Thought Box



by Vinta Nanda December 11 2023, 12:00 am Estimated Reading Time: 7 mins, 21 secs

When talking about Mahua Moitra’s expulsion from the Indian parliament, the question that haunts is, what are the rules, writes Vinta Nanda.

An expulsion from parliament can occur for various reasons, including breach of parliamentary conduct, violating rules, or engaging in actions considered unacceptable within the parliamentary framework.

Where is that specific directive written, which disallows parliamentarians from sharing passwords? People’s representatives across the world work with their teams. So, if Mahua Moitra’s team happened to be the office of Darshan Hiranandani, who she trusted as her friend, how does it become an offence?

The relationship between Adani Group and the Prime Minister of India has been a subject of discussion and scrutiny for more than ten years. Adani Group has expanded significantly in various sectors during Modi’s tenure as the Chief Minister of Gujarat and later as the Prime Minister of India. It has invested heavily in infrastructure, renewable energy, ports and logistics. Reports and observations about the frequent meetings between Gautam Adani and Narendra Modi in various public events and forums have contributed to the perception of a close relationship. Such proximity can imply a level of access. There have been allegations by opposition parties regarding the purported favouritism shown by the government towards the Adani Group in terms of awarding contracts and providing benefits. They contribute to the narrative of a close association between Adani and Modi.

However, while perceptions of a close friendship between Adani and Modi exist due to the many factors, there might not be concrete evidence of impropriety or illegality in their dealings. Right? When this can be one argument, then, similarly, where is the concrete evidence of impropriety, illegality or threat to national security due to Mahua Moitra’s friendship with Darshan Hiranandani and the administrative support she accepted from his office? And, if indeed there was threat to the internal security, as is being said, should not Darshan Hiranandani be in the dock instead of Mahua Moitra?

Critics have accused the government of relaxing environmental norms or fast-tracking clearances for projects involving the Adani Group, which could have environmental repercussions. Some argue that policy changes or government support for renewable energy might have indirectly benefited Adani Group's interests in the sector. Doesn’t the systematic silencing of opposition leaders, demanding answers on behalf of the people of this great democracy, amount to greater threat to the internal security of the country?

I asked friends what their thoughts are about this unfair punishment given to the TMC Member of Parliament, a role model for young Indian women today. Sharada Ramanathan, award-winning filmmaker says, “She broke no law and there was no process. It makes North Korea look more democratic than us. And, Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh is still in parliament! Did Mahua Moitra do something silly? Yes. Should she have shared her login details to her parliament account? I would say no, because propriety of a public office holder is crucial. But should she have been expelled for this?  RESOUNDING NO. There is no law that she has violated. And the same parliament has not expelled men like Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh for actual crimes committed. So, this action reeks of fear and revenge. Nothing else”.

There have been instances where accusations were made about changes in land acquisition policies that could have benefited Adani Group's projects. The awarding of contracts for various infrastructure projects, such as ports, airports, and energy infrastructure to the group has raised questions. Shabnam Hashmi, social activist and thought leader, says, “This government has been attacking all voices of dissent. Mahua has been one of the most critical and forceful voices in the parliament. She has been extremely vocal and hence the attack. It is also a signal to all those who are opposed to the policies of the government. Their brute ways will not silence Mahua”.

The expulsion has happened without proper adherence to parliamentary procedures. Mahua Moitra was not given the opportunity to defend herself. Surabhi Sharma, Mumbai based filmmaker says, “Moitra’s expulsion from the parliament is outrageous. And it’s solely about silencing the strongest voices of opposition. Because they have put a highly biased committee to investigate and ensure that the outcome is one where she is expelled. She is one of the opposition leaders who has managed to garner a massive following. And, she always asks tough questions. I am just furious with the outcome, though it was obvious that the committee was set up to conclude that she is guilty”.

It’s an open secret that unofficial company policies in media networks, not on paper, are that journalists and reporters are bound by their employers to not give anti-government statements in public. So, when I asked a friend who is a journalist with a leading network what her views are, she said, “If you'll be publishing what I say, I'll request you to keep me anonymous, please.” After I assured her, she said, “The outspoken have always been silenced! Former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt is still languishing in jail for his honesty because he dared to raise his finger at ‘he who shall not be named’. An opinionated, outspoken, educated woman who dares to question and speak truth to power is too much to take for a corrupt, patriarchal lot”.

The conspiracy, allegedly, hatched to build the case against Mahua Moitra, which has finally led to her expulsion, is not different from the labyrinthian network of shell companies for surreptitious money movements of the Adani Group, as has been reported and alleged by the Hindenburg report earlier this year. The scriptwriter of both looks to be the same.

Nishikant Dubey claimed that advocate Jai Anant Dehadrai, jilted boyfriend of Mahua Moitra, shared irrefutable evidence of bribes exchanged between the Trinamool Congress MP and Darshan Hiranandani. Dubey is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) - he represents the Godda constituency in Jharkhand. He wrote a letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla and urged for the TMC MP's immediate suspension from the House, alleging that "bribes were exchanged between her and businessman Darshan Hiranandani to ask questions about the Adani Group in Parliament for cash and gifts". Dehadrai, in a legal battle with Moitra over the ownership of their Doberman, Henry, said he overheard conversations between Hiranandani and Moitra because they talked on speaker phone in his presence, and therefore knows his ‘ex’ took bribes for raising questions about the allegations against the Adani Group in the Hindenburg report. Hindenburg, on January 24, 2023, had accused Adani of “brazen stock manipulation and accounting fraud” that the conglomerate has strongly denied, calling the report “a calculated attack on India”.  

After the Hiranandani Group’s initial denial of having anything to do with the Nishikant Dubey complaint, Darshan Hiranandani acknowledged through an affidavit that he used the TMC MP's login credentials to pose questions. He also claimed that the TMC MP demanded gifts from him.

The lack of transparency in the process leading to the expulsion of Mahua Moitra on such flimsy grounds clearly reveals that a jilted lover with an injured ego was used by the high and mighty to collapse the career of a powerful woman who was challenging them. Nandita Puri, author and journalist, says, “I’m angry. This is completely unethical. This is the total curtailment of freedom of speech and thought. It is a witch hunt at its worst”.

When punishment is disproportionate to the alleged offense and when other parliamentarians are seen brazenly violating the law, it will be called a biased decision. Veenaa Bakshi, filmmaker and theatre director, says, “Expulsion of Mahua Moitra is nothing but an act of cowardice. These spineless men who took a decision are similar to the Kauravas who disrobed Draupadi. It is being proved again and again that Modi's government doesn't have the wherewithal to stand up against educated independent women. They look for servility as that is the best way illiteracy and a fascist control can be held upon a people. This is going to burn them badly. Mahua is not one to go down quietly. They picked the wrong woman. This is the beginning of Shakti unleashed. This is the beginning of the end of these cowardly men”.

Doesn’t this make great storytelling for a web-series? Scriptwriters are hard to find in the industry of entertainment! Seems like the politicians and corporations have employed them for other purposes. Dolly Thakore, author, actor and theatre veteran, says, “What an awful world we are living in....I like Mahua. She’s the only woman who has inspired in recent times”.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The writers are solely responsible for any claims arising out of the contents of this article.