that time is it mithai [sweets] or is it something. If he is wanting to give something and since they have said ‘brought something for the party’, my mind uppermost is on the National Council and Mr Srinivas Prasad was organizing it. So, I asked Mathew to send it to Srinivas Prasad. Beyond that, I am not concerned.

Gulati: Would you please take page 13 of your affidavit for a minute; the top four lines: ‘I said, please send this to Srinivas Prasad, our minister.’. This means, obviously, there is something there.

Jaitly: Must be. Something is something. I don’t know what it is.

Gulati: If there is mithai, as you say, would you direct it to be sent to Srinivas Prasad?

Jaitly: No, I said, I corrected myself; I said that packet if there is no context, one may think anything. But they have said they have brought something for the party and there is a National Council. So I clarified already that I presumed that there was some donation in it.

Gulati: You presumed that there was some donation in it?

Jaitly: Yes. I have never said that I do not accept donations and I have said, I accepted their offer by asking them to send it to Srinivas Prasad.

Gulati: At this stage, I put a suggestion to you that the packet contained Rs 2 lakhs, which was offered to you in your office and you directed the same to be kept by Mr Gopal Pacherwal.

Jaitly: That is not true.

Gulati now warmed to his prey, forgot his awe of Jaya, and dug in his teeth:

Gulati: Please see page 13 of your affidavit, paragraph 4: ‘I did not see any packet allegedly containing money being delivered to anyone in the room.’ Just now you told us that you had presumed that there was a donation in that. But this averment of yours in paragraph 4, is clearly to the effect that you did not see any packet allegedly containing money being delivered to anyone in the room.

Jaitly: No. If you read the sentence, what I am saying is, that the packet allegedly containing money was not seen being delivered to anybody in the room.

Gulati: How are you so sure of this fact?

Jaitly: I know what I saw or what I did not see.

Gulati: You have told us half an hour back that you do not remember anything about the meeting and your only memory is based on the tapes and the transcripts.

Jaitly: It is obvious. What I always do; I know that I never take money from anybody, other than in the party office, where there is an accountant who will receive it and deposit and give a receipt. Otherwise, if anybody gives a donation, I always ask that if somebody is wanting to print posters, please send it to that person. I do not handle money myself.

***

Gulati then focused his attention on the Gopal Pacherwal issue:

Was Gopal Pacherwal there or not? Do you see him in the tape or not?

Jaitly: I do not recognize anybody as Gopal Pacherwal.

Gulati: Now who is this person? Have you been able to identify this person exactly?

Jaitly: No. I have not. It is said that it is Gopal everywhere. But it is not identified as Gopal. You are saying it is Gopal. But I do not identify and I cannot say.

Gulati: You dispute that?

Jaitly: I cannot say whether it is Gopal or not. You will have to ask Gopal.

***

What did Samuel have to say about Pacherwal?

Madhu: Have you identified Gopal Pacherwal for the Commission?

Samuel: They haven’t asked.

Madhu: Because he has denied being there.

Samuel: He’s on the tape. He was there with me. I asked Jaya Jaitly, I have to give you, she told me give it to, ‘Gopalji, rakh liyey.’

Madhu: Jaya Jaitly has given me two tapes, one unedited and one edited. She says in the unedited tape, there is no sentence, ‘Two lakh, do’h. She says that has been put in later in the edited tape.

Samuel: Unke diya huya tape mey nahin hoga, master may hai nah. Maddumm, nothing happened to the tape.

Madhu: Were there two cameras or one camera in Jaya Jaitly’s room?

Samuel: Only one camera, tie camera, recorded her conversation.

Madhu: What if she shows you a tape that does not have those words?

Samuel: Tell Aniruddha to show you the master tape. He has master. Ask him to show you. Definitely it is there. Commission is not like idiot in some such matter. They know. They know entirety.

***

With Jaya, Gulati went from strength to strength. He lost his earlier inhibitions and executed elegant pirouettes around Jaya’s contortions. He thrice demanded to know how she could remember some details with such clarity and yet was totally vague about others?

***

Where then does that leave us? With no real answer, and even Gulati cannot be blamed, because he did not fail for lack of effort. Jaya had reached a point in her deposition that all her answers were tailored to create doubts about the authenticity of the tapes and push for a forensic analysis. When Gulati explained to her that two tapes in different cameras at the same meeting could have differing timings because one was being switched on and off, Jaya grabbed the opportunity to say, ‘Whether it was switched off or whether it was cut is something that only a proper analysis will say. We cannot be guessing between what you say and what I say’. She said that she believed so strongly that Tehelka had done an unfair job that she would still call the switching on and off as editing. She grumbled, ‘I may have said many things to those people which are beneficial to me and harmful to them and he could have easily switched it off at that time, because he did not want that recorded. How do we know, that is the point.’ When Gulati pointed out that the day before she had said that they could have switched it on and off and now she contradicted herself, Jaya jumped in again and said, ‘If at all there is switching off and switching on, it can be found through forensic analysis; can also be a motivated exercise’.

I asked Mathew about the story of the camera vibrating in his underwear.

Samuel: Yes, supposing the camera is on, the switches vibrate. That is the interesting tawpic happened. It fell into my underwear. Then I decide to go because of this tension this I switched it off. Then again conversation started, again I switched on. That is the jummmb there.

Madhu: The jump in the tape?

Samuel: Uhuh, the jummmb in the tape. Then I switched off. Okay, I’m going. Then there is a tawpic there. Then I switched on. Then I decided to go. Then I switched off. Then again conversation starting. Then I switched on. That is waat.

Madhu: Didn’t the remote vibrate when it was on? Jaya could have noticed it.

Samuel: How can notice? Switch is here. I am sitting.

Madhu: How many minutes is the tape with Jaya Jaitly?

Samuel: That I do not know. I never count any tape.

Madhu: Couldn’t you just leave it on for the whole meeting?

Samuel: Leave it on means the battery matter is important. The battery will go around one hower somethinggk. After that I want to record Murgai’s home giving money to Sureka. That also I want to record with that. Meanwhile, I told Murgai and Sureka, just I want to go to Connaught Place to give you. Please you go there, I will come back. Meanwhile I go to office. I given the camera everything. The briefcase camera I again took. Then I recorded briefcase camera.

The tie camera you only used for Jaya Jaitly?

No, for Bangaru Laxman we also used. That same camera we can make into bag also. That we used.

***

Yes, but how could Mathew know when to switch it off unless he could predict what Jaya was going to say? Why would he switch it off when anything Jaya said could incriminate her? I attempted to elicit more details from Jaya.

Madhu: In your deposition, in answer to the question, you said in your cross-examination that you presumed that the packet contained some donation. Your reply was, ‘Yes, I have never said that I do not accept donations and I’ve said I accepted their offer by asking them to send it to Srinivas Prasad’. Then on page thirteen of your affidavit, para four, the second sub-paragraph, you contradict yourself and say, ‘I did not see any packet allegedly containing money being delivered to anyone in the room.’ So which is it?

Jaitly: It’s both. Here I’m saying, I’m presuming there’s money in it. I have not seen any money. Secondly, I did not see any packet being given to anybody else. I know I have not taken it. So, I have not even seen it being given to anybody else, which is what I’ve said right from the start.

Madhu: No, but when he says, ‘Madam, I’m offering this …

Jaitly: Then I say, please send it to Srinivas Prasad.

Madhu: To whom were you saying it ? To the man sitting at your side?

Jaitly: I’m saying it to Mathew Samuel or whatever his name was. I’m not saying it to anybody else. We’ll come to that. Supposing it had been Srinivas Prasad sitting next to me. I may have talked to him in English, but anyway, it’s not Srinivas Prasad. The person whom they claim it is, is a person called Gopal Pacherwal, who only speaks Hindi. I have known him for twenty-five years. I would never dream of speaking one sentence to him in English.

Madhu: Who was the gentleman with the grey hair in the kurta?

Jaitly: The one whom they claim is Gopal Pacherwal? He is the President of our Rajasthan Party.

Madhu: So it is Gopal Pacherwal on the tapes?

Jaitly: I don’t know. They are saying it’s him. He’s also saying he comes and goes from Rajasthan to Delhi.

Madhu: No, but who do you identify as the person in the tapes ?

Jaitly: Very difficult to say. If you sit here for any length of time, you’ll find umpteen people like that. Rather stout and kurta pyjama. Everybody looks the same.

Madhu: But it is somebody with grey hair and a kurta. It has to have been somebody from your office?

Jaitly: There could have been any number of people in that room.

Madhu: But why wouldn’t that person come up and identify himself? Unless, of course, he has kept the money.

Jaitly: No, because we haven’t a clue who it was.

Madhu: But when this guy gets up for the tea, you can see him quite clearly.

Jaitly: You can’t see anybody on the tape. That is unedited, months and months later.

Madhu: But when you see it now, can you identify who that is?

Jaitly: I can’t identify clearly, because it’s not clear for me. Gopal Pacherwal has been asked. He says that he’s come here often enough. He could have easily been in here at that time. He could have been in and out of the room. But no, he was never part of any discussion, in which anybody was giving me any money. Secondly, he would have no locus standi to even take any money. He’s the President of the Rajasthan Party. He has nothing to do with the Karnataka Sammelan.

Madhu: So your position is that when Mathew said, ‘Can I give it to madam?’ you said, ‘Please send it Srinivas Prasad’. Did you say that to the grey haired man in a kurta?

Jaitly: Yes, to him. Not to Gopal Pacherwal, because Gopal is not my clerk.

Madhu: So Gopal Pacherwal was there then?

Jaitly: No, no. I said it to Samuel. I said, he’s organizing our conference in Mysore and I go on talking to them. The funny thing is that, if Gopal Pacherwal had been there, as part of the conversation, I would have said meet so-and-so. Inkeh paas deh deejiyeh, give it to him. I would do it differently. You can’t keep a senior colleague of yours sitting there, not uttering a word. I have not mentioned Gopal Pacherwal or brought him into the conversation throughout.

Madhu: But there is somebody sitting there.

Jaitly: There could have been umpteen people sitting there.

Madhu: But why didn’t you ask people in the Samata Party who was sitting there?

Jaitly: No, how? Which party people? From all over the country? They can come in here and sit any time. You’ve seen the other room the way it is arranged. People who may be doing their own work, people may be getting something typed, waiting for it to be over, people may be getting some photocopying done. People may be waiting to meet me after they go. They may be all just sitting around. I never say yeh log hai toh aap bahar jao [there are people here so please leave].

Madhu: But in your battle to fix Tehelka, wouldn’t it help you and your position to find the person and say, this is the guy who was sitting there?

Jaitly: Who will I find? I will have to ask hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of party people. Because people come from Faridabad, they come from Ghaziabad, they come from Rajasthan, they come from south India. They come from anywhere, at any point of time. There are days where every part of these rooms is full of party people. How can I say, aap thé, aap thé, aap thé [was it you, was it you, was it you]?

Madhu: But it leaves an unanswered question that doesn’t help you. But that point where, this guy who’s sitting next to you takes the package from Mathew …

Jaitly: No, but does he? One, we don’t know who the person is.

Madhu: Where did the package go?

Jaitly: I believe Mathew took it back.

Madhu: But Mathew does not have a packet when he leaves or in the car.

Jaitly: That is why this whole funny business of why Tape 73 ends in the office, with him lying to Aniruddha and why Tape 74 shuts off? Why does the tape that goes back to the office shut off in between? Why does he shut off both tapes and put on one again when he’s going to the office? Then it’s not in his chuddie [underwear]. And then he’s asking Mathew, ‘Achha did you meet her inside, did you?’ and he says, ‘Oh, hoo haan, no, she didn’t allow me to take the briefcase, she said …’ ‘Oh so she was also in the room?’ ‘No, but hmm haa,’ all that whole transcript if you read of Tape 73, when he’s talking to Aniruddha when he’s got back, doesn’t match with what happened here, as you can see it happened. Why is he lying to Aniruddha? Why didn’t he just say- There was a man sitting next to Jaya Jaitly to whom I handed over the money -- which is their claim one month later. At that point of time, when he actually supposedly had just done it, why didn’t he go there and say so? He’s instead telling him, ‘She didn’t let me take the briefcase in’. Untrue; I never stopped it. I didn’t even know who he was or bringing the briefcase. Two: I switched off this camera and switched on the other camera: not true -- the camera was on all the time. He doesn’t say, ‘I’ve given her the money’. Why not? I think he decided that why not pinch it and shove this two lakhs, because he claims that Aniruddha told him wherever you give people money, you record it. If it’s not shown, at least it’ll be there on tape. That’s a ridiculous position to take. That it doesn’t matter if it’s not shown, just record it in with your voice. How does that make it credible evidence at all, in the first place? But secondly he’s shoved it in there, why didn’t he put it where he’s talking to me or supposedly handed it over?

Madhu: Then maybe he didn’t doctor it in because if he were doctoring it he would have put it when he handed the packet over.

Jaitly: But he should have said it then. That there’s two lakhs in this packet; he could have said then. But just when we’re saying bye bye, thank you, thank you, he suddenly says, that’s the two lakh, doh. Very quietly; is he whispering into my ear? No, he’s nowhere near me.

Madhu: So according to you, the guy next to you didn’t take the money and Mathew took it back?

Jaitly: Yes, because the guy next to me, Gopal Pacherwal, is somebody whom never in ten life times I would mistrust. He would not be sitting next to me and swallowing money.

Madhu: So then you admit it was Gopal Pacherwal next to you?

Jaitly: No, I’m saying, if it had been him, he would not be doing it. If it’s anybody else, or him, or anyone, nobody would do such a thing. Gopal Pacherwal as I’m saying, how can somebody hand you something now, and you’ll just go off with it. Wouldn’t I tell you? Where’s that money or do something with it, or anything?

Madhu: But you told him to send it to Srinivas Prasad?

Jaitly: No, I don’t talk to Gopal in English, that’s what I’m saying. I’m talking to Mathew. He said, ‘Can I give it to madam?’ So I’m saying, ‘Send it to Srinivas Prasad, he’s our minister, this--that, this—that’. Otherwise I would have talked in Hindi, if I was telling anybody, whom I speak to in Hindi. Gopal Pacherwal, or otherwise. He probably realized that since I’d given him all these instructions, now he was left with this packet and therefore now he had to either go back and say mission failed or he would have had to take the whole trouble of sending it to Srinivas Prasad, which was not part of their story. It would have been a bore. So he decided to do this. That’s one explanation I can perhaps give. Otherwise, as I’m saying, if I accept the offer, why should I say I didn’t get it? In both, if I’m accepting, I’m accepting. But if, so where’s the thing about the two lakhs? Nobody’s saying that I’ve swallowed it. So? I’m not cheating [laughs] my party or cheating anybody. If I’ve said send it there, I washed my hands off the whole thing.

Madhu: So either the gentleman sitting next to you or Mathew kept the Rs. 2 lakhs.

Jaitly: I can’t see the gentleman, unless he was some stranger sitting there who realized that in all this hadbad [confusion] he could hook off with the money, because I had not noticed. Because I have not seen anybody; if I had, I’m not so dumb that if somebody’s handed some money, I’m just not going to bother to register that.

Madhu: But in the unedited tapes, you can see the guy who gets up when the tea is served; you can see who it is. You should be able to identify him.

Jaitly: See, I have asked myself and I’ve asked umpteen people. The trouble is that honestly, U.P, Rajasthan, Haryana -- you look at any party fellows -- they all look the same. Gopal has said to me, ‘Keh mujhh toh yeh sab cheez yaad hee nahin hai. Mein toh kahin wahaan aya hoga, nahin hoga, mujheh khayaal nahin. [I don’t remember any of these things. I may have come there or I may have not, I cannot remember.],’ He knows and I know, that he would never be sitting in and participating in a meeting which is supposedly related to defence matters. If various people are in the room and various people hear various conversations, that’s another matter. It could have happened. But he has no recollection of this at all. Being a person who only speaks Hindi, he doesn’t understand fluent English. So, he may have been here in the last ten years or fifteen years, sitting in on umpteen conversations with all of us, but wherever it’s in English he’d tune out. How would he know what’s going on? He’s not a naukar [servant] that he’ll just take a package and hold it. He’s senior to me in politics. He was an MP earlier. He’s not just an office clerk. So, in absence of any knowledge about all this, I can only guess as to what was possible or what was not possible.

Madhu: Are there any other Gopals in your office?

Jaitly: No. There may be millions of Gopals in a Party somewhere, but not offhand.

Madhu: But what’s the harm in Gopal saying, ’Yes, it’s me?’

Jaitly: He’s also saying, in his deposition, what he’s asked. The trouble again [is that] he is asked in Hindi;; translate, all this business - - but he has said ke, ‘Mein toh udher ateh jata rehta hoon, mein toh, ho sakta hai ki mein tha. Lekin mein koi uss meeting mein kabhi nahin tha’. [I keep coming and going from here, it is possible it was me. But I was never in that meeting]. Because if you’re in a meeting, consciously knowing about it, you would know the subject matter, then he would remember. But this subject matter is of no connection with him.

Madhu: So he was sure that he wasn’t there or not sure?

Jaitly: He says that if anybody talked about any packet and offered, he has never been involved in any packet-related work in my office. I think that’s what he’s saying. I don’t know whether in the deposition it’ll come out like that.

Madhu: He says he doesn’t remember. He says that as far as he can recall he could have been there, might not have been there; that’s what he says.

Jaitly: People like him, he’s a Lohiawala. He’s been with George Sahab since he was in his early twenties. Rajasthan is very close, he comes quite often; he may sit in any room, he can walk in here into this room very freely, any time he feels like, so how is he to say? Especially when conversations are going on in a language he doesn’t understand. Where a person is being specifically spoken to, which is sounding as if it’s Gopal, I believe that that was elsewhere. Maybe at another time or outside, patched in and the audio patched in.

Madhu: But it’s the same guy who gets up for the tea.

Jaitly: That’s much later, na? That’s what I’m saying. That’s where that big, fat cut is. He might have come in later for the tea. But that doesn’t hang him and being a taker of money. How do we know, that that same tea serving person is the person who is supposedly …; how do we know how everyone was sitting? There is no shot of everybody together in the room.

Madhu: But when he gets up for the tea, there is a very good shot of him.

Jaitly: But was he sitting there…

Madhu: And it is the same guy in the living room, where somebody says ‘Jairam Gopalji.’

Jaitly: Could be. So he’s saying that; he doesn’t deny that as far as I gather. But it’s that portion where that packet business went on; it’s not, nowhere near the tea time.

Madhu: Are you saying that the chronology was switched?

Jaitly: The packet part chronologically came first. But I believe that the discussion about the defence probably came later. What would be the reason for them to cut at that point?

Madhu: The defence part does come later in any case.

Jaitly: Not after the tea; before the tea it comes. According to the edited [tape], it’s this thing, then defence discussion, and out. As if there’s no other conversation. But as you can see there’s a hell of a lot more. Why that hell of a lot more was just bundled out? When there’s a whole lot of other crappy conversation that goes on in many other tapes? Because, again, you wanted to tighten this one so much [so as] to make it look as if Jaya Jaitly was just there to make money. Anybody can be in the room, taking the money on her behalf. This whole hotchpotch with Srinivas Prasad now. What, if I’m saying send it, how can the man have been there from the beginning? How could they have made such a mistake of that nature? How could you think it’s Srinivas Prasad? I’m saying they didn’t even analyse what they were doing.

Madhu: I think it was done in a panic because R.K Jain had discovered Mathew’s identity.

Jaitly: But where’s the panic? In February they come here and do cutaways. I don’t believe that panic.

***

Jaya may not believe that panic but consider Mathew’s halat [condition]. If he were caught with the cameras, he wouldn’t have time to even kiss himself goodbye. No question about that. In the unedited tapes, as they stepped out of Jaya’s office, Mathew continued his conversation with Murgai, who said: ‘She will do everything. There is a proper way to talk to politicians. Mathew replied ‘She has taken the money’. Mathew had trouble locating his driver who was blissfully sleeping in the car with the radio music blaring and did not see Mathew come out or hear him call. Mathew got into the car, did not immediately switch off the cameras, and started screaming at the driver. ‘Peecheh dekhna ko peecheh toh nahin aah reha? Gaana bhi nahin sunnah aisa jageh mai. George Fernandes koh gaand phadna hai. Behenchod, tum soh reha. Voh mera shooting kereh ga. Tum koh kyun bulaya? Doosra ko kyun nahin? Hamareh peecheh gaadi toh nahin hai?’ The driver replied: ‘Nahin.’ Mathew: ‘Peecheh gaadi toh nahin hai?’ Driver: ‘Nahin.’ Mathew: ‘Jaldi office pahunchna hai. Uddher seh ghar jana hai.’ (Look behind; is anyone following us? You cannot listen to music in a place like this. We are going to bust George Fernandes’s ass. Sister-fucker, you were sleeping. They are going to shoot me. Why did they call you? Why didn’t the other one come? Is there a car following us?’ Driver: ‘No.’ Mathew: ‘Is there a car behind us?’ Driver: ‘No.’ Mathew: ‘We have to reach the office quickly. From there I go home.’

It can be safely confirmed that Mathew Samuel was in a state of total fright.

***

Jaitly: I believe the panic had something to do with Shankar Sharma and the stock market and something like that. Shankar Sharma knew he was already under inquiry. The inquiry which they claim is harassment is actually initiated one week before this exposé. Because SEBI said, check all these people who we think are doing hawala operations and he was one. It started one week before and that’s why the court cases and all have been thrown out against Shankar Sharma, because the government has shown the court files which initiated the inquiry well before the exposé. They’re using this cover blown as an excuse. One: there was no letter, so where is that cover blown, this, that and the other? Sure, Jain found out, but Jain is an idiot; he didn’t do anything about it.

Mathew is in a panic to get out of the defence minister’s home because of something happening to Shankar Sharma? This is not connecting the dots. It is invention.

The mystery of Gopal Pacherwal’s presence is an important one to solve, because the real issue here is, who got the Rs 2 lakhs? According to Jaya’s Rashomon, Mathew kept it for himself. According to Mathew’s Rashomon, he gave it to Gopal, who was instructed by Jaya to send it to Srinivas Prasad. In the tape, you do hear Jaya giving instructions in English to send the money to Srinivas Prasad. Jaya, on her part, said she would never speak to Gopal in English. In the West End tapes of the waiting room, it is true that Gopal only converses in Hindi. As the money was taken for Samata Party activities, whoever took it would have to account for it. At this moment, it remains a case of the missing two lakhs.

The facts: Mathew was in Jaya’s room. A packet of money was offered. Jaya did not refuse it. It did happen in the defence minister’s home. Jaya did not check Mathew’s credentials. Jaya did spend some time explaining how the money would be used. Jaya did give a long lecture on how decisions are only taken in the nation’s interest, adding that the price and quality have to be right. Jaya was correct in saying that she did not handle the money at all. The money was clearly for the Party. She said that if somebody was not given even a fair chance, she could send word down to the ministry. That’s it. To me she did not seem as guilty as she herself made it seem in her defence.

***

On 4 April 2002, Sidharth Luthra, (Counsel for Tehelka) in the Commission, questioned Surendra Sureka:

Luthra: Are you in the habit of introducing people to politicians?

Sureka: Agar [if] I was in the habit. If I have done something wrong, that’s why I am standing here.

Luthra: You said, ‘What percentage you will give her, what will you give? Everything you talk her.’ By mentioning her, are you referring to Jaya Jaitly?

Sureka: Yes. Because he was telling sometimes, I will give 3 per cent, I will give 5 per cent. I went there for a business tie up. Then I said, you will talk directly. I am not concerned with all these things and I will not charge anythingI do not want any money for this introduction. My turnover is around five, six crore rupees. My total sale per year is five, six crore rupees. Then he was talking of 5000 crore rupees. I was getting some excitement. Oh, some big work is going to come to me. I get one crore rupees per showroom he was going to give me, finance me, to open the show room. He was impressing me high. I was also trying to impress him – yes, billkul [absolutely] I can do anything. I can produce the sky over here.

Luthra: The next conversation, Shot No. 216. You are talking about a packet. Have you mentioned about this packet in your affidavit?

Sureka: No, it is not that packet. That packet I referred was for me. There are two packets concerned with me in this case.

Luthra: Do you recall the amount?

Sureka: I do not recall the amount. He said, some amount.

Luthra: Please see the next page 106. You were there during the entire conversation, weren’t you?

Sureka: No, one or two times, I went out also. I was there when I introduced [Samuel] to Ms. Jaya Jaitly.

Luthra: But you have not stated so in your affidavit, have you?

Sureka: I have not given in my reply completely because it was said that I was involved in some defence deal. I was not involved in any defence deal. According to me, I am doing this business for the last 30 years, since 1972. Defence deal starts from where? When some tender is there, when tender is opened. There are two types of tenders: limited tenders and advertised tenders. Advertised tenders are published in newspapers. Limited tenders are issued by the department to registered suppliers. When a tender is issued, when we participate, then the defence deal starts. So, that is why we have not given reply. I have mentioned in my reply that I am not at all involved in any defence deal and the talk was only for evaluation. Evaluation, I have stated in my affidavit, that it is the right of every citizen.

Luthra: Meeting at Major General Murgai’s house on 28 December.. Please go to page 117:

‘Major General Murgai: You organize your things a bit.

Sureka: You should always keep a packet in a packet. Don’t give like this. This will impress him.’

Luthra: Is it your conversation?

Sureka: Yes.

Luthra: Please come to the bottom of the page.

‘Major General Murgai: That is his.

Sureka: I can only talk about this evaluation.’

Luthra: What evaluation are you talking about, Sir?

Sureka: Evaluation of that product.

Luthra: Which product?

Sureka: The product which he was going to offer.

Luthra: Please turn to the next page:

‘Sureka: Within 10 days.’

What do you mean by this?

Sureka: Within 10 days means, if you give me the letter of application for evaluation, I said, ‘Yes’ it can be done within 10 days. It can be done within 24 hours.

Luthra: What would get done?

Sureka: Letter. It is a question of 5000 crores.

Luthra: I am asking you what do you mean ‘within 10 days’?

Sureka: My meaning is very simple. He was impressing me with 5000 crore rupees. I was impressing him with anything I can do.

The crucial point here: how did Sureka have a sufficient connection with Jaya Jaitly to have the confidence to take a stranger to her for a defence deal and give money for the party? At the Commission, Sidharth Luthra confirmed that Sureka had discussed introducing Mathew to Jaya Jaitly for the purpose of a defence product related to the defence ministry. Sureka agreed that he did it because he had been promised 5000 crores business.

Surendra Sureka was a simple man. An ordinary businessman. He was living the ‘business way of life’. Slipping money here, pulling strings there; how else can you get work done? Wasn’t he supposed to grab at every opportunity to make money? He was God-fearing, but was the fear of God used as a warranty against the vagaries of life? Living with the fear that all the wealth might disappear with a flick of God’s blink, some insurance is deemed necessary. Sureka’s bewilderment at being portrayed as a dishonest man rankled him, like the grating on his neck from a label on a T-shirt. He came to the Commission to reclaim the image he projected of himself. He wanted to be seen in the way he wanted to be seen. Sureka left a frustrated man.

Sureka and Murgai had reassured Samuel that the letter for evaluation would be issued. Tehelka journalists believed it was. Did such a letter indeed exist?

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