What the Rafale Tape does not Reveal

By Ashwin Tombat
24 March 2019 19:24 IST

Are the secret Rafale files actually in Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar’s bedroom? Health Minister Vishwajit Rane, allegedly recorded on a viral audiotape, seems to suggest so.

His exact words: “CM makes one very interesting statement that I have all the information on Rafale in my bedroom… which you should actually make a story. Today, you can cross check with somebody close to within the cabinet. That means he is holding them to ransom. He said it’s in my bedroom, here only, in the flat. Each and very document of Rafale is with me. Now whether he wanted someone to inform them in Delhi or what exactly, I didn’t understand…”

Mr Rane has denied it. He said that the tape had been cleverly doctored “to sound very much like me”, at a press conference on Wednesday. Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, in a tweet, condemned the “frustration” of the Congress.

But Congress President Rahul Gandhi says the tape is “authentic”. About Mr Rane’s and Mr Parrikar’s denials, he added: “Do you think Mr Parrikar will not deny it? If you were Vishwajit Rane, would you not deny it?”

Veteran Goa journalist Devika Sequeira, writing in the online news magazine ‘The Wire’, says: “Here in Goa… most journalists who have great access to ministers and politicians have little doubt that it is indeed Vishwajit Rane on the tape.”

The news website ‘Indiascoops.com’ reports that the BJP High Command sent a show-cause notice to Mr Rane and “ordered” him to reply in writing. Mr Rane, it says, air-dashed to Delhi on Thursday morning, but a furious BJP President Amit Shah refused to meet him. Mr Rane also got a tongue-lashing from Mr Parrikar.  

This controversy has once more propelled Goa into national news. Though it is India’s smallest state, Goa punches way above its weight.

But, notwithstanding Rahul Gandhi’s enthusiasm, the fact is, all the tape tells us is what Mr Rane claims Mr Parrikar said about the Rafale files. We don’t know whether the Chief Minister actually said it…

What is more interesting than Vishwajit Rane’s ‘revelations’ about the files is what he says before and after on the tape. Please note, he has not specifically denied this.

Talking about a “three-hour cabinet meeting”, Mr Rane complains that “there were so many fights” because a newly inducted minister had “gone and recruited maximum number of engineers from his constituency”. A minister from an alliance partner, he says, “got the list and showed it to him”.

“Everybody was fighting with ‘him’ and everybody was upset, because no work is being done on the recruitment front,” the voice on the tape says, without giving any clear indication of the identity of ‘him’.

Another minister, it says, was fighting with PWD Minister Sudin Dhavalikar, “because his works are not being done”. Despite lasting for three hours, says Mr Rane, the Cabinet Meeting was “directionless… waste of time”!

When asked why Goa Speaker Pramod Sawant is “suddenly” calling a Legislative Assembly session, Mr Rane replies: “Because he feels the RSS will back him to become the Chief Minister,” even though both “Sudin” (Dhavalikar — MGP) and “Vijai” (Sardessai — Goa Forward) have made it clear that they are not supporting him.

He then tells the voice at the other end: “We need to have a meeting… because you need to communicate certain things to Delhi… what will be the outcome of this whole thing.” He concludes somewhat mysteriously: “Just brief and keep… Because it will go in ‘that’ direction only; I am very, very clear…”

There is a massive internal civil war within the ruling dispensation to succeed Mr Parrikar. Guns are being trained even within the Cabinet on the CM, for an apparent paralysis in the administration. Is that why Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar is now attending office with a Ryle’s tube, despite his illness… to assert that he is still in charge?

I thought the Congress was being brazen and cruel, constantly hounding Mr Parrikar when he is ill and vulnerable. I now see that the BJP and its allies are not much different…

(Originally published on Sunday 6 January 2019, in 'Lokmat')

 

Blogger's Profile

Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.

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