Pleading ignorance is not usually the best defense, especially when you're supposed to be running the show. But that's exactly what prime minister Manmohan Singh has been forced to do in the wake of Wikileaks' revelation that a US diplomat was told by a minor government functionary that legislators had been paid to drop their opposition to the US-India civilian nuclear agreement.
After the political controversy over a WikiLeaks cable that suggests that the Congress bought the support of MPs during a vote of confidence in 2008, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said he did not authorise anyone to purchase votes, reports NDTV.
Based on recent revelations, though, one might well question whether Singh even had the power to authorize such a move.
According to NDTV's summary, a cable was sent on July 17 by the US Charge d'Affaires Steven White, in which he described a visit by the Embassy's Political Counselor to senior Congress leader Satish Sharma, known for his proximity to the Gandhi family.
The cable states: "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."
Mr White also says that "Kapur showed the Embassy employee two chests containing cash and said that around Rupees 50-60 crore (about $25 million) was lying around the house for use as pay-offs."
Egregious hearsay perhaps, and there's nothing to prove that Sharma was not just spreading hot air (if he indeed told White these things). But it's just one more nick in the torture of a thousand cuts, as far as the corruption allegations surrounding Singh's United Progressive Alliance government are concerned.