WikiLeaks cash-for-votes exposé rocks Parliament

BJP leader Arun Jaitely speaks on the WikiLeaks expose in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday. Photo: PTI  

Proceedings in both Houses of Parliament were marred on Thursday by repeated adjournments and uproar as a united Opposition demanded the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh following fresh disclosures alleging bribing of MPs during the July 2008 no-confidence vote, which the UPA-I government won by a slim majority.

Citing the 2008 correspondence from the U.S. Embassy to its government, revealed by the WikiLeaks and published by The Hindu, the Opposition parties launched a scathing attack in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha on the Congress-led UPA government, accusing it of surviving “on the strength of a political sin.”

The Opposition sought to mount pressure on the government outside Parliament too. At separate press conferences, both the National Democratic Alliance and the Left parties said that Indian democracy had been “maligned” and demanded the immediate resignation of the government. While NDA working chairman L.K. Advani said the disclosures had confirmed “our suspicions” and the “cash-for-vote” scam, CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechury described the alleged act of buying votes as “gross moral de-generation and crass political opportunism.”

The Opposition attack, spearheaded by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left parties, focussed on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. They demanded that he either deny the allegations of pay-offs to some MPs or resign immediately.

Amid interruptions by Congress members, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said the exposé shamed Indian democracy. Certain matters that occurred right under the nose of a “so-called honest Prime Minister have come to light.”

“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 utter shamelessness?” The UPA government, she said, had lost the moral authority to continue in office and demanded that the Prime Minister resign immediately.

Raising the issue in the Rajya Sabha as soon as it met, Mr. Jaitley said: “It is conclusively clear that this government survived on the strength of a political sin.”

As the BJP members shouted “shame, shame,” Mr. Jaitley said: “A government which survived on such a political sin has no authority to continue even for one minute. We demand this government resign immediately after this episode.”

As interruptions by Congress members continued, Mr. Jaitley said the exposé reflected the extraordinarily depressing situation to which Indian democracy had been reduced.

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Printable version | Oct 27, 2021 10:01:19 PM |

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