December 12, 2023
📰 FEATURE STORY
Was Mahua Moitra’s expulsion from the Lok Sabha justified?
A lot has been written and said about India’s Parliamentary proceedings over the years. Not all of it has been flattering to the legislative body. Bills have been introduced and passed in a hurry with little to no debate and discussion. Proceedings are routinely interrupted with the Speaker losing control. When it comes to misconduct, it’s all quite hazy and spotty.
The recent expulsion of Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mahua Moitra has caused an uproar. Not just about her expulsion but the proceedings that preceded it. The Lok Sabha’s Ethics Committee took the lead in investigating allegations that Moitra took money from a businessman to ask questions in Parliament, and recommended her expulsion. Was Moitra a victim of a Kangaroo court, or was the decision justified?
Mahua Moitra’s journey to Indian politics is not exactly common. Following her early education in Assam and Kolkata, she went to the US to study mathematics and economics at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. She then made her way to the world of finance, where she worked as an investment banker with JPMorgan Chase in the UK and the US.
After quitting her job, she decided to return to India and joined politics in 2008. Her political career began with a brief stint with the Congress in West Bengal. With little presence on the ground in the state, Moitra decided to leave. Impressed by Mamata Banerjee’s leadership, she joined the TMC in 2010.
Six years later, she was on the ballot from the Karimpur assembly. She faced pushback from party insiders who insisted her corporate background wasn’t suited for West Bengal politics. She won and was on the ballot from the Krishnanagar constituency in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. She was victorious once again.
Moitra emerged as one of the BJP government’s most vocal critics. Her maiden speech in Parliament went viral as she described creeping instances of fascism in India under the BJP. She held positions in the Supreme Court against the government’s efforts on internet and social media surveillance. This included petitions against the UIDAI’s efforts to garner public mood on Aadhaar through social media.
Her troubles began when BJP MP Nishikant Dubey accused Moitra of asking questions in Parliament in exchange for money and gifts from a businessman. Dubey’s allegation was based on a Supreme Court lawyer’s letter that stated evidence of bribes exchanged between Moitra and Darshan Hiranandani, the CEO of the Hiranandani Group. Dubey alleged that 50 of the 61 questions asked by Moitra focussed on the Adani Group.
The claims alleged Moitra used her Parliament login to post questions against Gautam Adani and the Adani Group. The complaint was sent to the Ethics Committee, chaired by BJP MP Vinod Kumar Sonkar. Things became personal when Hiranandani sent a letter to the Committee stating that Moitra shared her login and password and that “she wanted to make a name for herself at the national level”. This was after Hiranandani denied the allegations and stated it wasn’t involved in politics.
Moitra walked out on an Ethics Committee hearing, alleging she was subjected to personal questions. The Committee endorsed a report recommending her suspension. Following deliberations in the Lok Sabha, Moitra was officially expelled. She has now challenged her expulsion in the Supreme Court. While the TMC and the Opposition are behind her, does this constitute a political witch hunt, or was her expulsion justified?
VIEW: Expulsion was justified
Instances of political nexus between politicians and industrialists aren’t new. Successive governments have had to deal with a plethora of allegations. The crux of the matter is something Moitra herself has admitted to – sharing her Parliamentary login with Hiranandani. While it’s normal for Parliamentarians to provide these credentials to an intern or secretary, giving them to a businessman, is, at the very least, suspicious.
Moitra’s critics argue that wanting to quickly make a name for herself by taking on the BJP and Modi head-on, she took shortcuts and made compromises. The Ethics Committee didn’t buy into her whataboutery on MPs regularly sharing their logins and passwords. Parliamentarians are the voice of the people. They’re supposed to represent them and their interests. However, in this instance, it seems Moitra was furthering her own.
While the opposition has called the entire saga political, the BJP has justified it. The report on this case laid out the precedent. In 2005, 10 MPs, including several BJP members, were accused of taking bribes for posing questions in Parliament. The report also lists the 1951 HG Mudgal case in which he was accused of spreading propaganda for a business group. In both these instances, the proper investigative protocols were followed.
COUNTERVIEW: A political stunt
The entire saga, from beginning to end, was a chance for the BJP machinery to target someone they saw as a threat. Over the course of the investigation, Darshan Hiranandani wasn’t even questioned. This meant Moitra didn’t stand a chance to defend herself or cross-question Hiranandani, which legal experts contend was her right. In the end, it seemed to be a case of unproven allegations of Moitra and her ex-partner. The case is a classic example of rank sexism and malicious gossip masked as an ethics investigation.
The Committee admitted it couldn’t investigate and expose the alleged money trail. It stated that a competent government agency should look into it. So, why not wait till such an investigation was finished before recommending her expulsion? There’s also no law in the books on sharing logins and passwords. At best, it seems to be a case of carelessness on Moitra’s part. It’s a case of Moitra being declared guilty without an investigation or a chance to defend herself in Parliament.
In a statement, 123 eminent citizens said her expulsion goes against the public interest. They pointed to the larger context of the Adani Group and its alleged government links in light of the Hindenburg Research report from January. The government doesn’t seem interested in investigating the voracity of the allegations against Adani but is more interested in the messengers to intimidate and gag them.
- Investment banker to MP: journey of TMC MP Mahua Moitra – Deccan Herald
- Mahua Moitra, a former banker, who lost her Lok Sabha account over a ‘dog fight’ – The Economic Times
- ‘Gifts, threats and a jilted ex’: What is cash-for-query row dogging Mahua Moitra – India Today
- The lady doth protest too much – Indica News
- Mahua Has Been Burned at The Stake. But A Latter Day Joan Of Arc She Is Not – News18
- Four gifts, ‘serious risks’, ‘no expertise to investigate’: 5 takeaways from ethics panel report on Mahua Moitra – Newslaundry
- Mahua Moitra Lok Sabha Expulsion: Why the BJP Gains Nothing From the Move – The Quint
- (At Least) Three Critical Flaws in the Ethics Committee Report on Mahua Moitra – The Wire
What is your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) Mahua Moitra’s expulsion from the Lok Sabha was justified.
b) Mahua Moitra’s expulsion from the Lok Sabha wasn’t justified.
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