WikiLeaks revives cash-for-vote charge
The cash-for-votes scam returned to Parliament on Thursday to haunt the government. The latest WikiLeaks expose claimed the UPA-1 government sought to buy MPs to maintain its majority in the 14th Lok Sabha during the vote of confidence over the Indo-US nuclear deal on July 22, 2008. HT reports. Graphics: The whole story | Can't confirm or deny: Pranab | Read WikiLeaks India cable | PM should quit: Advaniindia Updated: Mar 18, 2011 01:35 IST
The cash-for-votes scam returned to Parliament on Thursday to haunt the government. The latest WikiLeaks expose claimed the UPA-1 government sought to buy MPs to maintain its majority in the 14th Lok Sabha during the vote of confidence over the Indo-US nuclear deal on July 22, 2008.
The Opposition launched a no-holds-barred attack on the government by stalling proceedings in both Houses, asking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to quit over the charges.While the BJP asked the government to quit, the Left asked for further investigations and a reply by the PM. Parties like the SP, TDP and TRS also attacked the government.
The Left and the BJP were seen having a sort of floor coordination on the issue, with CPI’s Gurudas Dasgupta twice walking over to the BJP benches to tell them not to storm the Well, but protest from their seats.
The leaked cable — from a senior US diplomat to the state department — claimed Congress leader Satish Sharma and his “aide” Nachiketa Kapur paid R10 crore for each vote from Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD).
Sharma and Kapur denied the charges. Sharma also said he had no links with Kapur. And neither Ajit Singh nor his MPs were seen in the House on Thursday.
The cable even said the PM unsuccessfully “worked on” the Shiromani Akali Dal for its votes through Indian-American businessman Sant Singh Chatwal.
The Opposition leaders, however, desisted from authenticating the cable, despite repeated challenges from the government.
Congress dismissed the demand for the PM’s resignation while Singh presented Parliament records to prove the RLD’s three MPs voted against the government.
Pranab Mukherjee said the present government was responsible to the 15th Lok Sabha, not the 14th Lok Sabha, as the Opposition was claiming. Plus, he said, diplomatic immunity of a foreign government’s communication with its mission made it impossible for him to confirm or deny the cable’s authenticity.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said the reports on US diplomatic cables were “unverified leaks without corroborative authentication” and “outlandish allegations not worth a response”.
When Mukherjee challenged Dasgupta to go to court, Dasgupta said, “We shall not. This is a matter for Parliament to decide.”
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said, “Pranab Mukhejee’s defence that the offence vanished with the dissolution of the 14th Lok Sabha is incredible since the offence of bribery outside Parliament does not vanish because the 14th Lok Sabha has ceased to exist.”
There are, however, contradictions in the leaked cable itself. For one, RLD voted against the government. The Opposition attack, too, had its contradictions.
BJP chose to ignore another revelation of the cable, that Sharma was “exploring the possibility” of getting BJP leader AB Vajpayee’s foster son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya to divide BJP during the vote.