Moitra, oppn members storm out of LS Ethics Committee meet

TMC MP Mahua Moitra

TMC MP Mahua Moitra


Opposition members of the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee on Thursday stormed out of its meeting along with TMC MP Mahua Moitra as they accused its chairperson Vinod Kumar Sonkar of asking her "indecent personal"

New Delhi: Opposition members of the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee on Thursday stormed out of its meeting along with TMC MP Mahua Moitra as they accused its chairperson Vinod Kumar Sonkar of asking her "indecent personal" questions, a charge he said was motivated to shield the parliamentarian from queries into her "unethical conduct". Moitra, who pleaded innocence to bribery allegations, termed Sonkar's questions to her "filthy" following the walkout while he defended the queries, saying they were related to businessman Darshan Hiranandani's affidavit in which he admitted to giving her bribes and using her parliamentary login ID to ask questions on her behalf.

Angry words and accusations flew thick and fast at the over four-hour-long meeting of the panel which might now prepare its recommendations and adopt a draft report at the next meeting, which is yet to be scheduled. It may recommend action against Moitra, sources said. BJP MPs, who are in majority in the 15-member ethics panel, continued to hold deliberations after the walkout by five opposition lawmakers and are learnt to have taken a grim view of Moitra's angry words and uncooperative attitude, the sources said. BJP MP and panel member Aparajita Sarangi said Moitra behaved in an "angry, rude and arrogant" manner when she was asked about Hiranandani's affidavit. Opposition members, including N Uttam Kumar Reddy of the Congress, Danish Ali of the BSP and Girdhari Yadav of the JD(U), hit out at Sonkar. "Such personal questions were asked from a woman," Yadav told reporters.

Reddy accused Sonkar of acting at someone's behest, an apparent jibe at the government, while Ali lashed out at indecent and unethical queries. They also objected to the alleged leak of reports submitted to the panel by Union Ministries of IT and Home about the details, including the place and timing of log-in to Moitra's parliamentary ID and her foreign travels. The committee had sought the assistance of the ministries for its inquiry. They claimed BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, who is the complainant against Moitra, had already shared some of the details. The third-term BJP MP from Godda in Jharkhand on Wednesday referred to "media reports" that her login ID was opened 47 times from Hiranandani's place in Dubai and as many questions were asked in Parliament. "It is a farcical exercise. We found the questions asked of her undignified and unethical," Reddy alleged.

Defending the committee's action, Sonkar told reporters it has been tasked with conducting a comprehensive probe. But instead of cooperating, he said, Moitra turned angry along with opposition members as they used "objectionable words" and made unethical claims against him. BJP members said it was natural for the committee chairperson to ask her about her travel details. Opposition members alleged she was also queried about whom she met during her visits and other "personal" details. Every question posed to her was relevant to the allegations against her, BJP MPs insisted. Moitra appeared before the committee at 11 am and spoke for over an hour, pleading innocence and claiming the allegations were borne out of personal animus of advocate Jai Anant Dehadrai after she ended her personal relationship with him. She has in the past indirectly referred to him as a "jilted ex".

Dubey's complaint is based on details submitted by Dehadrai. During the deposition, BJP member V D Sharma asked Moitra to respond to the substantive part of the allegation against her and not make it all about personal issues. Opposition members like Ali and Reddy have supported her line of argument and asserted that there is no evidence to support bribery charges against her. However, things turned rather stormy when the committee reassembled after lunch and voted to extend its meeting beyond the schedule to hear out the Krishnanagar MP and cross-examine her. Citing Dehadrai's submission, BJP MP Nishikant Dubey had filed a complaint against Moitra with Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla who referred the matter to the ethics committee. Separately talking to reporters, Dubey said Moitra tried to create a wrong narrative about the proceedings and the opposition was perturbed that the ethics panel was headed by a Dalit MP. "No power can save Moitra after all evidences provided by me and others against her," he said. Dubey has accused her of asking questions to target the Adani Group.

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