Cash vote: PM takes swipe at Sushma, Advani

File photo: PM Manmohan Singh and Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj during a function at the Parliament House.
New Delhi, March 23 (Agencies): Prime Minister Manmohan Singh refused to buckle at the face of a united Opposition assault on the cash-for-votes scandal and reiterated in Parliament on Wednesday that the government did not bribe anyone in 2008 to survive a no-confidence motion. Tongue firmly in cheek, the Prime Minister also took digs at prominent Opposition leaders L K Advani and Sushma Swaraj who had earlier slammed his ‘weak-kneed’ response to every scam. While Singh had a couplet of ‘shairi’ for Sushma, to Advani he said: “BJP leader L K Advani believed being the Prime Minister was his birthright and therefore has never forgiven me.”
He asked Advani to wait three-and-a-half more years. Repeating his statement in Parliament last week – which the Opposition had brushed aside as inadequate – the Prime Minister said: “We were not involved in any illegal act nor we had authorised anybody to indulge in any bribe given during 2008 confidence vote.” Replying to a short duration debate in both Houses of Parliament over his statement on the WikiLeaks documents, first accessed by ‘The Hindu’, Singh reiterated the government could not verify the authenticity of correspondence between the US Embassy here and its government in Washington. Referring to the probe by a Parliament’s Committee in 2008 into the cash-for-votes allegations, the Prime Minister said it had concluded there was insufficient evidence to prove money was paid to buy MPs.
“I am convinced that taking the report as a whole, this is a correct inference,” Singh said, winding up the debate during which he came under sharp attack from the Opposition which even questioned why he continued to be the Prime Minister if he was “not aware” of developments involving his government. “I leave it to the good sense of this House to decide for itself whether the report of the committee in any way substantiates the wild allegations levelled by some honourable members of the Opposition,” Singh said amid thumping of desks. Raising questions over the authenticity of the American correspondence mentioned in the WikiLeaks website, the Prime Minister warned that believing in a communication sent by some official in an Embassy was a “dangerous thought”.
He maintained nobody from the Congress or the government was involved in any “transaction” during the 2008 confidence motion and neither had anybody been authorised to engage in any such transaction. During his reply in the Lok Sabha, Singh took on Advani and Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj. “This is not for the first time that I have faced in my Parliamentary career the Opposition onslaught of the type we have witnessed of late. I have had to go through that as Finance Minister and as Prime Minister. The main Opposition party, right from 2004, adopted the attitude that we are an usurper,” he said. Taking a dig at Advani, Singh said the BJP veteran “believes that being Prime Minister was his birth right and therefore, he has never forgiven me... All I can say to Advaniji is that people of India have voted us to power in free and fair elections. Please wait for another three-and-a-half years.”
The swipe was followed by thumping of desks by the Treasury benches and peals of laughter. Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee were seen smiling as was Advani himself. “I reiterate that it is not possible for the government of India to confirm the veracity or the contents of such communications,” the Prime Minister said. “If they (communications) exist, they would be communications from US diplomats stationed in Delhi to their government in Washington. It is not open to us to inquire from either of the two regarding the communications they exchanged among themselves,” Singh emphasised. Referring to his statement of March 18, he recalled as having said that many of the people referred in those communications have strongly denied their veracity.
On the charges of bribery, Singh said apart from rejecting the allegations, he had also drawn the attention of Parliament to the fact that the allegations were investigated by a committee constituted by the 14th Lok Sabha which had concluded that there was insufficient evidence to draw a conclusion of bribery. The Committee, however, found the evidence given before the Committee by three MPs -- Ashok Argal, Faggan Singh Kulaste and Mahavir Bhagora -- involved in this episode as unconvincing, and suggested that their role in the matter needs to be investigated by investigating agencies, he said. In this regard, he also referred to the statement made by then Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee on December 16, 2008 in the House in which he had asked the Home Minister to get the matter probed further.
“The matter was referred to the Delhi Police for investigation. Further investigation is in progress,” he said. In the Lok Sabha, BJP leader Yashwant Sinha pointed out that Singh had said he was personally not involved in any purchase of MPs nor authorised anyone to do so but hours later said the charges were speculative and unverifiable. To this, the Prime Minister said he was responding to a specific question at a function on whether he was involved in such act.
Fresh expose over TV sting op rocks Parliament

NEW Delhi, March 23 (Agencise):
Fireworks took place in Parliament on Wednesday after the government brought to light a fresh expose that could bring more shame to opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Quoting the Tehelka magazine, parliamentary affairs minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said the expose claims that the 2008 sting operation conducted by a television news channel over horse-trading for the trust vote was a deliberate trap laid out by top BJP leaders, according to Times Now.
The minister revealed details of the expose in the Parliament to blunt the opposition BJP’s attack on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over his statement on the cash-for-vote scam. Bansal said that BJP leaders had outsourced the sting operation conducted by the news channel.  He added that the entire operation was done with the blessing of top BJP leaders with the intention to discredit the UPA government. According to the Tehelka, it was not the Congress or the Samajwadi Party that were actively in search for MPs to buy in to the 2008 Indo-US nuclear deal trust vote. Tehelka exposed that it was the BJP which had set out to entrap either a Congress or an SP into buying three BJP MPs so it could pull off a successful sting operation and discredit the government. ( Read: Opposition forces govt nod on WikiLeaks discussion )
In a shocking revelation, the magazine has named three senior BJP leaders Sudheendra Kulkarni, Arun Jaitley and L K Advani, who appeared to have given the sanction for the sting operation. The reporter who conducted the sting operation in 2008 provided a first hand account of the truth to Tehelka magazine. Phone recordings and copy of the parliamentary panel report in possession of the magazine provided them with the basis of the cash-for-votes expose.