New Delhi: Strongly rejecting allegations of bribery during the 2008 Trust Vote, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said nobody from the Congress or the government engaged in any ”unlawful act” and the charges were ”unverified and speculative”.
Making a statement in both Houses of Parliament, an assertive Singh hit back at the opposition for raising “old charges that have been debated, discussed and rejected by the people of India.” “The government rejects the allegations absolutely and firmly,” he said in identical statements in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, referring to the charges in the WikiLeaks that bribes were paid to win the Confidence Motion in July 2008.
Amid thumping of desks by the Treasury Benches, Singh said, “No one from the Congress or government indulged in any unlawful act.” Raising questions over the correspondence between the US Embassy and the State Department in Washington, the Prime Minister said, “The government cannot confirm the veracity, content or even the existence of such communication.”
To press his contention, he said those who have been named by the WikiLeaks have “stoutly rejected” the charges. Hitting out at the Opposition, he said it was “unfortunate” that it continues to raise the “old charges”, giving “dignity” to the “speculative, unverified and unverifiable” communications purportedly between the US Embassy and its government in Washington.
He pointed out that the UPA-I had won the Confidence Motion in July 2008 with 275 votes in favour and 256 against. These allegations of bribery were investigated by a committee of the 14th Lok Sabha which concluded that there was insufficient evidence to draw any conclusion.
“I am disappointed that the Opposition has forgotten what happened thereafter. The Opposition repeated the allegations of bribery and how did the people respond,” he said, citing the increase in Congress seats from 141 to 206 as compared to BJP whose tally declined from 138 to 116 and that of Left parties from 59 to 34.
In the Lok Sabha, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj wanted to ask some questions but was disallowed by Speaker Meira Kumar. Quoting rules, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said clarifications could not be sought and hit out at Opposition, asking whether the government should listen to everything they say.
The Speaker said if the Opposition wanted to raise some issue, it should give a proper notice.
The Opposition was dissatisfied and created uproar, following which the House was adjourned for over an hour, till 3.30 PM. In the Rajya Sabha too, Opposition members wanted to seek clarifications from the Prime Minister after his statement.
However, Chairman Hamid Ansari disallowed, saying rules did not permit it as Singh had not made a suo motu statement but had done so in response to the demands by members. Clarifications can be sought only if a suo motu statement is made, Ansari ruled. This triggered uproar by Opposition members after which Ansari adjourned the House for 20 minutes till 3 PM.