M A I N   N E W S

PM refutes Oppn charge
Says it is surprising that speculative, unverified communication given importance
Faraz Ahmad
Tribune News Service


n No one from the Congress or the government engaged in any "unlawful act"
n The government cannot confirm the veracity, content or even the existence of such a communication
n Opposition raising "old charges that have been debated, discussed and rejected by the people of India"
n Those who have been named by the WikiLeaks have "stoutly rejected" the charges
n The UPA-I "always enjoyed" the confidence of the people
n We won the no-trust vote in July 2008 with 275 votes against 256

Omar’s veiled attack on BJP

I was not offered money for the nuclear deal but when the trust vote of the NDA was going on in 1998-99, I remember that at that time a senior minister had approached and asked me what I wanted for support to the NDA. I would not say that he offered money to me but ‘give and take’ usually takes place in such things. — Omar Abdullah
(Details on J&K page)

New Delhi, March 18
Demonstrating a rare combative aspect of his personality, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today forcefully denied the Opposition charge based on WikiLeaks cables that his government won the 2008 vote of confidence by bribing MPs.

In a brief but biting criticism of the Opposition in both Houses of Parliament, he said, "It is most surprising that speculative, unverified and unverifiable communications should be given dignity and seized upon by the Opposition."

The Prime Minister asserted that no one from the Congress or the government engaged in any "unlawful act". He hit out at the Opposition for lending "dignity" to "purported" correspondence between the US Embassy here and the State Department in Washington and raising "old charges that had been debated, discussed and rejected by the people of India".

He said, "The government cannot confirm the veracity, content or even the existence of such a communication," adding that those who have been named by WikiLeaks have "stoutly rejected" the charges.

With a touch of sarcasm, the Prime Minister recalled the events leading up to and after the vote of confidence in July 2008 saying the Opposition had levelled same allegations then and regretted that it was "unfortunate" that it continued to raise the "old charges" that had been soundly rejected.

He reminded the Opposition benches that he won the vote in July 2008 with 275 votes against 256. "These allegations of bribery were investigated by a committee of the 14th Lok Sabha which concluded that there was insufficient evidence to draw any conclusion," he said.

"I am disappointed that the Opposition has forgotten what happened thereafter. The Opposition repeated the allegations of bribery and how did the people respond?" he said. He cited the increase in the number of Congress seats from 141 to 206 in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections as compared to that of the BJP, whose tally declined from 138 to 116, and that of the Left parties (down from 59 to 34).

Insisting that the UPA-I "always enjoyed" the confidence of people, he said, "The UPA-II government has been formed in the 15th Lok Sabha and enjoys the confidence of this House and the people of India."

But this seemed to have galled the Opposition further with the Leaders of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, and in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, seeking clarifications, though the Lok Sabha rules do not permit clarifications. Jaitley later said, "It is not my case that the Prime Minister has been economical with the truth but is at variance with the truth." Sushma said, "We will move a privilege motion against the Prime Minister in both Houses of Parliament. He has given a new definition of criminal jurisprudence by claiming that since the UPA government came back to power, it should not be tried for the crimes committed before that." The BJP was upset over the Prime Minister giving himself a clean chit when the Kishore Chandra Deo committee, which he was referring to, had acknowledged exchange of money. This would be the basis of the BJP's privilege notice.

Earlier during the day, the two Houses failed to conduct any business, with the Opposition demanding the Prime Minister's statement on the WikiLeaks cables.

In the Rajya Sabha, where rules allow clarifications, Chairman Hamid Ansari quoted Ruling 173 of April 28, 1987, to disallow any clarifications on the Prime Minister's statement. He said the Prime Minister had not made a suo motu statement but on demand of the members, provoking Jaitley to protest that the Opposition could not be "gagged" this way. This led to uproar in the House and adjournment, first till 3 pm and then for the day. The Lok Sabha was adjourned earlier for the day in view of similar noisy protests.

Angry and agitated over the Prime Ministers' retort, Sushma and Jaitley jointly told the media later, "It is now conclusively established that MPs were bribed". They demanded a CBI probe and the Prime Minister's resignation.

Meanwhile, Sushma and Sharad Yadav have also asked for a discussion on the issue under Rule 193.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Bansal, however, took strong exception to Jaitley's comment against the ruling of the Chair in the Rajya Sabha saying, "It does not behove the intellect and stature of the Leader of Opposition to make such frivolous and tendentious comments against the Chair".





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