Wikileaks-Piles of cash to bribe Indian Members parliament

A United States embassy employee witnessed piles of bank notes being prepared to bribe Indian MPs ahead of a crucial 2008 vote of confidence in parliament, leaked diplomatic cables alleged Thursday.

Opposition parties held protests in both houses of parliament demanding Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government resign over the claims, the latest in a string of damaging graft accusations.

The US staffer in New Delhi was shown "two chests containing cash" by an aide to a senior ruling-party politician and was also told $25 million was "lying around" to ensure the Congress-led government would survive the vote.

Diplomatic messages released by WikiLeaks to an Indian newspaper described how Nachiketa Kapur, identified as an aide to prominent Congress figure Satish Sharma, said that $2.5 million had bought the votes of four MPs.

The alleged incident occurred shortly before Singh narrowly survived the confidence vote over a controversial deal to allow India to buy US nuclear reactors and fuel.

Singh's Congress-led coalition was re-elected in 2009, but has recently become mired by scandals ranging from the cut-price sale of telecoms licences to graft surrounding last year's Commonwealth Games.

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," according to the WikiLeaks cable.

Both Kapur and Sharma, a close associate of Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, protested their innocence.

"I vehemently deny the malicious allegations shown in the WikiLeaks cable that I pointed out cash being used in the vote of confidence," Kapur told Indian news channel.

"I want to file a defamation case (against the unnamed US officers)."

Sharma told Indian news channel he had never had an aide called Nachiketa Kapur.

The July 2008 vote has long been subject to corruption claims. At the time, opposition MPs debating in parliament waved wads of money which they claimed the government was using to try to bribe them.

On Thursday, Arun Jaitley, leader of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party in the upper house, said "it is conclusively clear that this government survived on political and moral sin."

"A government which survived on such a political sin has no authority to even continue for one minute. We demand this government must resign immediately," he said, as his fellow MPs shouted "shame, shame".

Singh has strongly promoted better ties with the United States after decades of friction during the Cold War.

His administration was imperiled by the nuclear deal after Communist allies withdrew support from the ruling coalition.

Indian government officials and the US embassy declined to comment on the July 17, 2008 cable, which is one of a series being published by an Indian newspaper.

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