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Amar Singh jailed but questions remain

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New Delhi: The big wheeler dealer of Indian Politics, Rajya Sabha MP and former Samajwadi Party General Secretary, Amar Singh has spent his first night in Delhi's high security Tihar jail. He was arrested in connection with the cash-for-votes scam yesterday.

Mr Singh had khichdi for dinner. There is a doctor available round the clock in the cell that Mr Singh is in; he explained his medical history to the doctor and also took insulin.

Two former BJP MPs who had said they were bribed by Mr Singh to support the UPA government in the 2008 trust vote were also sent to jail.

The evidence against Mr Singh includes detailed phone records that establish he was in regular contact with Sanjeev Saxena, his assistant, who negotiated with the trio of BJP MPs. Mr Singh tried to deny that Mr Saxena was his aide; the police, however, found several letters written by Mr Singh where he referred to Mr Saxena as his assistant. The car that delivered the money to the MPs belonged to Mr Singh as well. "This is circumstantial evidence," dismissed Mr Singh's lawyers today.

But after Amar Singh's arrest, uncomfortable questions over Manmohan Singh's victory in the 2008 confidence vote have returned to haunt the UPA. His arrest has reopened the key question: Who was the ultimate beneficiary of the cash-for-votes scam?

In July 2008, the Left pulled out of the UPA government over Dr Singh's civil nuclear deal with America. 62 MPs therefore exited the government. Dr Singh had to prove he had a majority. On July 22, hours before the trust vote, three BJP MPs arrived in the Lok Sabha brandishing wads of notes. A crore is what they said it added upto, describing it as an advance from Mr Singh delivered through middlemen. The MPs - Ashok Argal, Faggan Kulaste and Mahavir Bhagora - said the deal struck with them was for three crores each; they just had to ensure they abstained during the vote. Mr Argal is still an MP; the other two are not, and were arrested today along with Mr Singh.

The BJP says it's time for Mr Singh to reveal the names of those he represented. The beneficiaries were the Prime Minister and his government, said both the Left and the BJP today, demanding that the PM now explain why Mr Singh went to such great lengths to help the UPA. "It's the scandal of the century," said the BJP's Rajiv Pratap Rudy.
It's a charge that looks bad in the current climate vociferously against corruption.

What makes it worse is that those whom the BJP calls whistleblowers have been charged with the same charges as Amar Singh the alleged conspirator, both facing a seven-year sentence if convicted. However, the Delhi Police says it has found no evidence to connect Mr Singh to leaders in the UPA.

The cash-for-votes scam as it is known has two leading roles. On one hand, there's Mr Singh who has been accused of bribing three BJP MPs and has been charged with abetment and criminal conspiracy under the Prevention of Corruption Act. According to the Delhi Police, Mr Singh walked into a trap carpentered by Sudheendra Kulkarni, who was an advisor to senior BJP leader LK Advani in 2008. Mr Kulkarni, according to the police's chargesheet, fancied himself as a whistleblower who decided to expose the UPA government's willingness to buy support for its trust vote. So he enlisted three MPs to market themselves to potential political buyers. Mr Singh allegedly rose to the occasion. Mr Kulkarni has also been chargesheeted for "inducement" of bribes and corruption; he is currently travelling in America.

The Congress refused to respond to the BJP's charge of benefitting. "The law will take its own course," said Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi.

However, in the past, the Congress has maintained it didn't need to bribe anyone for votes.

They point to the actual vote which the UPA won by a margin of 19 votes getting 275 out of 543-member Lok Sabha, while the Opposition got 256 and there were 10 abstentions.

The Parliamentary panel which probed the cash-for-votes scam has come in for severe criticism for carrying out what has been termed by many a weak probe, one that let off all the main players.

Interestingly, the man who headed the panel, K C Deo, is now a Union Cabinet Minister.

The committee gave the MPs a clean chit, saying there was insufficient evidence to draw a conclusion of bribery - a stand adopted by the Prime Minister earlier this year when a WikiLeaks expose allegedly pointed to a Congressman's aide showing off cash to buy votes.

Read more at: http://www.ndtv.com/article/india/amar-singh-jailed-but-questions-remain-131885

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