PM ‘rejects firmly’ bribery allegation on 2008 trust vote (Lead)

March 18th, 2011 - 4:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, March 18 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Friday firmly rejected allegations that MPs were bribed to win the 2008 trust vote and said the US diplomatic cables put out by WikiLeaks were “speculative, unverified and unverifiable”.

“The government rejects the allegation firmly. Nobody from the Congress or the government was involved in illegal act,” Manmohan Singh told the Lok Sabha, a day after the opposition vociferously demanded his resignation over the alleged 2008 cash-for-votes scam that resurfaced with a newspaper publishing the WikiLeaks cables.

He hit out at the opposition for raising the issue and giving “dignity” to an “unverified communication”.

“It is unfortunate that the opposition raised the charges that have been debated, discussed and rejected by the people of India,” Manmohan Singh said in a direct reference to Congress victory in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections.

“I am disappointed the members of parliament have forgotten what happened after that. How did the people respond to such allegations. The main opposition party (the Bharatiya Janata Party) was reduced from 138 seats to 116 seats in the 15th Lok Sabha, the Left from 59 to 24. It is the Congress party alone that increased its tally from 145 to 206,” he said.

Congress MPs thumped their tables as the prime minister denied the charges on WikiLeaks that purportedly say that payoffs had been made to MPs to ensure a majority for the Congress-led government in the confidence vote following differences over the India-US nuclear deal in 2008.

Nachiketa Kapur, described as a political aide of Congress leader Satish Sharma, is quoted in the leaked cables as saying that a fund of Rs.50 crore had been formed to pay MPs.

According to the leaked cable: “Sharma’s political aide mentioned to an embassy staff member in an aside on July 16 that Ajit Singh’s (Rashtriya Lok Dal) RLD had been paid Rs.10 crore for each of their four MPs to support the government.”

“Kapur showed the embassy employee two chests containing cash and said that around Rs.50-60 crore was lying around the house for use as pay-offs.”

The prime minister said the communications mentioned in the WikiLeaks exposed cables were “speculative, unverified and unverifiable”.

He also questioned the authenticity of the diplomatic correspondence and said the government cannot confirm the veracity of these reports.

The prime minister later read out the same statement in the Rajya Sabha. Both houses had to be adjourned over the opposition clamouring for clarifications on the statement.

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