Ashish Khetan in Tehelka:
This is a story that stands to turn contemporary discourse on its head. It is a dark story of how three mainstream political parties—and sections of the media—have fooled the nation. It is a story of how the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) willfully set out to entrap its opponents in the cash-for-votes scandal. It is a story of how the Samajwadi Party voluntarily fell into the trap. It is a story of how the Congress covered it all up. It is also, unfortunately, a story of how sections of the media muddied the truth.
This is how the story goes.
As everyone knows, the two-year-old cash-for-votes scandal is back to haunt the UPA government. Parliament has been in uproar over the past few days as outraged Opposition parties, led by the BJP, have demanded that the government headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh step down on moral grounds. “A government which survived on such a political sin has no authority to continue even for one minute. We demand this government resign immediately,” thundered Arun Jaitley, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. BJP veteran LK Advani reiterated this position, saying, “We would like the Prime Minister to come to the House and announce that he has decided to resign in the light of the new revelations.”
As everyone knows too, this political storm was triggered by a secret diplomatic cable published by The Hindu , in partnership with WikiLeaks, on 17 March. In this cable sent by the US Embassy in New Delhi to the State Department of the United States on 17 July 2008, the US Charge d’Affaires Steven White wrote that five days before the Manmohan Singh government was to face a crucial vote of confidence on the Indo-US nuclear deal in 2008, Nachiketa Kapur, an aide to Congress leader Satish Sharma, had showed him two chests containing cash. According to Kapur, the cash was part of a larger fund of Rs 50 crore to Rs 60 crore that was lying around Satish Sharma’s house to purchase the support of MPs to clinch the vote.
According to this cable, Kapur also claimed that four MPs belonging to Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) had already been paid Rs 10 crore each to ensure they voted in the UPA’s favour on the floor of the Lok Sabha.
There were several inaccuracies in this cable that made it problematic. Nachiketa Kapur was not a formal aide of Satish Sharma but a Congress hanger-on who was sacked from service in the past by Congress leader Renuka Chowdhury for corruption. The RLD had three MPs at the time, not four. And the Lok Sabha records show that none of them voted in favour of the UPA government. More: