New Delhi: The trouble seems to be unending for the UPA government, as a united Opposition in Parliament on Thursday demanded resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for fresh charges in the 2008 'cash-for-votes' scam.

US diplomatic cables, WikiLeaks and a daily reportedly published that the payoffs had been made to MPs to ensure majority for the Congress-led government in the confidence vote over the India-US nuclear deal.

Nachiketa Kapur, a political aide of Congress leader Satish Sharma, is quoted as saying that a fund of Rs 50 crore had been formed to pay MPs. He also apparently showed two chests containing cash meant for the pay-offs.

According to the leaked cable, "Kapur showed the embassy employee two chests containing cash and said that around Rs 50-60 crore (about $25 million) was lying around the house for use as pay-offs."

Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said the issue had "shamed Indian democracy". She mocked the government saying "all this has taken place right under the nose of a so-called honest Prime Minister".

She said that this has come to light now, recalling that three BJP MPs had brought cash to the house in 2008 during the trust vote. But then Speaker Somnath Chatterjee had ordered an inquiry against them instead of taking cognisance of the matter who was distributing the wads of cash.

Criticism from all corners

Samjawadi Party's Mulayam Singh Yadav, who had voted in favour of the UPA government in 2008, said: "I had also played a role in saving the government. This defames even me.”

Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Gurudas Dasgupta added: "Never in the history of Indian democracy has such a news report appeared in newspapers. Money was paid to members. This is the murder of democracy.”

It was no different in the Rajya Sabha with BJP's Arun Jaitley stating that the "government survived on the basis of a political sin" and had no authority.

Further Jaitley said, "Diplomatic immunity may be available to US diplomats, which can certainly not be claimed by government of India for a crime committed by Indians in India."

JD(S) chief Sharad Yadav termed the Wikileaks expose as ‘very serious’ and said though we need to have good relations with the US, "19 of our (opposition) MPs were bought over and it seems the transaction was done with the involvement of US Embassy officials. .... It is just not possible that 19 MPs
crossed the floor without any allurement."

Pranab defends government

Faced with the barrage of criticism, the government said it could neither confirm nor deny the alleged revelations.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said in a statement in the Rajya Sabha: "There is a diplomatic immunity to what a sovereign nation discusses with its mission abroad, no access can be made to them, and government cannot confirm or deny it.

"Every Lok Sabha is sovereign in its period; whatever happened in 14th Lok Sabha, cannot be dragged in 15th Lok Sabha. The 14th Lok Sabha has been dissolved," he said.

In the din, Sanjay Nirupam (Cong) was heard questioning the credibility of the Wikileaks cables saying that it showed the bankruptcy of ideas in the opposition. "Wikileaks has been rejected by all countries. It has no credibility or veracity," he said.

Cong slams BJP, other parties

With the Opposition gunning for the government over leaked US cables on the 2008 trust vote, Congress slammed BJP and other parties for disrupting Parliament over the issue, claiming "the whole world has rejected the Wikileaks reports".

"The whole world has rejected the Wikileaks reports. Because if a diplomat is writing to his own sovereign government I do not think any government can take responsibility for it," Congress leader Rajeev Shukla said, and demanded an apology from the opposition members for their conduct in Parliament.

Parliament was disrupted over the leaked US diplomatic cables about alleged payoffs to win trust vote in 2008 with Opposition demanding resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Narayanan denies differences with PM

Former National Security Adviser M K Narayanan has denied that he had difference of opinion with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Pakistan against the backdrop of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.

Asked about Wikileaks revelations in this regard, Narayanan, who is now the Governor of West Bengal, said that he did not have any difference of opinion with the Prime Minister. Narayanan said the Ambassador wanted to know his stand on these matters.

JPN/Agencies