WikiLeaks: Congress bought MPs for trust vote over nuclear deal

New Delhi: The Indian politicians indicted in a WikiLeaks cable for either bribing or accepting money in exchange for votes in Parliament have contested every aspect of the cable.  That hasn't deterred the Opposition from launching a frothing attack on the government, accusing it of surviving on the strength of "a political sin."

A cable sent in July 2008 says at least two different Indian sources told US embassy officials that the Congress was buying MPs to survive its crucial vote of confidence over the government's nuclear deal with the US. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh won his vote by a delicate margin. (Watch - WikiLeaks on Cash-for-Votes: Who said what)

The cable is dated July 17, 2008 and was sent by US Charge d'Affaires Steven White. He says that the embassy's Political Counsellor visited Congress leader Satish Sharma at his home.  Mr Sharma is known for his proximity to the Gandhi family.

The cable says that Nachiketa Kapur, described as the political aide of Congress leader Satish Sharma, "mentioned to an Embassy staff member in an aside on July 16 that Ajit Singh's RLD had been paid Rupees 10 crore (about $2.5 million) for each of their four MPs to support the government." The cable also states that  Mr Sharma's aide showed a US Embassy employee two chests containing cash and said the party had between Rs. 50-60 crore to buy votes from different MPs. (Read entire cable here)

Both Mr Sharma and Mr Kapur told NDTV this morning that they have never worked together. (Watch: Never worked with Nachiketa Kapur, says Satish Sharma)

Mr Ajit Singh has denied that his MPs were bought off.  In fact, he says his party voted against the government; he produced a whip issued to his MPs to support his claim.   "See our party was against the nuclear deal and the recent events in Japan have vindicated us....we decided to vote against the government and we did vote against the government and we had only 3 MPs at that time." (Watch: Ajit Singh denies his MPs were bribed)

Undeterred by the denials, the BJP and Left have made the Prime Minister the focal point of their latest attack.  In the recent months, the UPA government has found several senior members entangled in gory corruption scandals, allowing the Opposition to accuse the Prime Minister of an "eyes wide shut" attitude towards deviant allies and partymen.  So the WikiLeaks cable is a potent addition to  the Opposition's agenda. (Watch 'Government  caught with its pants down,' says Arun Jaitley)

The Left has said ''The report sent by the US Charge d'Affaires  should be the basis for the filing  of an FIR and an investigation against Satish Sharma and Nachiketa Kapur...the PM cannot escape reponsibility'' (Read: Left's statement on WikiLeaks cash-for-votes)

The Left pulled out of the UPA government days before that critical vote in 2008. Mulayam Singh's Samajwadi Party bailed the government out by offering its support.  The days leading upto the vote of confidence saw considerable back-end negotiations between political parties, and on July 22, there was cross-voting among both the Opposition and the government. (Read: 'Govt survived on strength of political sin,' says BJP) | (Watch - Why go by WikiLeaks: Congress' Rajiv Shukla)

The cash-for-votes scandal had first erupted on July 22 on the day of the confidence vote when three BJP MPs produced Rs. 3 crore in cash in the Lok Sabha.  They said the money had been offered to them by Amar Singh, who was then with the Samajwadi Party, to ensure that they would either vote in favour of the government, or abstain.  A Lok Sabha committee, headed by  Congress MP KCS Deo, was set up to examine their allegations, but found that there was no evidence of the BJP's claims.  Mr Deo told NDTV today that he does not believe the WikiLeaks revelation merits a re-examination of what transpired.