The Lok Sabha Ethics committee has made Mahua Moitra a martyr. The indiscreet decision proves beyond doubt that the personal and political life of an individual daring to raise an accusing finger towards Narendra Modi and his tycoon friend Gautam Adani would have to face the wrath of the combined establishment.
The entire proceeding of the so-called Ethics committee presents an image of a prejudiced mind, which is hell bent on punishing Moitra by throwing all the democratic and constitutional norms and provisions into the dustbin. This design is already clearly visible in the functioning of the Enforcement Directorate. In almost all the cases that went to the higher judiciary, the ED has miserably failed to come up with evidence to substantiate their allegations against the various accused.
The expulsion verdict does not appear to be based on any clinching evidence against Moitra. The hurry with which Ethics came out with the verdict, even denying Mahua her right to cross examine the complainant, simply strengthens the belief that BJP ecosystem and the advisers of Modi utterly lack an inclusive political vision. In fact, the proceedings of the Ethics reinforces the view that the sham show was held only to punish Moitra. The days of Moitra, known as the detractor of Narendra Modi and Gautam Adani, as the member of the Lok Sabha are numbered. BJP, especially Modi, would not tolerate dissenting voice against him and his corporate beneficiary in Adani.
Undoubtedly, the reasons cited for her expulsion are not in sync with the legal norms and are bizarre in nature. The Ethics Committee has cited the threats India faces from state and non-state cyber actors to indict TMC MP Mahua Moitra for sharing her log-in credentials with businessman Darshan Hiranandani, noting that he has residency rights in Dubai and has close relatives who are foreign nationals. No doubt this threat narration is imaginary and is no proof what so ever enough for her indictment. The panel did not mention the nature of threats these state and non-state actors have inflicted. This appears to have been mentioned merely to add more meat to the charges against her.
“This creates a serious risk of leakage of sensitive material to foreign agencies,” the panel has concluded, as it cited the report submitted by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology to record that her portal was operated 47 times from the UAE between July 2019 and April 2023, a source said. Since the home ministry has furnished the report of the use of her email, it must have also assessed the text, which it cannot deny under any condition citing any excuse.
Head of the Ethics committee tried to turn a molehill into a mountain by saying that “such leak of credentials could render the system vulnerable to serious cyber-attacks and potentially disable the system entirely, crippling the functioning of India’s Parliament”. Does he really believe that her action has been in the nature of this threat? He intends to create a security hype for implicating Moitra and nothing beyond that. In the process, he is also questioning the functioning and also the abilities of the home ministry and security agencies.
Ethics committee’s list of accusations against her is quite long, but it could not hold her guilty on any count. The committee came to a conclusion with a majority view that the allegations that she accepted “illegal gratifications” from Hiranandani have been clearly established. But in the same breath, it accepts that it went by her own deposition and her remarks to the media. Moitra had of course accepted accepting gifts that too in the capacity of being the family friend. She said that they have known each other for years.
Ironically, the committee could not substantiate the allegation by her detractors of having taken cash from Hiranandani for asking questions in the Parliament. The panel has acknowledged that it does not have the technical wherewithal and expertise to criminally investigate and unearth the money trail. But its incredulity has harmed her beyond repair. Since it has failed to perform its task with all sincerity, it has passed the buck to the central government institutions suggesting that any “quid pro quo” could be investigated by the government in a time-bound manner.
An insight into the recommendations makes it explicit that BJP ecosystem and Modi have been in a hurry to malign her image and put her in a spot. Machination put in motion to malign Moitra gets impetus from the observation of Sonkar himself: “The report was circulated amongst the committee members yesterday night and the decision was announced on next morning.”
True enough, Moitra also accuses the chairman of denying time to the members to study and apply their minds over the report. She says, “The report was given to the BJP members yesterday night. Most of the opposition members even did not get the report. After the committee resumed hearing, the chairman said that the report has been adopted without any dissenting note. Everything was over in two minutes.”
Really, it is intriguing how the committee adopted the 500-page report without any discussion. Moitra is right in saying that “they were in hurry to shut [her] up”. Else there was no reason not to allow the opposition to submit its dissent note. What is most significant is when put to vote six members voted in favour and four against it. Interestingly two BJP members did not vote. They kept away.
Moitra in his comments before the committee and outside has rejected any quid-pro-quo while admitting that Hiranandani used her log-in credentials. However, she has insisted that many MPs share their log-in credential with others and asserted that she never asked any question in Lok Sabha at his behest, as alleged. She also said: “Anyone can make an allegation, but the onus is always on the complainant to prove those allegations. I have read the so-called affidavit submitted to the Parliament Ethics Committee. There’s no mention of Rs 2 crore cash given to me in the affidavit. If cash is being given, please tell the date and provide all the documentary evidence.”
Ever since the hearing began, Moitra has been telling the chairman to summon Hiranandani and her ex friend Jai AnantDehadrai, so that she can cross-examine them. But chairman did not respond to her request. It was this non-conforming attitude of the chairman that forced her to describe the ethics committee’s recommendation to disqualify her from the house over the cash-for-query allegations as a “prefixed match by a kangaroo court” and the death of parliamentary democracy. She is confident that people can read between the lines and understand the implication of this move. Which is why she is confident: “Even if they expel me in this Lok Sabha, I will be back in the next Lok Sabha with a bigger mandate.”
If indeed it is such a serious matter as is being portrayed by Sonkar then it should have gone to the privilege committee. The Ethics Committee’s mandate is to look into unethical conduct. Though the Ethics committee has recommended Moitra’s expulsion, the Speaker of Lok Sabha, Om Birla is the final arbiter. In view of the disparaging remarks hurled at her at the meeting which she mentioned in her letter to Birla, submitted to him just after boycotting the committee, Speaker ought to not agree to the recommendations. Ideally, Birla should be ordering a probe into the matter by a panel of senior members of the Lok Sabha, constituted specifically for the purpose. As per the rules, once Birla agrees to the recommendations, he has to place it before Lok Sabha for ratification. Since BJP has huge majority, expulsion of Moitra will be an instant affair.
Meanwhile, with portentous intentions, some BJP leaders and her detractors have been trying to create the impression that Moitra has been fighting alone a losing battle. But to the utter despair of these nay-sayers, TMC heir apparent Abhishek Banerjee extended full support of the party and threw his weight behind her as he spoke to mediapersons on November 9. He said: “If someone wants to fight the government, questions the role of the government or that of the Adanis, efforts are made to expel that person from Parliament.”
He also sought to know: “If you do not have anything against Mahua, and it is the subject of investigation, why has an expulsion been recommended? Why the committee had been so prompt in taking up the issue while matters predating it had been kept in the freezer?” He even said that Mahua Moitra has been the victim of vendetta politics. “How can the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee take any action against Moitra even before the allegations are proven against her?” Banerjee asserted. (IPA Service)