India

Wikileaks: Prime Minister Likely to Respond to Opposition Charges

Tarique Anwar, BeyondHeadlines

New Delhi:  The storm over WikiLeaks cables on cash-for-votes scandal is likely to dominate House proceeding again today with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expected to respond to the Opposition’s charges against him.

Yesterday, uproar over the issue virtually paralysed Parliament with the BJP staging a walkout. The party alleged that the Prime Minister “misled” the House by claiming that MPs were not bribed during the July 2008 trust vote even though the Parliamentary probe committee said that money was paid.

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh

The WikiLeaks cable states that the Congress bought MPs ahead of its vote of confidence in 2008 over the nuclear deal with the US. But the PM told Parliament last week that there was no reason to believe that the cable was authentic, and that the Indian players mentioned in them have challenged the facts stated within.

“The Government rejects that allegation absolutely hands down. The allegations of bribery were investigated by the 14th Lok Sabha. The committee concluded that there was insufficient evidence to draw any conclusion of bribery,” he had said.

In Lok Sabha yesterday, the BJP-led NDA boycotted the debate on the Finance Bill in following differences with the government over the timing of taking up a discussion over the Prime Minister’s statement on the scam.

The main Opposition staged a walkout as soon as the Bill was moved by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee as it wanted the discussion on the Prime Minister’s statement to be taken up before the legislative business.

But the government insisted on taking up the Finance Bill first, saying it had been scheduled earlier.

“We agreed to short duration debate after the Finance Bill is passed. We have no problem to discussion under Rule 192, which does not entail voting. But please allow the Finance Bill to be passed first,” Finance Minister and Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee said addressing the Opposition which was demanding the debate on the PM’s statement first.

“The Finance Bill has its own sanctity,” Mukherjee said, appealing for cooperation from the Opposition.

Leader of the Opposition, Sushma Swaraj, said the Opposition also wants passage of the Finance Bill but it should be taken up only after a two-and-a-half hour debate on the PM’s statement.

“It is a question of two-and-a-half hours…You allow debate, then we can have both… It is just a matter of earlier and later,” she said.

Swaraj said if the debate is allowed on the PM’s statement, “We are ready to sit here till 12 (to pass the Finance Bill).”

Countering Swaraj, Mukherjee said a precedent like this should not be created.

“You have given the notice for a Short Duration discussion today. Allow 24 hours. The discussion can take place tomorrow… The Finance Bill has been decided long ago. We should stick to the schedule,” he said.

PC Chacko, who was in the Chair, also ruled that the Finance Bill should be taken up first and Mukherjee started moving the Bill.

Unhappy over this, Swaraj led a walkout, asking the government to pass the Finance Bill without the main Opposition if it was so adamant.

(With NDTV inputs)

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