India’s opposition parties have called for the government’s resignation following a WikiLeaks cable that said lawmakers were bribed to help the government survive a crucial confidence vote in 2008. The allegation of vote-buying brings more pressure on the government which is reeling under a string of corruption scandals.
The diplomatic cable leaked by WikiLeaks which set off demands for the government to step down was reported by a newspaper on Thursday.
The report said that an aide of a ruling Congress Party official showed two chests of cash to a U.S. diplomat and told him they had a fund of about $11 million to pay off lawmakers in 2008 to secure their support for a confidence vote.
The confidence vote was called after Left parties withdrew crucial support over the government’s decision to sign a controversial civil nuclear deal with the United States. The Congress-led government won the vote by a narrow margin.
The allegations of bribery set off an uproar in parliament by opposition lawmakers.
The leader of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, Sushma Swaraj, said the government had lost its legitimacy.
Swaraj says the government has been facing corruption charges for the last three months, but this is a hammer blow from which it cannot recover.
Another senior BJP leader, Arun Jaitley, demanded the government’s resignation.
"A government which survived on the strength of such a political sin, such a moral sin has no right, no authority to continue even for one minute," said Jaitley.
The Congress Party official and the aide named in the WikiLeaks report have strongly denied the allegations. The four lawmakers whom the newspaper report said were paid the bribes pointed out that they did not vote with the government.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said the government could not comment on communication between a diplomat and his government.
"Therefore it is not possible for the government to either confirm it or deny it," said Mukherjee.
But the WikiLeaks report echoes charges by opposition parties at the time of the vote that lawmakers had been paid off to secure their support.
It also brings more pressure on the government, which is battling charges that there was massive corruption involved in the sale of telecom spectrum in 2008 and the organization of last year’s Commonwealth Games. Political analysts say the string of allegations of graft involving billions of dollars have impacted the government’s credibility.