BeyondHeadlines Special Correspondent
New Delhi: The ruling United Progressive Alliance Government at the centre was trapped in difficulties today in both houses of Parliament over the WikiLeaks cables, which claim that the ruling alliance paid some MPs to vote in favour of the trust vote on the Indo-US nuclear deal in July 2008 during its first term.
There was ruckus in Parliament over the publication of India cables of WikiLeaks in The Hindu with opposition MPs demanding the resignation of the Manmohan Singh government over the alleged cash-for-vote scam. Both the Rajya Sabha (upper house) and the Lok Sabha (lower house) were adjourned twice – first till 12 noon and then again till 2 PM – after the opposition MPs and Treasury benches continued to shout slogans.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee took on the Opposition and tried to defend Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the issue.
“I cannot either confirm this or deny this (WikiLeaks revelation in The Hindu) as the missions and sovereign government enjoy immunity. The Government elected is accountable to the 15th Lok Sabha and not the 14th Lok Sabha,” said Mukherjee.
However, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley pointed his finger at Mukherjee and said, “You are guilty of a cover-up.”
“Outside the House an offence of bribery is not accepted. If what has appeared is correct, it is a commission of an offence in India. Diplomatic immunity may be available to US diplomats but the same immunity can’t be used by Indians in India. Where the question of Finance minister claiming that immunity?” said Jaitley.
“If he satisfies what appeared in the newspaper is an admissible evidence in any court of the law, I will be satisfied. ‘That what appeared is an admissible evidence in any court of law in India as per the laws’, This is the submission I want him to make,” an agitated Mukherjee said while trading charges with Jaitley.
Earlier, as soon as Rajya Sabha met Jaitley alleged that the first UPA government survived on the strength of “a political sin, a moral sin” while Communist Party if India (Marxist) MP Sitaram Yechury demanded that the Manmohan Singh Government had lost the moral authority and must resign.
“This government has no authority to continue. They must resign immediately,” said Jaitley of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“This represents degeneration of political morality. There should be a criminal investigation now. We would want the government to come clear on this. The allegations are so dangerous. They link few MPs of this house to the Gandhi family. There should be criminal proceedings against these MPs. There is no moral ground for the government to continue,” said Yechury.
“This is a very serious issue. The Hindu is a reputed paper in the country and has published WikiLeaks. It saddens me. We didnt support the nuclear deal but the Government went ahead and accepted and earned money out of it. It is appropriate for the Prime Minster to explain. They have lost the moral responsibility to continue in power,” said Communist Party of India (CPI) MP D Raja.
The issue was raised in the Lok Sabha, too, with Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj saying that the WikiLeaks “report has brought shame to the nation”.
“An official of the American Embassy was shown a chest full of cash. Is this a display of the bullying tactics of the government or its shamelessness This Government has lost the moral right of ruling the country,” said Sushma as Opposition MPs shouted “sharam karo, sharam karo (shame, shame)”.
Gurudas Dasgupta, CPI MP in Lok Sabha, called the revelations a murder of democracy.
“It’s a murder of democracy if money was paid to members to win the vote of confidence. We would like to know whether the control room of India is in Delhi or Washington. We demand the Prime Minister to come to the House and make a statement and deny this. If he does not deny, he should immediately resign,” said Dasgupta.
However, Government sources said that there was no substance in the WikiLeaks revelations. “They haven’t got facts right. So how can they be accepted? Congress spoke to all like minded parties including Ajit Singh. We had the numbers so there was no need to buy votes,” the sources said.
Three MPs – Ashok Argal, Faggan Singh Kulaste and Mahavir Singh Bhagora – belonging to the BJP had on July 22, 2008 stunned the nation by brandishing wads of cash in the Lok Sabha shortly before the Manmohan Singh government was to face the trust vote.
The trio had accused former Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh and Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s Political Secretary Ahmad Patel of offering them bribes to abstain during the trust vote.
The Manmohan Singh government won the vote of confidence in the Lok Sabha with 275 MPs voting in favour of the UPA and 256 against it.