Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told parliament Friday that his government was not involved in paying bribes to lawmakers to secure their support for a confidence vote which it won narrowly during its previous tenure in 2008.
"I wish to make it clear that no one from the Congress Party or the government indulged in any unlawful act during the trust vote, during July 2008," said Singh.
The confidence vote was called after the government’s left-wing allies withdrew support over a civil nuclear deal with the United States.
The allegation that the government survived by buying votes was sparked by a WikiLeaks cable which said that a U.S. diplomat was shown two chests of cash by an aide to a senior Congress Party official. The money was apparently earmarked for four lawmakers, who were given over $ 2 million each for their support in the confidence vote.
The Congress party official, his aide and the lawmakers have denied the charge.
Prime Minister Singh pointed out that a committee which investigated allegations of bribery after the vote had found inconclusive evidence of bribery.
He expressed disappointment that a WikiLeaks cable had been given any credence.
"It is most surprising that speculative, unverified and unverifiable communication should be given dignity and seized upon by opposition parties to revive old charges that have been soundly rejected," Singh said.
The prime minister said after the confidence vote, in 2009, the Congress Party had faced an election and returned to power after winning more seats, while opposition parties lost ground.
However, Singh's clarification is unlikely to satisfy opposition parties, who raised a ruckus following the statement resulting in parliament’s adjournment. They have demanded the prime minister’s resignation.
The issue of high level corruption has been in the spotlight in recent months following several allegations of graft involving senior government officials.
Before making his statement in parliament, Singh told a conference that India needs to deal with the malice of corruption and improve governance. He said there should be no doubt about his government’s commitment to root out corruption and clean up the political system.