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India MP Mahua Moitra, a fierce Modi critic, appears before ethics committee over bribery allegations

The proceedings against Moitra began following a complaint by a BJP counterpart Nishikant Dubey who alleged that the former asked several questions targeting the Adani Group business conglomerate.

Indian opposition MP Mahua Moitra arrives at the parliament to appear before an ethics committee in connection with the ‘cash for query’ charge against her in New Delhi on Thursday, November 2, 2023. (ANI Photo)

By: Shubham Ghosh

MAHUA Moitra, one of India’s major anti-Narendra Modi faces, on Thursday (2) appeared before a parliamentary ethics panel for interrogation over her alleged misconduct in the parliament.

The 49-year-old parliamentarian from the Trinamool Congress, the ruling party of the eastern state of West Bengal, told the committee that a “sour personal relationship” motivated the filing of the complaint against her for allegedly taking bribes for asking questions in the parliament, India’s NDTV reported citing sources.

Moitra, who studied and worked in the west before joining politics and is a fierce critic of prime minister Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party, has denied the allegations strongly and said she was willing to “face any kind of inquiry”.

She appeared before the committee of the Lok Sabha or the Lower House of the Indian parliament which began hearing the case last week. Wearing a red sari, Moitra was seen carrying costly bags, beauty products and other luxury items for the ethics committee to examine.

The MP, who is no stranger to controversies, said she had initially sought time until Sunday (5) citing prior engagements, but the committee “categorically denied” her request “and forced her to appear before it” on a date which clashed with her “constitutional commitments”, the BBC reported.

Also in a letter released on Wednesday (1), Moitra asked whether the committee was the right forum to look into criminal allegations, saying it lacked such jurisdiction and mandate to investigate alleged criminality. The MP said it could only be done by agencies that enforce the law.

The proceedings against Moitra began following a complaint by a BJP counterpart Nishikant Dubey. He alleged that the former asked several questions targeting the Adani Group business conglomerate which is owned by Gautam Adani, a tycoon who is thought to be close to Modi, in exchange of gifts and cash from Darshan Hiranandani, a rival businessman.

Earlier this year, the group’s financial dealings came under the scanner after a US-based short seller accused it of “brazen” stock manipulation and accounting fraud. The Adani Group called the report “malicious”.

Dubey claimed in his complaint that “until quite recently”, 50 of 61 questions that Moitra asked in the Lok Sabha were on the Adani Group and accused her of accepting bribes adding up to Rs 20 million (£197,700) from Hiranandani.

Dubey said he had “irrefutable evidence” against the Trinamool Congress leader from an advocate Jai Anant Dehardrai, whom the parliamentarian called as a “jilted ex”.

Last month, Hiranandani also submitted an affidavit before the committee and accused Moitra of targeting Adani “for becoming famous”, the BBC report added.

The firebrand leader questioned the authenticity of the affidavit and filed defamation cases against both Dubey and Dehadrai in the Delhi high court.

Moitra was backed by some opposition MPs, including N Uttam Kumar Reddy of the Indian National Congress and Danish Ali of the Bahujan Samaj Party while a few BJP members wanted her to respond to the substantive part of the allegations and not make it all about personal relationship going bad, Press Trust of India reported.

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