The expulsion of the Trinamul Congress leader, Mahua Moitra, from Parliament does not come as a surprise. A report of the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee that had indicted
Ms Moitra of unethical conduct, among other transgressions, was used — weaponised — by the powers that be to oust her from Parliament. The irony is that the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee could well be found wanting not only when it comes to adhering to the principle of natural justice but also in meeting the standards of non-prejudicial conduct. For instance, the Lok Sabha Speaker refused to accept the demand by members of the Opposition to let Ms Moitra defend herself against the charges. A defendant being disallowed to contest allegations — real or imagined — is not a sign of a level playing field. The script has other flaws. Ms Moitra was found guilty of sharing her parliamentary portal login credentials with others — a practice that is common among parliamentarians in the absence of regulations. The imputation that she received financial benefits in exchange for favours — suggestive of a quid pro quo arrangement — is yet to be proved; but that has not prevented the Bharatiya Janata Party from going to town with the charge of a ‘cash-for-query’ scandal: what Ms Moitra has readily acknowledged is receiving a gift or two from a personal friend. On joining the dots, the view of Ms Moitra being a victim rather than a transgressor is likely to persist. It must be noted that Rahul Gandhi, who, like Ms Moitra, has repeatedly alluded to Narendra Modi’s alleged patronage of the Adani Group had found himself cast out of Parliament — temporarily — before legally fighting his way in. These episodes strengthen the perception that Mr Modi’s dispensation is desperate to silence those who dare to utter the ‘A’ word.
Ms Moitra has received unqualified support from her own party as well as the Opposition in her battle. Mamata Banerjee’s decision to throw her weight behind Ms Moitra would certainly spur her to continue fighting — this time from the streets which could amplify her voice further. What the BJP seems to have gifted the beleaguered Opposition — in disarray, once again, after the Congress’s poor showing in the recent assembly polls — is an opportunity to regroup. But it remains to be seen whether it can reap electoral dividends from this chapter.