Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told the Rajya Sabha on Thursday that allegations contained in the cables released by the WikiLeaks related to the 14th Lok Sabha, which was dissolved in May 2009, and the government of the day was a newly elected one, accountable to the 15th Lok Sabha.
Responding to the Opposition attack on the UPA government, Mr. Mukherjee said the cables cited by the WikiLeaks website were the correspondence between a sovereign government and its mission abroad, and it was not possible for the government to either confirm or deny the allegations.
He also asked Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley whether he was satisfied that “whatever has appeared in [a] newspaper report is admissible in the court of law.”
Sitraram Yechury of the CPI(M) said the exposé constituted a “humongous indictment of the way this government has been functioning.” It represented not only the “gross degeneration of political morality but also gross political opportunism” of the government while dealing with the trust vote in July 2008. As uproarious scenes continued, the House was adjourned for the day in the afternoon.
CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta raised the issue as soon as the Lok Sabha met.
Mr. Dasgupta, who had given a notice for an adjournment motion, said he did so because The Hindu carried an exposé unprecedented in the history of Indian democracy. “Never has this type of news come in the newspaper. There was a no-confidence motion moved by us in 2008, and all Opposition parties voted against the government. In order to win the no-confidence motion, Rs. 50 crore to 60 crore was paid to a number of MPs. If the Prime Minister does not deny this, he should resign immediately,” he said.
He wondered whether the “control room of the government is in Delhi or in Washington.”
Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh wanted a discussion, saying his party had also supported the UPA-I government. “We had also worked to save the government in 2008. Similar allegations may be made against us also, and we will be maligned. We want a discussion on the matter.”
Janata Dal (United) chief Sharad Yadav described the exposé as “very serious” and said it was not possible that 19 MPs crossed over from the Opposition to the ruling coalition. “It is just not possible without any allurement.” He demanded that the Prime Minister come to the House and offer an explanation.
“Most shameful chapter”
Ramchandra Dome of the CPI(M) said the cash-for-vote scam was the “most shameful chapter of Indian democracy” and the “shameful revelations” proved the Opposition right.
Demanding that Dr. Singh own “moral responsibility” for the episode, he said that whatever happened was a criminal offence and a criminal investigation into it should be held.
When the Lok Sabha re-assembled after adjournment in the afternoon, Sanjay Nirupam of the Congress was heard questioning the credibility of the WikiLeaks cables, saying it showed the bankruptcy of ideas in the Opposition.
As the uproar and heated exchanges continued, Francisco Sardinha, who was in the Chair, adjourned the House till 6 p.m. When the House re-assembled, almost the entire Opposition, including the BJP, the CPI, the CPI(M), the Shiv Sena, the JD(U), the TDP and the Shiromani Akali Dal, staged a walkout after unsuccessfully demanding a statement from Dr. Singh, who was present in the House.