PM deflects cash-for-votes allegations

Taunts Advani with jibes; silences BJP

PM deflects cash-for-votes allegations

Under a sustained attack from the Opposition for allegedly misleading Parliament on March 18 on the WikiLeaks’ revelations in the cash-for-votes scandal, Singh ridiculed Advani’s purported ambitions to hold the top office at the Centre.

“Shri Advaniji believes that being the prime minister was his birth right. And, therefore, he has never forgiven me,” Singh told the Lok Sabha, as he replied to the debate on his March 18 statement in the House. This response appeared to be an attempt by the Prime Minister to silence the Opposition that has mounted a relentless onslaught of corruption allegations against him and his government.

While Singh’s remark drew laughter from Congress MPs, Advani, seated in the front row of the Opposition benches, smiled, but did not retort to the Prime Minister’s jibe.

This was sufficient evidence that Singh had waited for months to hit back at the Opposition, especially Advani, who had earlier described him as a “weak” leader and accused him of devaluing the Prime Minister’s office by bowing to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi over key decisions in government.

While rejecting “wild” charges of bribery and reiterating that none from the Congress or the government had indulged in any “unlawful act” during the July 2008 trust vote, the prime minister cautioned the Opposition against giving credence to the US diplomatic cables which had referred to bribing of MPs during the no-trust vote that the Congress-led UPA won.

“We were not involved in any illegal act nor we had authorised anybody to indulge in any bribe given during the confidence vote,” Singh said in his response which came at the end of a blistering attack by the Opposition during an absorbing six-hour debate on his March 18 statement.

That day he refuted the charges made in the “speculative, unverified and unverifiable” diplomatic cables. “We have chosen to go for what some embassy officials write about us. I must warn the House that it is dangerous. Many persons referred in these cables have denied their involvement,” he said.

As elated UPA MPs thumped the desks, Singh said it was not possible for the government to confirm the veracity of the content of the cables and that the panel probing the cash-for-votes case had insufficient evidence.

Raising questions over the cables’ authenticity, he said: “If they exist, they would be communications from US diplomats in Delhi to their government in Washington. It is not open to us to enquire from them regarding the communications they exchanged”.

Refusing to bite the Opposition bait for a CBI probe into the alleged bribery incident, Singh said the allegations were investigated by a 14th Lok Sabha panel which had concluded there was insufficient evidence to draw a conclusion of bribery. “I am convinced that taking the report as a whole, this is a correct inference”.

Pointing out that further probe, as recommended by the panel, was in progress, Singh said, “I leave it to the good sense of this House to decide for itself whether the committee’s report  in any way substantiates the wild allegations levelled by some Opposition members.”

As the Opposition went silent, a smiling Singh said it was “not for the first time” he was facing the wrath of the Opposition.

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