Thursday, March 17, 2011

Vindication and Indignation - the Nuclear Deal Trust vote in retrospect

Two and a half years ago, I wrote this on the Nuclear Deal trust vote - "Nuclear Deal and Dealing Leaders" -

"In essence, everything about the manner the Manmohan Singh government went ahead with getting legislative approval for the deal, was dubious. An opera that begin with a slew of lies made by the representatives of the government to its erstwhile left allies, continued with the addition of new partners (Amar Singh, Mulayam Yadav and his cohorts) who had their own shady self serving agenda. It has now culminated with a dark flourish as nearly 11 members of parliament went “Aya Ram, Gaya Ram” and endorsed the government, while at the same time, ensuring that their wallets were sure to be bursting out of the seams with hard money. Others took the “higher road” to patronage by negotiating ministries (the JMM for example).

In the midst of it all, the sutradar and the opera conductor, the United States administration was laughing all the way to the bank. Here was the Indian government, which had now forsworn its commitment to a better, progressive and a multipolar world, to embark upon a notorious nuclear deal with the unilaterist Americans and heck, they had even gone one step ahead of the guru of graft and chicanery, George Bush, in getting the all powerful legislative approval for the deal."

Today, as I read this from a wikileaks cable, paraphrased and commented upon by the diligent Siddharth Varadarajan in The Hindu -

[Satish] Sharma's political aide Nachiketa Kapur 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. Kapur mentioned that money was not an issue at all, but the crucial thing was to ensure that those who took the money would vote for the government.


Independently, Mr. Sharma told the Political Counselor “that PM Singh and others were trying to work on the Akali Dal (8 votes) through financier Sant Chatwal and others, but unfortunately it did not work out.” He said “the Prime Minister, Sonia Gandhi, and Rahul Gandhi were committed to the nuclear initiative and had conveyed this message clearly to the party.” Efforts were also on to try and get the Shiv Sena to abstain. Further, “Sharma mentioned that he was also exploring the possibility of trying to get former Prime Minister Vajpayee's son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya to speak to BJP representatives to try to divide the BJP ranks.

The cable makes it clear the Congress campaign to buy votes was not confined to the cash-filled war chests that Nachiketa Kapur and Satish Sharma had gathered.

“Another Congress Party insider told PolCouns that Minister of Commerce and Industry Kamal Nath is also helping to spread largesse. ‘Formerly he could only offer small planes as bribes,'” according to this interlocutor, ‘now he can pay for votes with jets.'”

Despite these efforts, the U.S. Embassy concluded that the UPA maintained only a “precarious lead” in the forthcoming confidence vote. “Our best guess at this time show the government maintaining its slim majority with the anticipated vote count at about 273 in favor, 251 opposed, and 19 abstentions.”

The prediction was impressively close to the mark. Prime Minister Singh got 275 votes in favour with 256 against and 10 abstentions.


The fact that Congress politicians could speak so freely to American diplomats about their bribing spree during the run up to the confidence vote — and that the latter could be so blasé about the subversion of democracy — underlines the all-encompassing but ultimately corrosive nature of the “strategic partnership” the two governments were trying to build.

As for Mr. Kapur, his candid display of crores of rupees to be used by the Congress as “pay offs” for the trust vote was not seen by the U.S. Embassy as compromising his democratic credentials in any way. In November 2008, he was sent to the U.S. under the State Department's I-Vote 2008 programme as an observer for that year's presidential election. “The move to invite international observers”, he wrote in a blog post, “reflects the open and democratic nature of the American society.

I feel vindicated and so would the rest of the Left and progressive minded sections of the country –from the intelligentsia, the sympathizers, and the polity. But of what avail? The very set of crooked politicians, which include the PM Manmohan Singh who should drop any more pretense of being a honest former academic after these leaks, are now continuing in power. The shady and murky dealing, the bribing, the American influence in all this and shameless resort to the most unethical of practices in getting through a dubious nuclear deal were only the precursor to an unprecedented show of malfeasance, corruption as seen in UPA-II. With the leak of the Radia tapes and this tranche of Wikileaks cables (thanks to The Hindu), the story is far, far more clear.

Manmohan Singh has no more moral right to continue as the country's prime minister and so do the rest of the pack of thieves masquerading as cabinet ministers and political leaders in the Congress and the UPA. Much more has to be said, but this blogger leaves this for now for the reader's digestion.

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