The Congress on Friday rejected the claim that Trinamul member Mahua Moitra had been expelled from the Lok Sabha on “ethical” considerations and said the Narendra Modi government would ruthlessly silence anyone who raised questions about Gautam Adani.
“Koi bhi Adani ke khilaf baat karega, uska awaaz band kar diya jayega. Ye naya Parliament hai, yahi naya kanoon hai (Anyone who speaks against Adani will be silenced. This is the new Parliament, this is the new law),” Manickam Tagore, the Congress whip in the Lok Sabha, told The Telegraph.
He questioned the logic of the action against Moitra as well as the procedure adopted, underlining that the industrialist who made adverse comments against her relating to the cash-for-questions controversy was not cross-examined. There was no money trail either, he emphasised.
“The message is that nobody should dare raise his or her voice on Adani. If somebody crosses the line to expose the hidden truth, every single tool available with the government will be used to crush that person,” Manickam said.
“They harassed Rahul Gandhi but failed to silence him. Mahua is another example. The Modi-Shah conspiracy to silence Mahua has won and democracy has lost.”
The Congress had earlier this year argued vociferously that Rahul Gandhi had been expelled from the Lok Sabha (after conviction and sentencing in a defamation case) because he had spoken out against Adani. The party had claimed that the case about defaming OBCs was a sham. Rahul was later reinstated as MP after the Supreme Court stayed his conviction.
Rahul has himself said at every public meeting in the past few months that he was thrown out of Parliament because he had spoken about a Modi-Adani nexus. Moitra too had persistently raised incisive questions about Adani’s business practices.
She had emerged as a powerful voice in Parliament, and not only on the subject of Adani. She had spoken on fascism, China, the Pegasus and Rafale controversies, the toxic political discourse aimed at polarising society, and the mismanagement of the Manipur crisis and the economy.
Not one to be frightened easily, the irrepressible young politician had declared: “Adani and (the) BJP and their kangaroo courts are never going to win. Disobedient women are here to stay. Get used to it.”
While many veteran politicians gave in to pressure, the Trinamul MP had defiantly taunted the Prime Minister, accusing him of ordering an investigation into her “shoes and foreign trips” while ignoring gigantic violations by Adani that she said had cost the exchequer thousands of crores of rupees.
Her fellow MPs on Friday alleged a vendetta against her and rued that Indian democracy was drifting into the abyss of lawless totalitarianism.
While Congress members Adhir Chowdhury and Manish Tewari put up a spirited defence of the Trinamul MP inside the Lok Sabha, Sonia Gandhi led the protest against Moitra’s expulsion outside the House.
The Opposition parties rallied behind Moitra, using the opportunity to rekindle the spirit of a united fight against the Modi government.
“The government applies different rules to different people. Show me the face and then we will apply the law – that’s their attitude,” Congress Rajya Sabha member Rajni Patil said.
“If this is how Parliament works, then nobody will dare to open his or her mouth.”
JMM Lok Sabha member Mahua Manjhi said: “There is no law, no code that defines how MPs work in the context of log-ins. Many MPs are not educated and they give (their) passwords to others for writing…. If that’s a crime, let there be a comprehensive probe.”
RSP parliamentarian N.K. Premchandran said: “The Ethics Committee doesn’t have the right to expel a member. The government’s mala fide intent was clear and Mahua was targeted because she had attacked Modi and Adani.”
Lok Sabha member Karti Chidambaram said the Ethics Committee had described Moitra’s act as “heinous and criminal” and then recommended a legal and institutional inquiry. “That’s contradictory in itself,” he said.
Parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi told reporters outside Parliament that Moitra had confessed to “receiving gifts like costly scarf and perfumes”, and wondered why she never asked questions relating to her constituency and focused on corporate matters instead.
MPs have absolute freedom to ask whatever questions they want. They need not focus on their constituencies because there are other instruments through which questions about their areas can be raised.
Even on Friday, for instance, the questions asked by various MPs across party lines included subjects such as malnutrition, menstrual health, psychiatry, drug inspectors, judges, the quality of medicinal products, Indians in foreign jails, staff shortage in the navy, vacancies in courts, child abuse cases, railway schools, data breaches, the Make-in-India programme and compensation for Manipur’s farmers.