Even as Tata Sons and Cyrus Mistry are engaged in a public spat, a clear picture on what caused the rift is beginning to emerge. Tata Sons alleges that when Mistry took over as chairman in 2012, he had promised to use only Tata Salt in his food. But in a contravention of Tata group ethics, Mistry never took to the salt. 


What enraged the Board and Ratan Tata more was that Mistry's cook was using Captain Cook salt.


"I am the captain and I reserve the right to use Captain Cook. Too many cooks on the Tata Sons Board spoilt the dhansak, my favorite Parsi dish," Cyrus Mistry told Tenali Rama in an exclusive interview over breakfast. Mistry also clarified that he had not sold the Tata Salt packets that accrued to his kitchen account every month.


"It is uncharitable to allege that Mr Mistry committed namak haraami by not using Tata Salt. Mr Mistry is also upset by canards that he is looking to sell the Tata Salt packets when the prices shoot up," a spokesperson for Cyrus Mistry said in a statement. Tata Sons countered it by saying that Mistry had "overwhelmingly" lost the confidence of the board members due to his reluctance to embrace iodised salt. "He clearly did not care for his own health or the health of the group," said Tata Sons. 


Tata Salt was not the only point of difference. Mistry never subscribed to Tata Docomo's postpaid plan despite the Board offering him a connection with free national roaming and unlimited data for the first two months. What upset Ratan Tata more was that Mistry picked up a Jio sim card and taunted the former chairman on his tendency to indulge in backseat driving by saying, "Jio aur jeene do". 


Sources say that when Mukesh Ambani heard of Mistry's retort to Ratan Tata, he was overwhelmed and presented him with a Mumbai Indians T-shirt, with Cyrus embossed at the back. 


The final break point reportedly came when Mistry reportedly wanted Tata Motors to ensure they do not sell trucks to clients who painted `Horn OK Please' at the back. But Ratan Tata felt that curbing the Indian tendency to honk would be to show intolerance. That is what Tata was referring to earlier this month when he spoke about growing intolerance in India, calling it a "curse".

 

(Tenali Rama is a satirical series by senior journalist T S Sudhir)