Mahua Moitra Expelled From Parliament Over Cash-For-Query Row


Mahua Moitra is a Trinamool Congress leader (File).

New Delhi:

Trinamool Congress leader Mahua Moitra has been expelled from the Lok Sabha following an Ethics Committee report into the ‘cash for query’ charges against her. Ms Moitra, 49, was accused of taking bribes, including Rs 2 crore in cash and “luxury gift items”, from businessman Darshan Hiranandani, in exchange for asking questions critical of the government in Parliament.

Ms Moitra was also accused of surrendering log-in credentials to her personal and confidential account on the parliamentary website, so Mr Hiranandani could post questions directly. A fiery critic of the Modi government, Ms Moitra had denied the bribery charges but admitted to sharing the log-in details.

READ | “Serious Misdemeanours…”: What Ethics Report On Mahua Moitra Says

After a tempestuous discussion and voice vote, Mr Birla said, “This House accepts the conclusions of the Committee – that MP Mahua Moitra’s conduct was immoral and indecent. So, it is not appropriate for her to continue as an MP…”

Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is also Ms Moitra’s party boss, called the expulsion “unacceptable” and said that “vendetta politics of (the) BJP had killed democracy”.

“Mahua will win the battle…. people will give justice. They (BJP) will be defeated in the next election,” Ms Banerjee said, drawing battle-lines (if more were needed) before next year’s general election.

Hours earlier the Ethics Committee presented its report – a nearly 500-page tome – in the House, triggering a furious row between the ruling BJP and the opposition, including Ms Moitra’s party. In the brief discussion that followed, apoplectic opposition MPs demanded more time to study the material, and fought for Ms Moitra to be allowed to speak.

However, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla refused permission, citing the 2005 expulsion of 10 MPs, including six from the BJP, caught in a similar controversy.

READ | Mahua Moitra Denied Permission To Speak During Ethics Report Debate

Ms Moitra, however, spoke to reporters outside Parliament after her expulsion and said the Ethics Committee “broke every rule”. “… Tomorrow, CBI will be sent to my home to harass me…”

The CBI has opened an inquiry in the allegations against Ms Moitra.

The Ethics Committee report against Ms Moitra noted “allegations of accepting illegal gratification (are) clearly established and are undeniable”, and that “taking gifts from (a) businessman to whom she handed over log-in (details) amounts to a quid pro quo… unbecoming of an MP and is unethical conduct”.

On the point Ms Moitra accepted cash as part of the bribes, the report called for the government to “criminally investigate and unearth the ‘money trail'”, for which it said it “does not have expertise”.

The Ethics Committee’s final recommendation was that “…Smt Mahua Moitra, MP, may be expelled from the membership of the Seventeenth Lok Sabha”. It also called for “a legal institutional inquiry by the Government… in view of unethical, heinous, and criminal conduct of Smt Mahua Moitra…”

This morning, as she walked into Parliament, a typically fierce Ms Moitra paused 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).”

Earlier Ms Banerjee accused the BJP of having “planned” the expulsion of Ms Moitra – who is one of the ruling party’s fiercest and most vocal critics. “… but this will help her before the election,” she said.

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