The Lok Sabha on Friday passed, by voice vote, a resolution expelling Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra, after the House Ethics Committee found her guilty of accepting cash and gifts from a Dubai based businessman for asking questions targeting his rival Adani group in the House. The Ethics Committee report was placed at 12 noon, a discussion began at 2 pm, and by 3 pm, Mahua Moitra was expelled from the House.
The Ethics Committee found Mahua's conduct as "highly objectionable, unethical, heinous and criminal". It recommended that the government should initiate an intense, legal and institutional inquiry in a time-bound manner into alleged cash transactions between her and the businessman.
The Ethics Committee said her conduct "prima facie has an impact on national security" and such "serious misdemeanors" call for severe punishment not less than immediate expulsion. Mahua was supported inside and outside the House by her party Trinamool Congress and I.N.D.I.A allies - Congress, RJD, JD-U, SP, DMK and others.
Taking part in the debate, Congress leaders questioned why the government was in a hurry to expel her from membership. Outside the House, Mahua Moitra, flanked by Sonia Gandhi and others, read out the speech that she had prepared for reading inside the Lok Sabha.
Mahua described her expulsion as the "most tenacious witch-hunt of one of 78 women MPs, a first-timer, a single woman with no political lineage, from a far-flung constituency on the Bangladesh border".
She said, "I am 49 years old. I will fight you for the next 30 years, inside and outside Parliament...If this government thought that by shutting me up, they are going to do away with the Adani issue, let me tell you this, this kangaroo court has shown to the whole of India that the haste and the abuse of due process you have used demonstrates how important Mr Adani is to you."
The opposition parties have closed ranks on the issue of Mahua's expulsion. In Kurseong, North Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee described it as "murder of democracy" and vowed that the I.N.D.I.A alliance will fight against this. Mamata Banerjee said, "the party was with Mahua, remains with her and will continue to stand by her on this issue...She will get justice in people's parliament...To expel her is to cheat the mandate of the people...This only proves how vindictive BJP's politics is."
In my view, expulsion of any member of Parliament is unfortunate, but Mahua Moitra's behaviour did not leave any other option. It was an open and shut case, with no grey area in between. There was no iota of doubt left. Mahua herself admitted that she shared her login and password for Parliament website with businessman Darshan Hiranandani.
The businessman used to post questions to Lok Sabha secretariat in her name. He has admitted on affidavit that Adani was his business rival. Mahua asked 61 questions in Lok Sabha, out of which 50 were on subjects relating to clash of business interests between Hiranandani and Adani.
Mahua made Hiranandani draft questions against Adani group of companies. Hiranandani funded her foreign tours, hotel bills and party expenses, gave expensive gifts to her. What else is left to investigate on behalf of the defendant? Yet, the committee questioned people, and recorded their statements. It also gave Mahua a chance to present her side of the case, but at the meeting, Mahua alleged that the chairman was taking a partisan approach.
When the committee recommended her expulsion, Mahua said, the original complainant, a lawyer named Jai Anant Dehadrai was her former friend against whom she was involved in a domestic dispute. The political consequence of her expulsion from Lok Sabha is that the opposition parties in I.N.D.I.A alliance, who were squabbling during the state assembly polls, now stand united. Almost all the opposition leaders complained that Mahua was not allowed to speak inside the House in her defence and there was no need to hurry in expelling her.
But none of them said Mahua is innocent. Since it is a matter of corruption, leaders who stand with Mahua and her leader Mamata, may find it difficult to give cogent replies. Congress's troubles are bound to increase. Already, Income Tax department on Friday seized nearly Rs 330 crore cash and huge amount of gold ornaments from a Congress Rajya Sabha member Dhiraj Prasad Sahu.