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Updated: March 22, 2011 20:49 IST

Cong. demands BJP apology for raising WikiLeaks issue

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Congress leader Jayanthi Natarajan (file). Photo: V. Sudershan
The Hindu Congress leader Jayanthi Natarajan (file). Photo: V. Sudershan

With BJP continuing to disrupt proceedings in Parliament on WikiLeaks issue, the Congress on Tuesday demanded an apology from the main opposition alleging it had lowered the institution’s dignity by raising “unverified leaks” in the House.

Congress also dismissed the statement of WikiLeaks editor Julian Assanage that Indian leaders were trying to mislead the public by challenging the authenticity of U.S. diplomatic cables, which suggested that some MPs were bribed during the 2008 trust vote.

“Assanage is author of WikiLeaks. WikiLeaks by definition are only leaks. When we have said we do not like to dignify WikiLeaks by a response, we will obviously not like to dignify Assanage with response on his comments,” party spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan said in response to questions.

Trashing WikiLeaks as “unverified and unverifiable leaks”, she said, “However, the BJP sought to raise it to the level of Indian Parliament, to an issue of national level. The opposition party has thereby sullied the integrity of our Parliament by raising the issue on the floor of the House for purely politically expedient reasons.”

The Congress spokesperson also accused the BJP of double speak” and “dereliction of duty“.

“BJP and other opposition parties have once again stalled proceedings of the House. They have not allowed the important Finance Bill to be taken up for discussion and walked out. It shows complete dereliction of duty of the opposition party.

“The hypocrisy and double speak of BJP stood exposed in the matter. They do not hesitate to attack the Prime Minister of India on the basis of supposed allegations but they remain silent when the role of their leaders are exposed,” Ms. Natarajan said.

Referring to the WikiLeaks reports BJP veteran L. K. Advani had assured American diplomats privately that Indo-U.S. nuclear agreement would not be reviewed if his party came to power, Ms. Natarajan said, “This exposed lack of integrity, double speak and double standards of BJP, who are now holding Parliament to ransom.”

She said, “We demand apology from BJP for maligning the Prime Minister on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations and demand that both Houses of Parliament should not be disrupted further and be allowed to resume their legislative duty.”

Ms. Natarajan, however, evaded a question when pointed out that the Kishore Chandra Deo headed panel, which probed the cash-for-vote issue, had recommended further investigations.

“That’s a different issue. That is for the government to answer,” she said, but quickly added, “If anything is to be enquired into, it is the role of those MPs from opposition, who brought the cash in Parliament and that it was kept in Advani’s house... this is for the government to pursue this line of investigations.”

Ms. Natarajan said the issue of WikiLeaks was being used as a political tool by the opposition to divert attention from the real issues.

Asked about the latest WikiLeaks cables revealing that in 2006, sensing his growing rise at the national level, the US tried to engage with the Gujarat chief minister, the Congress leader said she would not like to comment on the leaks.

She, at the same time, said, “As far as Narendra Modi aspiring to occupy the national scene is concerned, certainly I believe this is a highly unlikely possibility.”

She also said the party did not try to make an issue out of WikiLeaks cables report on Mr. Advani’s remarks on Indo-U.S. nuclear deal because the party considers that the cables are unsubstantiated leaks that cannot be verified.

Ms. Natarajan also found nothing wrong in its ally in Tamil Nadu, DMK, promising in its election manifesto to give laptops and other sops to voters.

“It’s a manifesto. What is promised in a manifesto cannot amount to bribery. What is given in a manifesto is a declaration of party’s intent,” she said.

Ms. Natarajan, who is an MP from Tamil Nadu, said that she expects the list of party candidates for Tamil Nadu elections will be out by Wednesday.

The meeting of the party’s apex body Congress Election Committee to decide over tickets had taken place on Monday night.

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