In a sting reminiscent of the ‘cash for query’ scam in 2005 and the ‘cash for vote’ scam in 2008, 11 sitting Members of Parliament have been caught on camera in a sting operation code-named Operation Falcon Claw by news website Cobrapost.
The MPs were willing to write recommendatory letters for a fictitious foreign oil exploration company in lieu of cash payments.
The MPs comprise three from BJP, three from the JD (U), two from Congress, two from AIADMK and one from the BSP.
An undercover Cobrapost reporter approached the 11 MPs requesting recommendatory letters so as to strengthen the profile of a fake Australian oil company, Mediterranean Oil Inc., as also to lobby for it with the petroleum ministry for oil exploration and rigging rights in oil-rich Northeast India.
“None of the MPs bothered to check the antecedents of the company or check if the company was real. Imagine the implications for national security,” said Annirudh Bahal, editor, Cobrapost.
“There were many more MPs who simply wanted to sign the letters without applying their minds and go. But we have left them out,” said Bahal.
The exposed MPs--K Sugumar and C Rajendran from AIADMK; Lalu Bhai Patel, Ravindra Kumar Pandey and Hari Manjhi from BJP; Vishwa Mohan Kumar, Maheshwar Hazari and Bhudeo Chaudhary from JD(U); Khiladi Lal Bairwa and Vikrambhai Arjanbhai Maadam from Congress; and Kaiser Jahan from BSP--sought amounts ranging from Rs 50,000 to an exorbitant Rs 50 lakh. One MP even demanded that his fee be delivered through a hawala operator.
The Website is in possession of six such letters--addressed to the Union petroleum minister and joint secretary (exploration) in the petroleum ministry--signed by the MPs on their official letterheads.
Said eminent lawyer and Aam Aadmi Party leader Prashant Bhushan: “The expose shows how large number of MPs are willing to sell their integrity and interest of the country for money. Not only does it constitute serious offenses, it also constitutes breach of parliamentary privileges.”
Making a case for Lokpal, he added: “If the Lokpal was in place, all of the MPs would have gone to jail. It is also incumbent on the authorities to start immediate investigations.”
Last month, Cobrapost had exposed the illegal snooping on a young woman by key Narendra Modi-aide Amit Shah using state machinery.
Reactions from the political parties were muted.
Assuring action after ascertaining of facts, Congress spokesperson Harish Rawat said: “When such issues are raised in the public domain, the party takes note and appropriate action is undertaken.”
BJP’s Prakash Javdekar told HT: “We will see the sting CD and then give our reactions on Friday.