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3 BJP MPs allege they were offered crores of rupees to abstain

Special Correspondent

An unfortunate and sad day in the history of Parliament: Speaker

Nobody will be spared if found guilty: Somnath

“Deal was struck for Rs. 3 crore each for 3 MPs”

— PTI/ Courtesy Lok Sabha TV

BJP MPs show packets of money, allegedly given to them to switch sides, during the special session of the the Lok Sabha in New Delhi on Tuesday.

NEW DELHI: The Lok Sabha was stunned on Tuesday when three members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alleged that they were bribed by an ally of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) to abstain from voting in the confidence motion moved by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The members tabled in the House wads of currency which was reportedly paid to them as advance. The rest of the cash, they said, was to be paid after the voting.

Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee said this was an unfortunate and sad day in the history of Parliament. After a meeting with the leaders of all political parties on the issue, he assured the House that the matter would be looked into and nobody would be spared if found guilty. A formal complaint was given to the Speaker in writing.

The drama unfolded at 4 p.m. when Ashok Argal, Fagan Singh Kulaste (Madhya Pradesh) and Mahavir Bhagora (Rajasthan) — all elected from Madhya Pradesh — took out wads of thousand rupee currency from two bags and placed them on the table of the secretary-general, alleging that it was Rs. 1 crore given to Mr. Argal at his house.

There was a stunned silence before all hell broke loose as members of the Opposition trooped into the well of the House raising slogans. Some members from the Treasury Benches also came down to the well. This was followed by a free-for-all, with the members trading charges.

The BJP members alleged that the deal had been struck for Rs. 3 crore each for the three MPs and Rs. 1 crore was given as advance. The money brought to the House in two bags was allegedly the advance money paid to Mr. Argal at the behest of Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh.

Deputy Speaker Charanjit Singh Atwal, who was in the Chair, left the House and returned after 10 minutes to announce that the proceedings had been adjourned until 5 p.m. The House was adjourned twice until 6.30 p.m. when the Prime Minister made an attempt to reply to the debate on the confidence motion, but was not allowed to do so.

The Congress MPs, including Congress president Sonia Gandhi, External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Home Minister Shivraj Patil, left the House soon after the charge was made. But Law and Justice Minister H.R. Bhardwaj came in after a while as did Leader of the Opposition L.K. Advani.

PTI reports:

Mr. Kulase later told journalists: “We were contacted on Monday and told the deal would be struck in Le Meridian hotel here but that could not take place. Later, SP MP Reoti Raman Singh came to meet us at 12.30 a.m. at 4 Ferozshah Road and said ‘please come with me to Amar Singh’s house where the deal would be finalised’.”

“In the morning, Ahmed Patel [Congress] discussed the deal with us. Thereafter, we went with Reoti Raman Singh to Amar Singh’s house where he offered us Rs. 3 crore — Rs. 1 crore each as advance — there and then. But we refused to take the money and said it should be delivered at 4 Ferozshah Road.”

Mr. Bhagora said: “About twenty minutes later a man came to the residence with two bags full of cash and put it on the table. I asked him to open the bags to show whether the cash was real or fake. Then he took out Rs. 1 crore in cash.”

“A man telephoned Amar Singh, who told me this money was an advance for the deal.”

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