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Soon after storming out of the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee meeting amidst the hearing on the cash-for-query allegations against her, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra has alleged that she was subjected to humiliating personal questions from the panel.
She further described the episode as “proverbial vastraharan (stripping)” referring to the chapter in Mahabharat, where Kauravas humiliated Padavas’ queen Draupadi in darbar.
In a letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, Mahua alleged that “unethical, sordid, prejudiced behaviour was meted out” to her during the meeting.
“I write to you in great anguish today to update you on the unethical, sordid, and prejudiced behaviour meted out to me at the hearing of the Ethics Committee by the Chairman. I have been subjected to the proverbial “Vastraharan” by him in the presence of all members of the Committee,” the TMC MP wrote in the letter.
Moitra appeared before the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee over cash-for-query allegations against her on Thursday. She and opposition members of the panel “walked out” of the meeting on Thursday afternoon. Opposition members raised questions over the line of questioning and alleged that “personal questions” were posed to the Trinamool Congress MP.
Moitra in her letter also alleged that the Chairman, instead of asking questions pertinent to the subject, exhibited a preconceived bias by questioning her in a malicious and defamatory way.
“The committee ought to designate itself under a name other than the Ethics Committee as it has no ethics and morality left. Instead of asking questions pertinent to the subject, the Chairman exhibited a preconceived bias by maliciously and clearly in a defamatory way questioning me, so much so that 5 of the 11 members present walked out and boycotted the proceedings in protest at his shameful conduct,” she said in the letter.
In her letter, the TMC MP also requested the Lok Sabha Secretariat to disclose the regulations governing the sharing of one’s login and password of the portal to merely type out questions, adding that nothing could be submitted without an OTP.
“I request the Lok Sabha Secretariat to please disclose the regulations governing the sharing of one’s login and password of the portal to merely type out questions (where nothing could be submitted without an OTP which came to my mobile phone)”, she said.
“Why were these rules never given to MPs and if they were why is every single MP sharing this ID and login with numerous people? Where was this Ethics Committee’s conscience when the government used the Israeli software Pegasus to spy on the judiciary, independent journalists, and members of the opposition members? Was this not a grievous breach of national security? Why did this Committee not meet even once since July 2021 in the face of so many instances of unethical conduct by members of the ruling party?” the TMC MP added.
She said that she repeatedly protested on record regarding the questions the Chairman was welcome to ask but after more than two hours of irrelevant questioning, five members of the Committee boycotted the proceeding and walked out.
“On my part, I repeatedly protested on record that while the Chairman was welcome to ask me any question relevant to the enquiry — namely on the login and on those allegations of gifts for which evidence, or rather complete lack of it, existed — he could not ask me detailed personal questions making insinuations about my dignity as a woman,” she said.
“After more than two hours of this sort of questioning, which seemed to get worse with each question, five of the Committee members said they would not be a party to this ‘Cheerharan (Disrobing of a woman)’ and boycotted the proceedings and walked out. I too placed on record that while I respect the proceedings of the Committee, it was against my personal dignity and rights to be subjected to this filthy line of questioning by the Chairman who seemed to get vicarious enjoyment from his words, and excused myself from the proceedings,” the TMC MP added.
“At the very onset I would like to state that the complainant has provided NO evidence of any cash, the alleged ‘bribe-giver’ Hiranandani has made NO mention of any cash in his suo-moto affidavit. In respect of gifts, I have already stated on record publicly and in the Committee that Hiranandani is a close friend from before I became an MP. The sum total of all the gifts I have received from him is one scarf, some items of make-up, use of a car and a driver when I have visited Bombay on maybe four to five occasions in the past 5 years and maybe twice in Dubai and a set of very basic architectural drawings/advice on making my government accommodation vastu compliant which were then executed by the engineers and contractors of the CPWD (a government unit) with no payment made by Hiranandani or anyone else apart from the CPWD,” Mahua said in her letter.
She said that she had used secretarial help from Hiranandani’s office in typing out my parliamentary questions for submission to the portal and notably this portal is not the same as the Lok Sabha email or password which she has not shared with anybody.
“I would also like to state that I have a remote constituency and since 2019 I have used secretarial help from Mr. Hiranandani’s office in typing out my parliamentary questions (which I would frame myself and send) for submission to the portal. It is important to note that this portal is not the same as the Lok Sabha email or password which | have not shared with anybody – hence there is no question of misuse of my official email. No unauthorised, unsupervised submission of questions could be made since my mobile number was the one on which the final OTP was delivered- hence no question could be submitted without my approval or knowledge. Each MP has a large team of people with access to the login portal,” the TMC MP said.
Moitra is facing ‘Cash for Query’ allegations by BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, who alleged that the Trinamool MP had taken bribes from Dubai-based businessman Hiranandani to raise questions in Parliament to target the Adani Group.
Dubey had written a letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla last month titled “Re-emergence of nasty ‘Cash for Query’ in Parliament”, seeking a probe into his allegations. He also claimed that Advocate Jai Anant Dehadrai had provided him with proof of alleged bribes.
Both Dubey and Jai Dehadrai have appeared before the Ethics Committee.
Sonkar said that “unethical words” were uttered during the meeting of the panel on Thursday and an attempt was made to make allegations against the panel.
He said that TMC MP walked out of the meeting to escape questions related to the affidavit submitted by Hiranandani.
The Ethics Committee chief rejected allegations that “personal questions” were asked.
“Only related questions (were asked)…., this is an attempt to escape the allegations,” he said.
Moitra appeared before the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee over cash-for-query allegations against her. She and opposition members of the panel “walked out” of the meeting on Thursday afternoon. Opposition members raised questions over the line of questioning and alleged that “personal questions” were posed to the Trinamool Congress MP.
Among those who walked out were BSP MP Danish Ali, Janata Dal (United) MP Giridhari Yadav and Congress MP Uttam Kumar Reddy.
Congress MP Uttam Kumar Reddy, who was among opposition MPs who staged a walkout, accused the BJP of trying to target Moitra.
“The BJP bigwigs and the top guys in the government must be targeting her (Mahua Moitra) because she is continuously exposing Adani. We feel it’s not a good thing in parliamentary democracy to target an MP that to a very talented woman MP, a very good speaker, just because she opposes you on some issues. So we have been raising our stand both inside and outside the Parliament Ethics Committee and all of us opposition MPs felt that in the cross-examination there was persistent objectionable, undignified questioning. So Mahua Moitra and the five opposition MPs decided that it is not fair and we walked out of the meeting,” Reddy told ANI.
The Congress leader countered BJP members and said he had “not heard any unparliamentary language” from Mahua Moitra.
“Whatever Nishiknath Dubey has said is completely wrong. Probably BJP is using him as a point man to target Mahua. Because Mahua pointed out that he has been quoting false educational qualifications in his nomination papers and otherwise too. So Nishikant Dubey’s statement on her, you can’t take it for granted because they have in the past made complaints against each other. So he may be targeting her. It’s totally a false issue,” he said.