Parliamentary probe begins into 'cash-for-vote' scam

My CD is authentic, says Uma Bharti

NEW DELHI: Bharatiya Janshakti Party chief Uma Bharti on Tuesday took strong exception to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s charge that she had acted as “an agent” of the Samajwadi Party when she agreed to release a CD relating to the cash-for-vote scandal.

Insisting that the contents of the CD were “one hundred per cent authentic,” Ms. Bharti charged the BJP with attempting to destroy her reputation. “First they said the CD was fake, and now they are calling me an agent of the SP,” she said.

The counter CD released by Ms. Bharti on Saturday is said to have images of an assistant of a top SP leader going into the office of a senior BJP leader and returning with a heavy bag. Ms. Bharti had claimed at the time of the CD’s release that the footage implicated the BJP in the cash-for-vote scandal because it showed collusion between the BJP and the SP leader’s assistant, the key accused in the scandal.

The BJP launched a counter-attack on Ms. Bharti by pointing out that the CD itself contained proof that it was shot after July 22. This, in turn, demolished the suggestion that the money for the trust vote bribery came from the BJP’s office. BJP spokespersons pointed to a billboard inadvertently caught by the camera to make their claim. The billboard outside the BJP leader’s office congratulated the three MPs for resisting pressure to cross vote in favour of the United Progressive Alliance government.

On Tuesday, it was Ms. Bharti’s turn to question the BJP: “If the [contents of the] CD was shot after July 22, then the evidence against the BJP is stronger … Surely, an emissary [of the SP leader] would not dare to go into the BJP’s office after the trust vote?”

Ms. Bharti said a frustrated BJP was now accusing her of acting as an agent of the SP. The BJP would pay a heavy price for insulting her, she added.

August 5, 2008

Parliamentary probe begins into 'cash-for-vote' scam

New Delhi (PTI): The Parliamentary committee examining the 'cash-for-vote' scam got down to business on Monday by viewing audio and video tapes of the sting operation about the scandal which rocked the Lok Sabha during the trust vote on July 22.

The seven-member committee will also record the evidence on August 7 of three BJP MPs who shocked the nation by tabling bundles of currency notes alleging that the money was given to them as bribes to abstain from the trust vote.

The committee headed by senior Congress MP V Kishore Chandra Deo has been asked to submit its report by August 11. But Deo said the panel will seek extension till the month-end to complete its task.

After watching the tapes for nearly three hours, the committee has asked the Lok Sabha Secretariat to make the transcript available to the members.

The committee also asked CNN-IBN channel, which had conducted the sting operation but came under BJP's attack for not telecasting it, to send its representative on August 11, Deo said.

In their petition seeking a probe into the charge that attempt was made to bribe them to get their support in the trust vote, the three MPs -- Ashok Argal, Fagan Singh Kulaste and Mahavir Bhagora -- are believed to have named SP General Secretary Amar Singh and Congress leader Ahmed Patel. Both members of Rajya Sabha denied the charge.

Panel receives two more tapes

The committee also received two more tapes -- one from Amar Singh and another from expelled BJP leader Uma Bharti, who has been alleging the hands of the saffron party itself in the scam.

Deo said the panel is not in a hurry to see the two tapes. "We have not seen them. We will watch them later if need be and whether they are relevant to the present case," he said.

Deo also said that the committee will summon Samajwadi Party MP Reoti Raman Singh at a later stage. Singh, who represents Allahabad constituency, is a member of the Lok Sabha unlike Amar Singh and Patel who are members of the Upper House.

Reoti Raman Singh has also been named by the three BJP MPs in their complaint.

Deo avoided a direct reply whether Amar Singh and Patel would be summoned by the committee. "We have not come to that stage," he said.

Replying to a question whether the committee could recommend expulsion of any members if found guilty, Deo said that the panel has the power even to recommend imprisonment for 40 days from from the last day of the session.

August 4, 2008

Cash-for-vote panel meets, MPs summonedCash-for-vote panel meets, MPs summoned

The seven-member committee set up by Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee last week to probe the cash-for-vote scam began its investigations on 30 July.

As part of evidence examination, the members scrutinised the alleged Rs1-crore bribe tabled in parliament by the three BJP MPs on July 22 and now in the custody of the Lok Sabha secretary general.

The panel discussed modalities of collecting evidence and summoning the petitioners and others, including reporters of the television channel that conducted the sting, even as the channel — CNN IBN — said it did not air the tapes because the story had many “loose ends”.

“Quite simply, we have chosen not to telecast the story yet because we did not feel that the story was complete. Our rigorous editorial protocol demands that even a hidden camera shoot is absolutely water-tight. In this particular story, there were many loose ends that needed to be cross-checked, corroborated and investigated further before the story could be aired,” CNN IBN said in a statement here on Wednesday.

The panel will meet again on August 4 when it is likely to view the seven tapes submitted to the speaker by the channel a day after the trust vote. The three BJP MPs — Ashok Argal, Fagan Singh Kulaste and Mahavir Bhagora — who were allegedly approached by emissaries of Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh with the money, have been summoned by the committee on August 7 to record evidence. They also alleged involvement of Ahmed Patel, political secretary to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.

The BJP claimed its MPs were offered Rs3 crore each and were paid Rs1 crore each as advance.

Amar Singh and Ahmed Patel — both Rajya Sabha MPs — have denied the charges.
Asked if the panel can summon Singh and Patel to record evidence, chairman V Kishore Chandra Deo said the panel has no power since they belong to the Rajya Sabha and that the speaker has to write to chairman of the upper House. Whether the committee can stop telecast of the footage, Deo said: “I have no power to withhold the tape or allow its screening. Personally, I am against trial by the media.”

Meanwhile, the speaker has received applications for disqualification of 22 MPs for cross-voting in the trust vote.

31 July, 2008

Seven-member committee to probe cash for vote scam

Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee Saturday set up a seven-member committee to probe allegations by three Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MPs that they were bribed by the Samajwadi Party and Congress to abstain during the trust vote in parliament on Tuesday. Headed by C. Kishore Chandra Deo, who also heads the house privileges committee, the committee will go through the evidence and submit its report by Aug 11, the scheduled opening of the monsoon session of parliament.

Besides Deo, other committee members, all MPs, include V.K. Malhotra (BJP), Mohammad Salim (Communist Party of India-Marxist), Ram Gopal Yadav (Samajwadi Party), Devendra Prasad Yadav (Rashtriya Janata Dal), Rajesh Varma (Bahujan Samaj Party), C. Kuppusami (DMK).

The seven members have been chosen from the 11-member committee set up by Chatterjee earlier to look into allegations of misconduct by MPs on the floor of parliament.

The BJP filed a formal complaint with the speaker on the issue Friday.

The complaint, filed jointly by Ashok Argal, Faggan Singh Kulaste and Mahavir Bhagora, is said to have named Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh as the mastermind. Ahmed Patel, Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary, too finds mention.

The complaint recounts the sequence of events that culminated in the dramatic scenes that rocked the Lok Sabha during the discussion on the trust vote on Tuesday when the three waved wads of currency notes, which they alleged had been offered to them to abstain during the vote.

They alleged on the floor of the House that they had been offered Rs.90 million each to abstain during the trust vote and been paid an advance of Rs. 10 million each.

Both Amar Singh and Patel have denied the charges and said they will quit public life if there is any evidence of them offering or giving money to any MP.

July 26th, 2008


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