Assange: PM misled India over WikiLeaks bribes cable

via published on March 22, 2011

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – Prime Minister Manmohan Singh deliberately misled Indians over a diplomatic cable involving the Congress party in a vote-buying scandal, WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange said on Monday.

Singh last week denied that any members of the Congress-led coalition government were involved in buying votes to win a confidence vote in 2008 and questioned the veracity of the claims, which were aired in a U.S. diplomatic cable obtained by WikiLeaks.

The leaked cable was the latest in a slew of corruption scandals to hit the government, in cases ranging from the $39 billion telecoms scam to the Adarsh apartment scandal.

“The comments that I’ve been hearing from the Prime Minister Singh, these to me seem like a deliberate attempt to mislead the public by suggesting that governments around the world do not accept this material and that it’s not verified,” Assange told NDTV.

“It is wrong to suggest that it is just opinion, these are official reports made by U.S. ambassadors, sometimes it is opinion, sometimes not,” Assange said.

“If for example, this cable about bribery is incorrect, then the U.S. ambassador to India has a lot to answer for.”

The U.S. diplomatic cable said a senior Congress party official told an embassy official that four MPs of Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal party had been paid 100 million rupees ($2.2 million) each to secure their support in the vote, which Singh won.

The report’s contents were “unverified and unverifiable,” Singh told lawmakers last week.

A spokeswoman of the U.S. embassy in New Delhi had said they did not comment on classified material and could not comment on the report’s authenticity.

Newspaper editorials said last week the report was unlikely to affect government stability as the charges were old.

But with Singh’s reputation as an honest elder statesman tarnished, the political space for reforms such as opening up the supermarket sector to foreign investors and the deregulation of diesel prices will further shrink, analysts said.

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