Indian government to keep opposition's protest cash

Wed Dec 17, 2008 2:50am EST
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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's government will keep wads of cash waved around in parliament by opposition lawmakers protesting against what they said were government attempts to bribe MPs, a senior official has said.

Opposition MPs raucously interrupted a no-confidence debate in July, piling up wads of millions of rupees in protest against what they said were bribes being offered by the government to MPs to abstain from voting in the no-confidence motion.

The government denied the charges.

Speaker Somnath Chatterjee told parliament on Tuesday that the parliamentary secretary-general was having sleepless nights over having to store 10 million rupees ($213,000) for the past five months.

The origin of the money has not been identified.

"As this money may be required for the purpose of investigation ... it will be retained by the secretary-general for one month," Chatterjee said.

"If no request is received for it ... it will be deposited with the government as unclaimed money," Chatterjee said in comments published on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government won the confidence vote, ensuring his ruling coalition's survival.

Both sides went to extraordinary measures to woo lawmakers in the lead-up to the vote.

The government renamed an airport in honor of one wavering lawmaker's father, while some ill members were wheeled into parliament on hospital beds. Others, in jail for murder and extortion, were freed for a few days to cast their votes.

(Writing by Matthias Williams; Editing by Paul Tait)