After a string of scams like the 2G, CWG and Adarsh Housing, the Congress is on the mat again over WikiLeaks expose. The WikiLeaks India cables, accessed by The Hindu, claimed that Manmohan Singh-led UPA government used cash to win trust vote in Parliament in 2008 over Indo-US nuclear deal. Cornoring the Congress party over this expose, the Opposition demanded government's resignation over the issue.
An aide of Congress leader Satish Sharma allegedly showed a US Embassy employee "two chests containing cash" and said Rs 50-60 crore is ready for use as "pay-offs" to win the support of some MPs ahead of crucial vote of confidence in UPA government over the Indo-US nuke deal, claimed a set of US diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks.
Noting that the Congress party machine was working "overtime" behind the scenes in the run-up to the confidence vote on July 22,2008, the cables also claimed the party had allegedly paid Rs 10 crores to each of their "four RLD MPs."
RLD chief Ajit Singh denied the allegations of pay-offs and said the party voted against the Manmohan Singh government
since it was against the civil nuclear deal.
The cable claimed that Nachiketa Kapur, Sharma's political aide, mentioned to an Embassy staff member in an aside on July 16, 2008 that Ajit Singh's RLD had been paid Rs 10 crore for each of their "four MPs" to support the government.
Kapur reportedly mentioned that money was not an issue at all, but the crucial thing was to ensure that those who took the money would vote for the government, according to the cable sent from the US Embassy to the US State department dated July 17, 2008.
Kapur showed the Embassy employee "two chests containing cash" and said that "around Rs. 50-60 crore (about 25 million USD ) was lying around the house for "use as pay-offs", the cable claimed.
Captain Satish Sharma told TV channels that he had no such aide called Nachiketa Kapur.
Denying the alelgations against him, Kapur claimed he did not meet any American Embassy official and that he had nothing to do with the confidence vote.
According to Wikileaks, the cable mentioned about a meeting US Political Counsellor had with Sharma, considered to be a close friend of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, on July 16 during when the Congress MP in the Rajya Sabha told him that he as well as others in the party was "working hard" that the UPA government wins the trust vote.
Another Congress party insider reportedly told the Counsellor that Minister of Commerce and Industry Kamal Nath is also helping to "spread largesse," the cable said.
""Formerly he could only offer small planes as bribes," according to this interlocutor, now he can pay for votes with
jets," the cable released by Wikileaks said.
Sharma reportedly told the Political Counsellor that "PM Singh and others were trying to work on the Akali Dal(8 votes)
through NRI businessman Sant Chatwal and other, but unfortunately it did not work out."
According to the cable, Sharma mentioned that efforts to encourage Shiv Sena(12 votes) to abstain were on-going. While
different Congress operatives were working on different groups of MPs, Sharma said that Rahul Gandhi was "personally working Omar(Abdullah).
Sharma also reportedly mentioned that he was also exploring the possibility of trying to get "former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya" to speak to BJP representatives to try to divide the BJP ranks, according to the diplomatic cable.
According to the Wikileaks, the diplomatic cable mentioned that "our best guess" ahead of the confidence vote showed the government maintaining its slim majority with the anticipated vote count at about 273 in favour, 251 opposed, and 19 abstentions.
The UPA government won the confidence vote getting 275 votes in favour with 256 against and 10 abstentions. Just before the vote, the BJP produced cash on the floor of the House and alleged that this was the money the government had used to try and buy the support of MPs. But subsequent investigation ran aground.
Read the WikiLeaks cable
Votes For Sale
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¶8. (SBU) Behind the scenes, the Congress Party machine is working overtime. Sonia Gandhi reportedly plans to meet Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader Shibu Soren and Janata Dal Secular (JD-S) leader H.D. Deve Gowda. Retaining the support of JMM's five seats and the JD-S's three seats is reportedly vital to the UPA government's strategy. In exchange for retaining the support of the three votes of the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), the Congress Party has reportedly pledged its support to rename Lucknow's Amausi airport after Chaudhary Charan Singh, father of RLD leader Ajit Charan Singh, who may also get a cabinet seat.
¶9. (C) On July 16, PolCouns met with Captain Satish Sharma, a Congress Party MP in the Rajya Sabha, a former Indian Airlines Pilot, and a close associate of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi considered to be a very close family friend of Sonia Gandhi. Sharma mentioned that he, as well as others in the party, was working hard to ensure that the UPA government wins the confidence vote on July 22. He said that the Prime Minister, Sonia Gandhi, and Rahul Gandhi were committed to the nuclear initiative and had conveyed this message clearly to the party. Sharma said that PM Singh and others were trying to work on the Akali Dal (8 votes) through financier Sant Chatwal and others, but unfortunately it did not work out. He mentioned that efforts to encourage Shiv Sena (12 votes) to abstain were on-going. While different Congress operatives were working on different groups of MPs, Sharma said that Rahul Gandhi was personally working Omar
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Abdullah's Jammu and Kashmir National Conference (J&KNC), whose two MPs are inclined to vote in favor of the UPA. Sharma mentioned that he was also exploring the possibility of trying to get former Prime Minister Vajpayee's son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya to speak to BJP representatives to try to divide the BJP ranks. He mentioned that if the party wins the trust vote, they would then prefer to go for national elections in February or March 2009, which would give the UPA time to control prices and bring down inflation.
¶10. (S) Sharma's political aide Nachiketa Kapur mentioned to an Embassy staff member in an aside on July 16 that Ajit Singh's RLD had been paid Rupees 10 crore (about $2.5 million) for each of their four MPs to support the government. Kapur mentioned that money was not an issue at all, but the crucial thing was to ensure that those who took the money would vote for the government. Kapur showed the Embassy employee two chests containing cash and said that around Rupees 50-60 crore (about $25 million) was lying around the house for use as pay-offs.
¶11. (S) Another Congress Party insider told PolCouns that Minister of Commerce and Industry Kamal Nath is also helping to spread largesse. ""Formerly he could only offer small planes as bribes,"" according to this