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

The TMC MP told The Hindu that she was asked insinuating questions about her friendships; says probe is being used to “settle personal scores”; insists no prohibition on sharing Parliament system login details

Updated - November 06, 2023 09:03 pm IST

Published - November 03, 2023 06:20 pm IST - New Delhi

TMC MP Mahua Moitra is seen during an interview with The Hindu in New Delhi on November 3, 2023.

TMC MP Mahua Moitra is seen during an interview with The Hindu in New Delhi on November 3, 2023. | Photo Credit: Shashi Shekhar Kashyap

Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra is outraged that she was asked questions about her travels, which hotels she had stayed in, and with whom, during a deposition to the Lok Sabha’s Ethics Committee on Thursday. In an interview to The Hindu a day after she walked out of the deposition, along with Opposition members of the panel, she detailed the queries posed during her rebuttal to allegations that she took cash to ask queries in Parliament.

Mahua Moitra explains what led her to walking out of the ethics panel | Video Credit: Shashi Shekhar Kashyap

“The chairman [BJP MP Vinod Sonkar] asked me, ‘You call ‘so and so’ a dear friend. How dear is he?’ Mentioning his wife’s name, he said, ‘And does his wife know?’ He says, ‘You can answer yes or no’,” Ms. Moitra said, quoting the proceedings in Thursday’s hearing.

‘Settling personal scores’

“So I turned around and asked him. I said, ‘Do you mean to tell me if you ask me, are you a prostitute?’ And I said, ‘No, that there’s nothing wrong with that’,” she added.

She did not name the person about whom the questions were being asked, but she did refer to Dubai-based businessman Darshan Hiranandani as her friend. Asked about sharing her login details for the Parliament online system with him, Ms. Moitra insisted that there were no specific rules prohibiting the sharing of the login and password, noting that parliamentary assistants regularly log in to the system on behalf of MPs.

Ms. Moitra also asked whether a Parliamentary panel could be used to settle personal scores. One of the complainants, advocate Jai Anant Dehadrai, is her ex-partner, with whom, she said, she has an “acrimonious history”.

A day after TMC MP Mahua Moitra walked out of Lok Sabha Ethics Committee meeting alleging inappropriate line of questioning by chairman and BJP MP Vinod Kumar Sonkar, Ms. Moitra speaks to The Hindu on what transpired at the meeting. She was called to present her defense in the alleged “cash for query” allegation.

What exactly transpired in the Ethics Committee meeting held on Thursday that made you and the opposition members walk out?

At about 12 o’ clock they called me in. The Chairman had come in with a pre-written script and he wasn’t letting me record my statement. I was allowed to speak only when the Opposition members pointed out that since complainants have given their statement I should be allowed to tell my version of the events too. Post-lunch the questioning started. I am a member of two committees.. every member is supposed to ask a question. Here, the chairman didn’t allow anyone to speak. He had this big bunch of questions and he was reading out from it. Now there are two issues under the scope of enquiry of the committee- one is the Lok Sabha log-in and second the alleged gifts that I received. The Chairman asked me, “You call “so and so” a dear friend. How dear is he? Mentioning his wife’s name, he said and does his wife know? He says, you can answer yes or no. Then, he says, who do you talk to late at night and how many times? Can you give us a log of your late night calls in the next 24 hours? And if you want you can say no. So I turned around and asked him. I said do you mean to tell me if you ask me, are you a prostitute? And I said no, that there’s nothing wrong with that. All the opposition members said that “we don’t want to be part of this”. All the BJP members were quiet, there were two female MPs too, but they didn’t say anything. Then he asked me for the details of where all I traveled to in the last five years. He even asked “which hotels I stayed in and with whom?” At that point all the five Opposition MP’s walked out.

Do you believe that just because you are a woman politician, your personal life is under public scrutiny far more than that of your male colleague?

That is obvious. That’s India, that’s the misogyny and the patriarchy we live in and that’s the BJP who are the most disgusting backward looking misogynists that this country has ever produced, so that doesn’t shock me. I’ve learned from my leader (Mamata Banerjee) who has fought for 45 years, she was dragged on the streets by her hair and called terrible names. So we are not the first ones fighting this fight, but we can’t be the last ones fighting it.

Since the BJP MP Nishikant Dubey’s complaint, have you spoken to Ms. Banerjee and what has been her advice to you?

Look, I can’t make that public. Of course, she is my party’s leader and I speak to her regularly. All I can say is that what is going on is political witch hunt and political vendetta. I am one of very few Members of Parliament and we are one of the very few parties that are standing up to the BJP and speaking about the Modi-Adani Nexus. They are now desperate to shut us up. They tried to do it with Rahul (Gandhi), they tried it with Abhishek (Banerjee). Mr. Adani approached me via two Lok Sabha MP’s to sit across the table and discuss with him over the last three years I refused. Even 10-days ago after this scandal broke, I got a message. Please pick up the phone and talk to him. I was told to keep quiet for six months, nothing will happen and I refused. Mr. Adani is pulling a huge con on the people of India. BJP is letting him buy all infrastructure assets of the country. He is one man, whose companies are owned by foreign FPI (Foreign Portfolio Investment) whose origin even SEBI does not know. Isn’t that a national security issue? In the coal sector 13,000 crores of over invoicing has been done and the people of India are paying for the coal scam, the CBI and the ED can’t open an investigation into that. To deflect attention they are asking who gave lipstick to Mahua Moitra and whose car she traveled in!

But why should an industrialist have your login?

That’s the wrong question to ask. He is my friend. I asked him to give me a secretary in his office to whom I would send the questions, and it would be typed in. PRS Legislative research is a private agency that sends us (MPs) legislative assistants who come for three to four months. Every MPs office has two to three such assistants. Over five years, ten assistants come and go. Do you know whose sons/daughters they are? If they are Hiranandani’s son or Ambani’ son? I’ve asked 61 questions in Parliament as opposed to the national average of 191 questions per MP. There are only 9 questions on Adani. I have exposed Adani more through my social media posts, my speeches and videos. And what secret information do you get through Parliament questions? All the replies tabled there can also be sought via the Right To Information Act.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee spoke out publicly on the issue, but do you think your party should have rallied behind you from day one and now it is too late?

My party was set up by a very strong woman and strong women thrive in it. What is our party’s main issue right now? It’s Rs 18,000 crores of MNREGA funds that the centre has stopped for West Bengal. There is a complete breakdown of the institutional framework in this country. These are the main issues. Why should Mamata Banerjee as Chief minister be expected to comment on what is essentially a personal relation of mine which the BJP is using to target me. This issue should have never gone to the Ethics Committee. Now if every single ex partner, ex-husband and ex-wife were to use the Parliamentary Ethics Committee to get back at the MPs where would we be sitting today?

What are the rules regarding sharing of NIC login and password?

That’s exactly the point, there are no rules! Even today, you can hand write in questions. Imagine if someone were actually paying me, I would just put the questions, sign and give it. Who would know who has given the question? The entire thing is a non issue. There are two things: one is email ID and password login and that I have not shared and nobody can send an email on my behalf; and two, the NIC portal which you can use to upload questions and do travel reimbursements. NIC has never given any rules and there are no rules framed. At least, I am one of few MPs that’s given my own phone number for the OTP [one time password], 99% of MPs give some other number for OTPs because they don’t want to keep giving OTPs. Don’t use it selectively to make it appear as if this is some big national security issue. That’s a joke.

In one of your earlier letters, you have indicated that you don’t have much faith on the Ethics panel by questioning their impartiality.

Yeah, I don’t. We have been in Parliament for the past five years and have seen how the BJP has reduced this great institution of democracy to a farce. This [complainant] is my ex-partner against whom I have filed for police complaints. How can you just say that this is some random person and how can an MP’s office [BJP MP Nishikant Dubey] be used as a post office to further vendetta? And I have said that you are relying on Darshan Hiranandani’s affidavit. He is the bribe giver, a citizen of India who has deposed before the High Commissioner of India. Shouldn’t he be called to depose what are the bribes he has given to Mahua?

If the Ethics Committee go against you, what’s your next course of action?

Let’s see what they do. My questioning has not been completed so I don’t know what they can do on the basis of the incomplete hearing. But this is the BJP, they can do anything. They want to recommend my suspension to the Speaker. He has to wait for the first day of the winter session and put it in front of the house where the BJP has 303 MPs. Take it from there, there’s no problem. We are not bowing down and will continue to question [Gautam] Adani-Modi nexus.

Will we see you contest again from Krishna Nagar?

Not only will I contest from that seat, I will win with double the margin.

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.