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‘Credible’ Cash For Votes:BEGINNING OF END OF DEMOCRACY?, by Proloy Bagchi, 29 Mar, 11 Print E-mail

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New Delhi, 29 March 2011

‘Credible’ Cash For Votes


By Proloy Bagchi


The “India Cables” accessed by the Hindu newspaper from Wiki Leaks has virtually bombed the UPA Government. The deadly “cash for votes” cables sent from the US Embassy, seemingly, set the cat among the pigeons. The cables talked of crores of rupees being paid to a certain political party at the time of the 2008 no-confidence motion moved against the Manmohan Singh Government that lost its majority character on withdrawal of support by the Left parties over the Indo-US nuclear deal.


Disrupting the Budget Session, the leaked cable created furore in the Parliament with adjournments and walk-outs by the Opposition. The July 22 2008 no-confidence motion moved against UPA Government by the Opposition was followed by tremendous amount of theatrics.


Three BJP MPs came rushing into the Lok Sabha waving bundles of currency notes in front of the Speaker, alleging attempts by the Samajwadi Party, then a supporter of the Government, to bribe them with Rs one crore each for voting for the Government. The name of former Samajwadi MP Amar Singh was mentioned in this connection. The expose was result of a sting operation by the CNN-IBN news channel, master-minded by a BJP ideologue.


The money was seized by the Speaker and, later, a Lok Sabha committee was constituted to probe the matter. Failing to arrive at a definite conclusion, notwithstanding video tapes, phone calls records and other documents relating to bribes being paid etc. were submitted by the news channel and the BJP to the Committee. However, the Committee exonerated Amar Singh but labelled his aide, one Sanjeev Saxena, as a bribe-giver who was caught on camera bribing a BJP MP.


Unable to probe further for technical reasons, the Committee suggested further investigations into the matter. However, neither was the matter probed further nor a case registered with the local police at the instance of the Speaker pursued. The Manmohan Singh Government survived the motion with the help of a few abstentions and support of a few BJP MPs who defied the Party’s whip.


The Hindu has now published the US Embassy cables which came into the possession of Wiki Leaks. According to one of the cables, the Congress, apparently, zeroed in on MPs belonging to UP’s regional outfit Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal. It stands to reason that as a measure of abundant caution the Congress Party attempted to muster as many votes as possible in favour of the Government.


After all, the Prime Minister was deeply committed to the Indo-US nuclear deal and the Government (and the ruling Party) had to take all measures to ensure its survival to push it through. Ajit Singh’s RLD fitted the bill for the purpose as reports frequently appeared of the Party lending support for monetary considerations to shaky Governments.

The US Embassy cable indicated that its “contact” was told that the RLD MPs had been paid Rs 10 crores each. But the MPs’ reputation, was such that even Congressman, what to speak of then Congress Rajya Sabha MP Satish Sharma’s aide Nachiketa Kapur, who organised the payment, was not sure whether they would vote in favour of the Government. 


Significantly, against the backdrop of what happened in the Lok Sabha in July 2008, contents of the leaked cable seem perfectly credible. Besides, yet another factor that lends credence to the contents of the cable is the mention of Satish Sharma who also met with his US Embassy contact. Implying thereby, that both Sharma and Kapur were jointly in charge of the operation of bribing the RLD MPs.


Once a close friend of the late Rajiv Gandhi, Satish Sharma is now a close associate of Rajiv’s widow and Congress President Sonia Gandhi. With a chequered political career with several brushes with law, Sharma seemingly, has been involved in the dirty work of the Congress.


Recall, he was also involved in the 1993 infamous Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) bribery case to save the then Congress Prime Minister Narasimha Rao’s minority Government in a trust-vote moved by the Opposition. The investigations carried out then had reportedly revealed that various industrialists had paid Rs 13 crore to Satish Sharma, who arranged payments to the JMM MPs out of this amount. He, along with the JMM MPs had been prosecuted. 


Today, the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh brazened out the Wiki Leaks disclosures by an outright denial of the allegations of bribery and rejected the charge of the Opposition, which he said was based on “speculative, unverified and unverifiable'' communication. He told both Houses of Parliament that none from the Government or the Congress had indulged in any unlawful act during that time.


This is not all. He went on to say that the Government “cannot confirm the veracity, contents or even the existence of such communication.” Earlier speaking at the India Today Conclave he asserted, “I have no knowledge of any such purchases and I am absolutely categorical, I have not authorized anyone to purchase any votes. I am not aware of any acts of purchase of votes…I am absolutely certain in asserting that I am not at all, I think, involved in any of these transactions”.


Importantly, nobody is buying the Prime Minister’s assertions. Given that US officials have since certified the accuracy and credibility of the Wiki Leaks cables. In fact, Editor in-Chief of Wiki Leaks Julian Assange, branded Manmohan Singh’ statements of denial as “misleading”, a charge that is serious when made against a Prime Minister.


Needless to say people are aghast at the way Manmohan Singh with his distinguished academic and bureaucratic background and generally known for his clean image, staked his reputation and all that he had for winning a trust-vote to see  a mere deal through. In a recent interview with the editors of TV news channels the Prime Minister asserted that, after his academic and bureaucratic stints, politics was a fresh learning experience. Apparently, he has been very quick in picking up the tricks of his current trade. 


Apart from Manmohan Singh’s, the image of Congress, too, has taken a severe hit. However, what has taken a worse hit is India’s democracy. Thanks to our polity’s, particularly the Grand Old Party’s insatiable lust for power. This is not the first time that the Congress adopted fraudulent means for what Mahatma Gandhi described as “...the ungainly skirmish for power”.


The Father of the Nation also predicted that were it to persist with such skirmishes “it (Congress) will find one fine morning that it is no more.” That may well happen with the riff-raff that it now constitutes it. Tragically, that might also herald the very end of the country’s democratic traditions so assiduously (though falteringly) built over the last few decades. ---- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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