Cash for letter puts 11 MPs in hall of shame

Cash for letter puts 11 MPs in hall of shame

Eleven MPs from five parties were caught on camera expressing their willingness to give letters of recommendation and lobby for a fee ranging from Rs 50,000 to Rs 50 lakh for a fictitious Australian company seeking oil exploration rights in the north-east.

The fresh expose by investigative portal Cobrapost, the veracity of which could not be independently verified, purportedly involved three MPs each from the JD-U and the BJP, two each from the Congress and the AIADMK and one from the BSP.

The MPs were K L Bairwa (Congress, Karauli Dholpur), Vikrambhai A Maadam (Congress, Jamnagar), Lalubhai Babubhai Patel (BJP, Daman and Diu), R K Pandey (BJP, Giridih), Hari Manjhi (BJP, Gaya), Vishwa Mohan Kumar (JD-U, Supaul), Maheswar Hazari (JD-U, Samastipur), Bhudeo Choudhary (JD-U, Jamui), K Sugumar (AIADMK, Pollachi), C Rajendran (AIADMK, Chennai South) and Kaiser Jahan (BSP, Sitapur).

When contacted, some of the MPs denied the charges while others were not available for comments. While Hazari said it was a ploy to malign him, Kumar said he did not take the money, but gave the letter assuming that it would help in the development of the north-east. Manjhi admitted to have issued the letter but denied taking any money. Chaudhary said the allegations were baseless. Maadam also denied accepting any money.

The portal apparently managed to get letters from six MPs – Kumar, Choudhary, Patel, Manjhi, Sugumar and Rajendran – for a price ranging between Rs 50,000 and Rs 75,000. They did not pursue others due to the high amount they allegedly demanded. Some of the MPs even agreed to lobby for the company.

Cobra Post claimed that none of the MPs bothered to check the existence of the company after a journalist, posing as a company representative, sought their help to improve the firm’s profile before the Petroleum Ministry. Most of the MPs did not have problems in discussing cash transactions, but a few played it safe by involving their aides.

Though Bairwa refused to help initially, he allegedly quoted Rs 50 lakh for the favour. He asked the company representative to visit him in Jaipur to deliver the “material”. He referred to the controversy over recommendation letters given by some MPs for coal block allocations and said there was risk involved. He allegedly offered to get letters from other MPs.

His party colleague Maadam refused to talk about the money. He instead pointed to his aide, who told the undercover journalist to deliver Rs 6 lakh through another person. “Has anyone given you a letter before paying the money?” the reporter was asked when he demanded the letter first.

Pandey, a BJP MP, allegedly demanded Rs 2 lakh through an agent while Manjhi discussed everything but money. The agent demand Rs 1.5 lakh. The reporter paid Rs 50,000 in advance. 

JD-U MP Kumar was allegedly forthcoming, saying that he would have given the letter for free but he needed money to fund an upcoming rally. His party colleague, through a representative, demanded Rs 5 lakh for the letter and promised to extract letters from four to five other MPs. Choudhary, through his aide, allegedly took the money and issued the letter.

The dealing on behalf of Jahan was allegedly conducted by her MLA husband Jasmir Ansari, who demanded Rs 5 lakh for letters of recommendation. He allegedly said he could talk to one of the top Congress leaders and get the work done.

AIADMK MP Sukumar was allegedly shown signing the letter and his personal assistant taking the money.

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