Ethics panel asked Mahua Moitra to explain ‘nature of friendship’ with industrialist Darshan Hiranandani

A transcript shows that the panel chair warned Ms. Moitra not to bring up personal relationships, but then asked about Mr. Hiranandani, his wife, and details of the hotels where she stayed when meeting him

December 10, 2023 08:18 pm | Updated December 11, 2023 10:11 am IST - NEW DELHI

Mahua Moitra outside the Parliament House on December 8, 2023. File

Mahua Moitra outside the Parliament House on December 8, 2023. File | Photo Credit: PTI

A transcript of expelled Parliamentarian Mahua Moitra’s deposition in front of the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee shows that she was asked a range of personal questions, including: “Why do you consider industrialist Darshan Hiranandani a dear friend?”, “What is the nature of your friendship with him?”, and “Where did you stay on your trips to Dubai?” 

The transcript is part of the Ethics Committee’s report that was tabled in Parliament on Friday, accusing the Trinamool Congress leader of taking pecuniary benefits in exchange for asking questions in Parliament. According to a complaint filed by her former partner, at least 50 questions that she asked in the House were meant to benefit Mr. Hiranandani’s business interests. Ms. Moitra was expelled on the basis of the panel’s recommendation, which was adopted by the Lok Sabha by a voice vote. 

Also read: I was asked who I speak to at night and which hotels I stayed in and with whom in the last five years: Mahua Moitra 

‘Avoid personal matters’

Before beginning her deposition on November 2, Ms. Moitra was warned by the committee’s chairman, BJP MP Vinod Kumar Sonkar, that her behaviour towards the complainants, BJP MP Nishikant Dubey and advocate Jai Anant Dehadrai, and industrialist Darshan Hiranandani was her personal matter, and therefore during the deliberations, she should not bring up “dogs, cats, jilted x or jilted y”. 

Mr. Sonkar then went on to quote a statement posted by Ms. Moitra on her X account (previously Twitter), in which she had referred to Mr. Hiranandani as a “dear friend”. Ms. Moitra responded, saying that she stood by her statement and asserted that “he is a dear close personal friend”.

Unconvinced by her reply, Mr. Sonkar pressed on. “Why do you consider Mr. Hiranandani a dear friend?” he asked. To this, Ms. Moitra launched into an explanation on the usage of “dear” in the English language. “’Dear’ is an English word which means close to somebody and who you are fond of. When I write a letter to you, I would say ‘dear chairperson Sir, which means I am close to you and fond of you,” she said. 

‘Very cheap questions’

The interrogation reached a flash point with Mr. Sonkar’s next question, when he asked Ms. Moitra to explain the nature of her friendship with Mr. Hiranandani. Ms. Moitra dismissed the question, taking strong umbrage and declaring that “it is very cheap”. She asserted that it was her right to privacy as to what kind of friends she keeps, though she clarified that she had no business dealings with Mr. Hiranandani.

Mr. Sonkar then asked whether Ms. Moitra also knew Mr. Hiranandani’s wife Neha, and what was the nature of the relationship between the two women. Several other members of the panel objected to this, pointing out that Ms. Hiranandani had not been mentioned in Mr. Hiranandani’s affidavit and was not relevant to the ongoing deliberations. As tempers rose, with protests from several Opposition members and Ms. Moitra, Mr. Sonkar tried to explain his line of questioning. “The reason I asked these questions is because she wrote ‘dear friend’,” he said. 

Also Read | Bad precedent: On the expulsion of Trinamool Congress Member of Parliament Mahua Moitra

Mr. Sonkar also asked for details of the occasions that Ms. Moitra had spoken to Mr. Hiranandani since October 13, 2023, and the dates and places of her meetings with him. Did she visit Dubai to meet him and when she went to Dubai, where did she stay, he asked. He insisted that she would have to tell the panel the details of the hotels where she had stayed since it was part of the “travel expenses” that Mr. Hiranandani had reportedly borne on her behalf. Ms. Moitra countered this by saying, “You can ask me, what are the travel expenses. You cannot assume that these are hotels.” 

Ms. Moitra and other Opposition leaders staged a walk out at this point, after the meeting dissolved into chaos. 

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