Nachiketa Kapur, now in the eye of the WikiLeaks storm, first came to public notice in 1998 as general secretary of the Indian Youth Congress under its then president, Manish Tewari, currently an MP and national spokesperson of the Congress. In those days, he was associated with the Foreign Affairs Cell of the Youth Congress, and the contacts he built then served him well in later years when he would host dinners at his West Delhi home for the American Council Of Young Political Leaders (ACYPL). These parties would have a sprinkling of Indians working at the U.S. Embassy and prominent Delhi Congress and BJP leaders.
The ACYPL, according to its Facebook page, was founded in 1966 as “a bipartisan non-profit organisation internationally recognised as the pre-eminent catalyst for introducing rising political and policy leaders to international affairs and to each other,” which exists on the basis of “generous support from the U.S. State Department Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and a wide range of corporate, foundation and individual partners” and conducts exchanges with over 20 nations around the world.
Mr. Kapur's stint in the Youth Congress' Foreign Affairs Cell brought him in touch with the former Foreign Secretary, J.N. Dixit, who, after his retirement from the government, joined the Congress' Foreign Affairs Department. When Mr. Dixit became National Security Adviser in 2004 after the United Progressive Alliance came to power at the Centre, Mr. Kapur was made a Research Officer in the National Security Council.
Shortly after Mr. Dixit's sudden death in January 2005, Mr. Kapur joined the then Union Minister for Women and Child Development Renuka Chowdhury's staff. He already knew Ms. Chowdhury, as he and some other former Youth Congress members hosted a dinner in her honour in 2004, shortly after she was sworn into the Council of Ministers.
Some years later, he left Ms. Chowdhury's staff on a bitter note, following differences with her and another member of her staff: at that point he was hoping to be upgraded Officer on Special Duty. He soon found himself another berth in 2008 — as Deputy Director General (Protocol & Media Relations), Commonwealth Games.
The Commonwealth Games authorities were apparently unaware that the all-powerful Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC), in an unusual action, had passed strictures on Mr. Kapur: in 2008, it issued a memorandum not only rejecting his promotion to the post of the Minister's OSD, but adding that he “should not be considered for any appointment of a sensitive nature.” Asked to comment on the extraordinary memorandum issued by the Ministry of Personnel and Training, Mr. Kapur had said at that time that it was done at Ms. Chowdhury's behest, and that he had been “victimised” by her. However, when the ACC's strictures appeared in Outlook magazine in 2010, the Commonwealth Games authorities were forced to ease him out of the job.
If Mr. Kapur has had a chequered career, he has simultaneously been a regular in Delhi's whirl of Page Three parties. On Thursday, Congress MP Satish Sharma denied that Mr. Kapur was his aide, as he has been described in the U.S. embassy cable made available to The Hindu by the WikiLeaks. He has also denied working for Mr. Sharma. But clearly, the two are well known to each other. A random search on the internet reveals an item which says he was “spotted” at the wedding of Mr. Sharma's son, Samir, where the other guests included Rahul Gandhi and other high profile politicians. Another item runs a photograph of Mr. Kapur looking on admiringly (on November 07, 2010) at an exhibition of paintings by Mr. Sharma's Dutch-born wife, Sterre.
On Thursday, Mr. Kapur denied allegations made in leaked U.S. diplomatic cables that he was involved in paying off MPs to save the Manmohan Singh government in a crucial trust vote in 2008.
“I do not know anything. I have not witnessed anything,” Mr. Kapur told journalists. In the cable he is quoted as saying that a fund of Rs. 50-60 crore had been formed to pay MPs to vote for the government in the trust vote. He also reportedly showed an American embassy staffer two chests containing cash meant for the bribes.
On his part, Mr. Kapur denies ever having worked with Mr. Sharma: “I am in the same party...but I have not worked with him.” Asked if he recalled meeting a U.S. embassy staffer, he said: “I don't recall.”
In 2008, he travelled to the U.S. at the invitation of the State Department to observe the presidential elections there.