Expulsion of Mahua Moitra: Fascist Strike on India's Parliamentary Democracy
by Dipankar Bhattacharya

The expulsion of Mahua Moitra, the fiesty TMC MP from Krishnanagar, West Bengal, known for her powerful speeches exposing and challenging the Modi government and the Sangh Brigade, from the Lok Sabha, is the latest example of a brazen fascist strike on India's parliamentary democracy. On October 14 Supreme Court lawyer Jai Anant Dehadrai filed a complaint with the CBI accusing Mahua Moitra of corrupt practices, the next day BJP MP Nishikant Dubey wrote to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla citing Dehadrai's complaint and demanding Moitra's expulsion on that basis, and on December 8 the TMC MP stood expelled from the Lok Sabha! The script and the process adopted to accomplish this expulsion with such electric speed give us yet another glimpse of the Sangh brigade's characteristic mode of conspiratorial planning and clinical execution.

Shortly after Nishikant Dubey's complaint to the Speaker, Dubai-based industrialist Darshan Hiranandani came up with an affidavit admitting to giving gifts to Mahua Moitra and posting parliamentary questions for her using her parliamentary login id. While Hiranandani's affidavit hardly gave specific details of the precise help he allegedly extended to Moitra, it did everything to discredit and delegitimise her in public perception by imputing careerist motives to her questioning of the Modi government and the Modi-Adani nexus. Moitra was accused of taking cash for raising questions and jeopardising national security by sharing her login id with Hiranandani. The Ethics Committee which recommended Moitra's expulsion on the basis of this affidavit did not however summon and interrogate Hiranandani for his act of 'complicity' in Moitra's alleged crime.

Mahua Moitra accused the Ethics Committee chairperson of asking her completely irrelevant and objectionable personal questions of a sexist nature and several members of the Ethics Committee corroborated her and walked out of the Ethics Committee interrogation of Moitra in protest. The bulky report that was adopted with 6-4 majority recommended institutional probe by appropriate agencies into alleged receipt of cash by Mahua Moitra, but it still wanted her immediate expulsion from the Lok Sabha for sharing her login credentials with Darshan Hiranandani even though there was no such protocol prohibiting MPs from sharing their login details with their staff or other trusted individuals. In fact as pointed out by Moitra parliamentary IDs are routinely shared with researchers and team members assisting MPs with their questions and is never considered a breach of privilege or threat to national security.

To complete the farce, Mahua Moitra was not even allowed to present her own position before Lok Sabha even as the motion to expel her was passed by a voice vote with hardly any discussion within a short time after the tabling of the close to 500-page report of the Ethics Committee! Passing bills without any debate and suspension of opposition MPs on the flimsiest of grounds has become a characteristic feature of the Modi government. As many as 94 suspensions have taken place in the Lok Sabha since 2014, in the Rajya Sabha the number has been a staggering 48 since 2020!

The expulsion of one of the most vocal opposition MPs is clearly intended to send out a message as to the Modi government's cherished model of the 'mother of democracy': an opposition-free Parliament in a dissent-free republic where citizens carry out duties assigned by the state without demanding any accountability from the government of the day. The Modi government has been particularly sensitive about stopping questions related to Adani's corporate fraud and the Modi-Adani nexus which had catapulted Adani to the second richest position in September 2022 before being pushed down by the Hindenburg revelations. Rahul Gandhi had his parliament membership revoked before a Supreme Court stay order restored it, AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh languishes in jail and now Mahua Moitra stands expelled. The vendetta politics against Mahua Moitra has perhaps only begun and more acts of persecution may now follow.

There is an unmistakable element of misogyny in the whole affair. Nishikant Dubey, the BJP MP from Godda, home to the controversial Adani power plant, has made derogatory remarks about Mahua Moitra in Parliament long before the current episode. The BJP did not just take the dubious 'ethics committee' route to get Mahua Moitra expelled from the Lok Sabha, it ran a vicious slander campaign against her in the social media and other platforms of mass communication. Moitra has rightly invoked the Mahabharata imagery of the disrobing of Draupadi to describe the ordeal she has been subjected to. The Modi government never misses a moment to wax eloquent about women's empowerment, it presented the women's reservation bill as a measure of worshipping women's power (Narishakti Vandan), and here it exposes its true colours by persecuting a woman MP who dared to speak truth to power.

Mahua Moitra has been expelled for her alleged 'unethical conduct' in accepting gifts from, and sharing her login credentials with, a supposed business rival of Gautam Adani. Meanwhile BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri, the perpetrator of the worst unethical conduct on the floor of parliament continues to be condoned and even rewarded. Another BJP MP, the notorious Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh from Uttar Pradesh, remains entrenched in his parliamentary privilege in spite of serious charges of sexual harassment levelled by India's champion women wrestlers. It is unfortunate that Moitra did not get much support from her own party in the initial phase. And now Danish Ali, the Ethics Committee member who boldly stood by Mahua Moitra, has ironically been suspended by his own party BSP even as the BSP did not really stand by Ali when he was targeted viciously by Ramesh Bidhuri on the floor of the Lok Sabha with Islamophobic hate and open threats.

The entire parliamentary opposition and the civil society at large should therefore oppose the vindictive expulsion of Mahua Moitra with all their might. Voting out the arrogant power-drunk Modi government in the forthcoming LS polls will be the best rebuff by the Indian people.

Expulsion of Mahua Moitra: Fascist Strike on India's Parliamentary Democracy