India looks in dismay as MPs trade bribery charges

July 22nd, 2008 - 9:17 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Bharatiya Janata Party

New Delhi/Mumbai, July 22 (IANS) There was outrage and shock across India Tuesday as political leaders of the world’s largest democracy traded charges of horse-trading and buying of MPs’ votes ahead of the crucial trust vote in parliament. “Were they waiting for more money to be paid? By admitting in parliament, they have sought to demean the country’s highest lawmaking body. They should have exercised more discretion and decorum in highlighting this sensitive matter,” Mumbai-based activist Teesta Setalvad told IANS.

Politics took an ugly turn when Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP Faggan Singh Kulaste alleged that senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel and Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh were involved in attempts to bribe him and two other BJP MPs to abstain from the trust vote in the Lok Sabha, lower house of parliament.

“As far as the bribery allegation is concerned, if they are true, then both the bribe-giver and bribe-taker are equally guilty. The Lok Sabha speaker must forthwith suspend them and also debar them from voting in the trust vote,” said non-resident Indian and academician Jamini Oza.

Setalvad termed the charge as a sign of “desperation” on the part of both the opposition party and the ruling Congress-led United Progressive Alliance - barely a few hours ahead the trust vote.

“It is all a ‘tamasha’ (farce). It is stage-managed and it is a game plan of the BJP,” said Vikas Pandey, a writer.

“Overall, the political leaders are doing everything for their own benefits and their pockets. I feel horse-trading is a shame on Indian democracy and all political leaders are to be blamed,” he said.

Adman Piyush Pandey said the incident marked a new downward spiral for the Indian politicians.

“This incident shows that political standards have reached the rock bottom. It has happened in the past, but this one tops it all, displaying wads of currency notes in full view of the whole country.

“If what is alleged has actually happened, then it is a sad day for India, it is a black mark on a nation that the world is pinning its hopes on for the future,” Pandey said.

Charges of horse-trading in India had been hogging headlines of international media, after the Left parties withdrew their support to the government this month following their differences over the India-US nuclear deal and reduced the UPA regime in minority.

Oza saw the bribery charge as a dent to India’s “progressive image” in the world.

“This portends bad for India’s progressive image in the eyes of the world, especially when it is on threshold of joining the world’s most powerful countries,” Oza said.

Then there were others who were not so surprised by the turn of affairs.

“This was quite expected and such things should not surprise Indians any more. The only difference is that until now, we were reading and hearing about bribes being received or paid by politicians and now it is being show live on TV.

“The display of such huge amounts in front of an impoverished nation is an insult to the common man and the august parliament,” said an aghast diamond merchant Dharmesh Zhaveri.

His contempt was echoed by corporate tax consultant Jagdamba Purohit.

“If all this is trye, then like many others I am aghast by this live display of the ill-gotten wealth. In a country where millions live below the pverty line and do not even earn a few rupees a month,” Purohit said.

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