New Delhi, March 18 (IANS) Pleading innocence on an issue that had the opposition calling for his immediate resignation, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Friday that he had not authorised anyone to buy MPs to win the 2008 trust vote nor had any knowledge such transactions.
A day after he came under attack for alleged disclosures on WikiLeaks that his government had bought MPs to stay in power after the 2008 trust vote, Manmohan Singh broke his silence and said: “I have no knowledge of any such purchases. I am absolutely categorical, I have not authorised anyone to purchase any votes. I am not aware of any act of purchase of votes.”
“I am absolutely certain in asserting that I am not at all, I think, involved in any of these transactions,” the prime minister said at the India Today conclave.
US diplomatic cables leaked on WikiLeaks and published by The Hindu newspaper Thursday purportedly say that payoffs had been made to MPs to ensure a majority for the Congress-led government in the confidence vote over the India-US nuclear deal in 2008.
Nachiketa Kapur, described as a political aide of Congress leader Satish Sharma, is quoted in the leaked cables as saying that a fund of Rs.50 crore had been formed to pay MPs.
According to the leaked cable: “Sharma’s political aide mentioned to an embassy staff member in an aside on July 16 that Ajit Singh’s (Rashtriya Lok Dal) RLD had been paid Rs.10 crore for each of their four MPs to support the government.”
“Kapur showed the embassy employee two chests containing cash and said that around Rs.50-60 crore was lying around the house for use as pay-offs.”
The prime minister, however, raised doubts over the authenticity of diplomatic correspondence cited by the WikiLeaks.
“As far as the events of the last few days and the so-called WikiLeaks (are concerned), I would not like to comment,” Manmohan Singh said,
He said: “I think, people who are affected by them (leaked US diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks), they have already commented on them, casting serious doubts about the veracity of allegations made in these diplomatic despatches.”
Responding to a question on currency notes being flaunted by MPs in parliament during the 2008 vote, Manmohan Singh said: “The events you have mentioned, they do affect us. They affect our image both at home and abroad. Without going into any specific event, all this emphasises the need for strong and effective electoral reforms in which funding of political parties is more transparent.”
He said a parliamentary committee had looked into the issue “and that report is available”.
Asked what the government was planning to do on the scam in the face of persistent opposition protests, Manmohan Singh said he would speak only in parliament.
“I would not like to comment on what we are going to do right now or in days to come. These are the matters which are being discussed in parliament. If I have anything to say, we would say in parliament first,” he said.