Page last updated at 11:16 GMT, Wednesday, 23 July 2008 12:16 UK

India media condemn vote 'taint'

Indian newspapers
The media says vote buying charges should be investigated

The Indian government's win in a vote of confidence has been "tainted" by charges of vote buying, newspapers say.

Opposition MPs had waved wads of money in the house alleging they were offered bribes to abstain during horse-trading.

The government survived Tuesday's vote over a nuclear deal with the US by 275 votes to 256. Indian shares rose more than 5% as markets welcomed the result.

The vote came after the government's left-wing allies withdrew their support in protest at the controversial accord.

If the Congress party-led government had lost the vote, India would have faced early elections, casting the nuclear deal in doubt.

The opposition claimed that a news channel had secretly recorded the alleged bribe taking.

The channel handed the tapes over to the parliament speaker Somnath Chatterjee for investigation.

Mr Chatterjee said Tuesday was a "very sad day" for the Indian parliament, adding: "Nobody will be spared if found guilty."

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has promised his party will co-operate in an inquiry into the claims.

'Making a hash of democracy'

"Shame. PM wins, Parliament plumbs new depths," headlined the Hindustan Times newspaper.

We have a politics without scruples, without principles, without common decency and without common prudence
Pratap Bhanu Mehta,
The Indian Express

"Whatever be the veracity of the accusations made by three BJP [main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party] MPs [who alleged that they were offered bribes] what is needed if the nation even hopes to come to terms with this body blow of India's parliamentary democracy is an inquiry into the allegation."

"Democracy is what we make of it and it seems very clear that at some basic level, we have made a hash of it."

The Times Of India said that the 19-vote victory came "after the managers of the Manmohan Singh government had outmanoeuvred and outgunned the opposition in what has been one of the murkiest contests in parliamentary history - a contest in which charges of bribery and misuse of CBI [the federal detective agency] drowned all other substantive issues on debate".

The newspaper said as many as 14 MPs had defied their parties to support the government, while four went against party whips by abstaining or staying away.

Indian MPs who alleged that money was offered to them to secure their support
Three opposition MPs alleged that they were offered money

Writing in The Indian Express, political scientist Pratap Bhanu Mehta said Tuesday's incidents in the parliament pointed to the "abominable" depths that Indian politics had sunk to.

"What has been established beyond doubt is that the bags of money have not just a metaphor for the character of our politics, they have become its means and its essence," he wrote.

"It would be prudent not to prejudge the allegations. But it has to be said that either way this episode reflects the abominable depths in our politics.

"We have a politics without scruples, without principles, without common decency and without common prudence."

Pratap Bhanu Mehta said the PM had lost his "moral identity" despite winning the trust vote.

"We had a prime minister whose trump card was integrity. But in order to retain political control rather than face elections, he lost his own moral identity."

'Pyrrhic victory'

"UPA [United Progressive Alliance, the governing coalition] wins vote, loses trust," The Pioneer newspaper said in its headline.

"The manner in which it [the government] stacked up numbers in its favour has resulted in its losing the trust of the people," the paper wrote.

"It is at best a pyrrhic victory which will delight only those who have scant regard and ever less respect for ethics and probity in politics."

"Shame! Go for polls to regain glory," said The Economic Times.

"If power is not its own end for this government, the prime minister must use his new-found authority and public esteem to squarely address the malaise of money power in politics," the paper wrote.

Supporters of India's Congress party celebrate after the Congress Led UPA government won a parliamentary confidence vote in New Delhi on July 22, 2008
Congress supporters were jubilant after the vote

It said that the Congress party and the PM should conclude the nuclear deal with the US and "call for fresh elections at the earliest opportune moment, to secure a fresh mandate for reforms - political as well as economic."

The Asian Age said Tuesday's incidents in the parliament had "sullied the fair image and reputation of the Indian parliamentary system earned over six decades".

A magazine editor echoed a similar sentiment.

"Indian democracy has been rotten for a long time - this is just one more manifestation of that rottenness," Vinod Mehta of Outlook magazine told the AFP news agency.

"You've seen the ugliest face of Indian democracy."

India is succumbing to American political and economic pressure
Goolam Dawood, Johannesburg, South Africa

The newspapers said that by winning the vote of confidence, PM Manmohan Singh was now free to go ahead with the nuclear deal.

"When the history of the last two decades gets to be written, Mr Singh will be seen as the maker of two landmark events," The Telegraph newspaper wrote.

"One was the economic reforms of the 90s, and the other is the Indo-US nuclear deal."

The Times of India said the government should now push unfinished economic reforms which had been opposed by its former communist allies.

"Now that the government has passed the floor test and is no longer dependent on the left for support, its imperative that it makes up for time lost and presses ahead with long delayed reforms."

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