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Under Dr Manmohan-Sonia duo, Parliament hits an all time low

Author: LK Advani
Publication:  The Times of India
Date: February 16, 2014
URL: http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/lkadvanis-blog/entry/under-dr-manmohan-sonia-duo-parliament-hits-an-all-time-low

The UPA government has been in office now for ten years, from 2004 to 2014. UPA-I lasted from 2004 to 2009; and UPA-II from 2009 to 2014.

Dr Manmohan Singh began his tenure with a clean personal reputation. But as his decade long tenure is coming to a close, he would leave behind him a record of having presided over the most corrupt government in independent India.

Starting with the scandals that surfaced during the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, then proceeding to the 2G spectrum scams, most of the scams that came to light under Congress governments were exposures made by the CAG or the judiciary and related to bribes allegedly received by ministers/officials in government for illegal favours extended to the bribe givers.

But I hold that the most disgraceful scam that came to light during UPA-I was the cash-for-votes scam. It was an episode following the Left Front’s withdrawal of support to the UPA government in protest against the UPA striking a deal with Washington on the nuclear issue.

With this development, Dr Manmohan Singh’s government came face to face with a grave crisis and had to face a confidence vote in which it could have well been ousted.

It was at this point that a set of India-related diplomatic cables on the Indo-US nuclear deal were released by the whistle-blowing website Wikileaks, and reproduced by India’s own Chennai based reputed Daily, The Hindu.

The Reuters reported about this episode thus:
“The secret US state department cable obtained by WikiLeaks and published by The Hindu newspaper on Thursday details a conversation between a senior Congress party member and a US Embassy official surrounding the payment of almost $9 million by a government facing a crucial confidence vote to members of a regional political party to secure their support.. 

Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj, who has in recent months led a scathing attack on the Congress party-led coalition government for failing to tackle corruption in India, posted on Twitter: “The wikileaks details in today’s Hindu about payoffs to MPs are shocking. I will raise this issue in Parliament today.”

Both houses of parliament were adjourned after uproar over the cable’s contents.

The cable details a conversation between an aide of Satish Sharma, Congress party MP and close associate of party chief Sonia Gandhi, and, US charge d’affaires Steven White in which the aide states that four MPs belonging to the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) party had been paid 100 million rupees ($2.2 million) each in order to secure their support for the government in a tight confidence vote over the Congress party’s support of a nuclear deal between India and the US.

White, who authored the secret cable, described how Embassy staff were shown two chests containing 500-600 million rupees ($11-13 million) that had been earmarked for “use as pay-offs.”

Three BJP MPs along with my aide Shri Sudheendra Kulkarni, were involved in an operation to expose the scam. They had contacted a TV channel to prepare videos of the bribery episode. The government’s response was to put all of them behind bars. When later Shri Narottam Kaushal pronounced judgement in their case acquitting them, his opening paragraph read:

July 22, 2008 was a black letter day in the history of Indian parliament. Three members of parliament namely Ashok Argal, Faggan Singh Kulaste and Mahabir Singh Bhagora placed on the table of Parliament currency notes for the amount of Rs One Crore, when the House was debating on Motion of Confidence. It was claimed that the money had been offered to them in connection with the voting. Speaker of the House after discussions with senior Parliamentarian asked the aforesaid three MPs to put-in a written complaint. Before a formal complaint could be submitted by the aforesaid three MPs, a communication dated 23.07.2008 was received by the Speaker, from Rajdeep Sardesai, editor-in-chief of CNN-IBN Network. He enclosed five video tapes along with his communication. Formal complaint dated 25.07.2008 addressed to hon’ble Speaker, Lok Sabha was submitted by the three MPs, alleging that they were sought to be bribed by the leaders of Congress and Samajvadi Party to help the government, by refraining from voting against confidence motion.

When I came to know of the arrest of the three MPs of my party as also of associates like Shri Kulkarni, I sought permission from the hon’ble Speaker of the Lok Sabha to make a brief submission before any other business was taken up. Somewhat angrily I said that a horrible crime was sought to be committed, and MPs given crores of rupees to bribe them to support the government. These BJP MPs did not take the bribe home and instead, acting as whistle blowers came straight to Parliament and placed the money on the table of the House. World over, in democracies, whistle-blowers are hailed, and here they have been jailed! I as their leader would like to tell government if they think these colleagues of mine have done anything illegal I wish to tell those in authority they have done so with my permission to expose the dirty scam. I dare the government to put me also into prison I along with these MPs.

No less shameful for the prestige and reputation of the Indian parliament than this cash-for-episode scam that occurred in UPA-I’s time is the ugly scenes witnessed under UPA-II. Under Vajpayee ji the NDA divided three major states - Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and created three new States - Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand without even a ripple of disturbance. With the present government, session after session has had to be adjourned due to chaos created over Telangana between the supporters and opponents of division.

In fact, the session presently on has on this issue of Telangana precipitated scenes last week which made the PM Dr Manmohan Singh declare “My heart bleeds when I watch such scenes on the floor of Parliament.” Most members were shocked one day to see as many as half a dozen ministers of the present government totally disregarding the presence of PM Dr Manmohan Singh and Congress party chairperson Smt Soniaji in the House, rush into the well of the House and join the ugly ruckus that was taking place, when amidst shouting of slogans for and against division of Andhra Pradesh, parliamentary papers were being torn and thrown all around. This happened on Wednesday February 12.

The limits of unsavory behavior were crossed the next day when apart from a repeat performance of the previous day a Congress party MP pulled out a black pepper spray and started spraying it all around so that several MPs including Smt Sushma Swaraj had tears in her eyes, and many others were seen coughing in acute discomfort.


Some of the Headlines in the Capital’s dailies on February 14.


The Times of India: Pepper Spray in House leaves Indian democracy in tears

Hindustan Times: Parliament Attacked, This time by MPs


THE HINDU: MPs make it a day of shame for Parliament
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