It was the sweetness of Urdu poetry that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh used to counter a bitter attack on him by a united Opposition over a Wikileaks cable accusing the Congress of bribing Opposition MPs during the 2008 trust vote.
Singh used wit and verse to end the furore in Parliament, but regretted that when many issues demanded attention, “we have chosen to be exercised about what some embassy official writes about us”.Rajya Sabha too saw sharp debating by leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley and home minister P Chidambaram.
The PM chose an Urdu couplet to reply to leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj’s criticism of his leadership before he wrapped up a debate in Lok Sabha. “Mana ki tere deed ke kaabil nahi hoon main, tu mera shauk dekh, mera intezar dekh (I admit I’m not worth your attention but appreciate my interest and my patience),” he said.
Swaraj had also attacked the PM with an Urdu couplet: “Na idhar udhar ki tu baat kar, ye bata ki kaafila kyun luta. Hamein rahjano se gila nahi, teri rahbari ka sawal hai (don’t talk about this and that, tell us why the caravan was looted. It is a question of your leadership).”
A smiling Singh responded, “The main Opposition party, from 2004, has adopted the attitude that we are a usurper”.
He said, “Advaniji believes being prime minister was his birth right and therefore, he has never forgiven me. All I can say to Advaniji is, the people of India voted us to power in free and fair elections. Please wait another three-and-a-half years.”
Singh’s retort brought a smile not only on the faces of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, but also Advani. The debate in both Houses was over Singh’s statement of March 18 on the WikiLeaks documents, first accessed by The Hindu.
Repeating his statement of last week, the PM said: “We were not involved in any illegal act, nor had we authorised anybody to indulge in any bribe given during 2008 confidence vote.”
“It would be dangerous to go for what an embassy official has to say,” he warned, adding that it wasn’t possible for the government to ascertain the veracity of correspondence between the US embassy and its government.
Earlier, the Opposition wondered how the PM could wash his hands of the scam when he headed the government in 2008 and was the “biggest beneficiary” of the trust vote. Chidambaram and telecom minister Kapil Sibal, in turn, charged the BJP with masterminding the cash-for-votes sting to “destabilise” the government.
Swaraj told the PM that as head of the government he should take responsibility instead of making others scapegoat. Jaitley said the PM cannot exonerate his government on the basis of an electoral win.