Trinamool MP Mahua Moitra has been expelled from the Parliament after Ethics Panel’s recommendation over cash-for-query row.
Opposition INDIA bloc leaders questioned the Lok Sabha Ethics Panel recommendation for expelling Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, and accused the BJP-led government of doing “vendetta politics”.
The report was tabled in the Lok Sabha today amid an uproar by opposition MPs who questioned the procedure followed by the panel and demanded a discussion on the report.
The Ethics Committee, which investigated the allegations made by BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, adopted its 500-page report on November 9 recommending Ms Moitra’s expulsion from the 17th Lok Sabha in view of her “highly objectionable, unethical, heinous and criminal conduct.”
The draft report was adopted by a 6:4 majority in the panel last month. The report on Ms Moitra’s cash-for-questions case reveals that she visited the UAE four times from 2019 to 2023 while her login was accessed several times.
Six members of the panel voted in favour of the report, including Congress MP Preneet Kaur who had earlier been suspended from the party. Four members of the panel belonging to opposition parties submitted dissent notes.
The motion to expel Mahua Moitra from the Lok Sabha saw a heated discussion on a central question – can the Trinamool MP, who is accused of taking bribes, including Rs 2 crore in cash, from businessman Darshan Hiranandani – respond directly to the charges brought against her.
Calls for Ms Moitra to be allowed to speak – raised as the fundamental right of an accused to defend themselves against any allegation – were led by Trinamool MPs, beginning with Sudip Bandyopadhyay. “What I propose – my party’s spokesperson will be Mahua Moitra herself because allegation is against her. Wild allegations have been raised. Whether true or wrong, let her speak…”
The demand Mahua Moitra be allowed to speak was also backed by a second Trinamool Congress MP – Kalyan Banerjee – who too said it was the party’s wish that Ms Moitra speak on their behalf.
“If the accused person is not heard… can there be a fair trial? A fair trial can only exist if the accused is given an opportunity to be heard. Today, we are deciding on the expulsion of our colleague… when we are acting as an quasi-judicial body… I request you, kindly allow…” Mr Banerjee said.
The requests triggered an intense argument between MPs from the ruling BJP and those from the opposition, with Speaker Om Birla constantly calling for calm in an increasingly frenetic House.
From the government’s side, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi quickly jumped up to cite a ruling by a former Speaker, Somnath Chatterjee, in the 2005 ‘cash for query’ scam that involved several former MPs, including six from the BJP and one from the Congress.
In that instance, Mr Joshi argued, then-Speaker Chatterjee had said that since the MPs had presented their case before the Ethics Committee – which found the charges against them to be true – they no longer had the moral authority to speak in the House.
Citing those House rules, Mr Birla said Ms Moitra would not be allowed to speak.
The ethics report on cash-for-query allegations against Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra has been tabled in the Lok Sabha. The report – which recommends Ms Moitra be expelled – has triggered another chapter in the ongoing explosive stand-off between the ruling BJP and the opposition.
The ruckus that followed the tabling of the report – which saw opposition MPs shouted slogans against the government and those from Ms Moitra’s party approached the Well of the House – led to the Lok Sabha being adjourned till 2 pm.
Mahua Moitra can only be expelled if the House votes in favour of the committee’s report, which declared it found her actions “highly objectionable, unethical, heinous and criminal”.
A confident, and typically fierce, Ms Moitra strode into Parliament this morning, pausing only to tell reporters, “Maa Durga aa gayi hai, ab dekhenge…Jab naash manuj par chhata hai, pehle vivek mar jaata hai (Maa Durga has come! Now we will see.. when destruction comes, conscience dies first).”
“They have started ‘vastraharan‘ and now you will watch ‘Mahabharat ka rann (battlefield)’.”
#WATCH | TMC MP Mahua Moitra says, “Maa Durga aa gayi hai, ab dekhenge…Jab naash manuj par chhata hai, pehle vivek mar jaata hai. They have started ‘vastraharan’ and now you will watch ‘Mahabharat ka rann’.”
Ethics Panel report on her to be tabled in Lok Sabha today. pic.twitter.com/r28o2ABVbB
— ANI (@ANI) December 8, 2023
The BJP, though, is believed to be well-prepped and a three-line whip (the strictest possible) was issued to its MPs; this means they are expected to be present and vote in line with the party’s position.
Mahua Moitra, 49, is accused of taking bribes, including Rs 2 crore in cash, to ask questions critical of the Narendra Modi government. She has flatly denied the charges. Ms Moitra was also accused of surrendering her parliamentary log-in credentials to businessman Darshan Hiranandani, who allegedly paid her the bribe, so he could directly submit questions ahead of Parliament’s Question Hour.
Ms Moitra later admitted to the latter charge but argued this was common practice among MPs.
The charges against the Bengal leader provoked furious protests by the BJP, for whom MP Nishikant Dubey led calls she be investigated. Mr Dubey had written to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla to begin an inquiry. The Ethics Committee hearings concluded early last month in a 6:4 decision to expel.
With inputs from NDTV