Cash-for-votes: Advani taunts government to jail him

September 8th, 2011 - 9:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, Sep 8 (IANS) Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani Thursday dared the government to put him behind bars for approving the display of cash by party MPs inside the Lok Sabha to expose the bribery scandal during the July 2008 trust vote.

Later at a press conference, he announced that he would embark on a ‘rath yatra’ to expose corruption, dates and itinerary of which will be finalised in a few days.

Displaying outrage at the arrest of his party colleagues in connection with the July 2008 parliamentary trust vote bribery scandal, now infamously referred to as the cash-for-votes scam, Advani said as the then leader of the BJP parliamentary party, he had approved of the two former MPs - and one incumbent - displaying cash inside the Lok Sabha.

A visibly emotional Advani raised his fists over his head to symbolically ask the government to handcuff him, if it was unleashing the Delhi Police on the former BJP MPs — Faggan Singh Kulaste and Mahavir Singh Bhagora, who were arrested Tuesday.

“If they have been arrested for exposing the scam, then arrest me too. I was their leader in the Lok Sabha,” the octogenarian leader said in the Lok Sabha.

The Delhi Police had also arrested former Samajwadi Party general secretary and Rajya Sabha member Amar Singh, who has been accused by the BJP MPs of trying to purchase their votes then.

Hailing the trio as “whistle-blowers”, Advani, who was then the leader of opposition, said they had done “a great service” to Indian democracy by exposing the backroom manoeuvrings to purchase opposition votes to ensuring the victory of the United Progressive Alliance-I government under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“If I had felt they were doing something wrong by waving the cash, I would have stopped them. But I felt what they were doing to expose this scam was right,” he said.

The trust vote on July 22, 2008, which the government won, was necessitated after the Left parties withdrew their support over the civil nuclear cooperation deal with the US.

“The two (former) MPs are now in prison, while those who took money at that time to save the government as happily sitting here,” Advani said in the Lok Sabha, amid vociferous protests and shouting by Congress MPs.

He said the trio should be appreciated for not taking home the Rs.1 crore paid to them as bribe, but revealing it in the Lok Sabha to expose the scam.

Earlier, Advani, along with MPs from BJP and its allies, Shiv Sena and Janata Dal-United, had held a half-hour protest in the parliament complex to condemn the arrest of the two former MPs.

The incumbent MP has not been arrested, apparently because Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar is yet to sanction this.

At a press conference later in the day, Advani said: “Had they taken the Rs.1 crore and gone home, they would have been happy. There are many who made a lot of money during that time, and are still sitting in the parliament.”

The BJP leader said those who exposed such scam in any other part of the world, would be called “whistle-blowers”.

Referring to the Lokpal debate in Lok Sabha last week, Advani said Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee has listed out all the anti-graft legislations, including the whistle-blowers protection bill. “Suddenly, in the cash-for-votes scam, the whistle-blowers protection law is forgotten,” he added.

Advani also referred to Manmohan Singh’s remarks on the cash-for-votes scam during the budget session this year, when the latter referred to the 2009 Lok Sabha election victory of the UPA, saying: “In no democracy in the world an electoral victory legitimises such crime and corruption, such irregularities and misdeeds of the ruling party.”

“This scandal is really shameful. You hail this bribe giving,” he said.

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