Mahua Moitra questions media leak of Hiranandani statement

With Darshan Hiranandani, CEO of the Hiranandani Group, turning approver amid the cash-for-query scam, the Trinamool MP says he was coerced; in another setback, her lawyer Gopal Sankaranarayanan withdrew from the defamation case she filed in the Delhi HC

Updated - October 20, 2023 09:39 pm IST

Published - October 20, 2023 09:21 pm IST - New Delhi

TMC MP Mahua Moitra.

TMC MP Mahua Moitra. | Photo Credit: PTI

A day after Darshan Hiranandani, CEO of the Hiranandani Group, claimed in an affidavit to the Ethics Committee of Lok Sabha that Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra provided him her Parliament login credentials so that he could “post the questions” directly “on her behalf when required”, Ms. Moitra questioned the media leak of his affidavit. She also alleged that the BJP’s primary agenda is to expel her from Lok Sabha to stop her from questioning industrialist Gautam Adani. 

Within three days of BJP MP Nishikant Dubey’s letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, dated October 15, accusing Ms. Moitra of “cash-for-query” scam, his complaint was referred to the ethics panel of the Lower House, which has now called for a meeting on the issue on October 26. Mr. Dubey’s letter was made public in a post on X (formerly Twitter) by BJP’s social media chief Amit Malviya.

Mr. Dubey’s complaint is based on revelations made by advocate Jai Anant Dehadrai who was in a relationship with Ms. Moitra for three years. The couple reportedly had an acrimonious separation with a bitter running feud over the custody of their pet dog. Ms. Moitra said that she filed multiple police complaints against him in the last six months for alleged criminal trespass, theft, vulgar messages, and abuse. 

Mr. Dehadrai has also filed a complaint with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) over the cash-for-query issue.   

On Thursday night, a week before the slated ethics panel meeting, a three-page affidavit submitted to the committee was released to the press by the Hiranandani Group’s corporate communication team. Turning an approver in the case, Mr. Hiranandani said that Ms. Moitra “thought that the only way to attack Sh. Modi [Prime Minister] is by attacking Sh. Gautam Adani and his Group as both were contemporaries and they belong to the same state of Gujarat”.

Quick to respond, Ms. Moitra in the early hours of Friday put out a statement calling Mr. Hiranandani “a dear friend” who was coerced to “sign the affidavit”. “They were threatened with a total shutdown of all their businesses,” she wrote. She also pointed out that on October 16, a day after Mr. Dubey sent a letter, the Group in an official press release had denied all allegations. 

On Friday evening, in a post on X she again asked if she is forced to undergo a “public trial”. “Chairman Ethics Committee openly speaks to the media. Please see Lok Sabha rules below. How does “affidavit” find its way to the media? Chairman should first do an inquiry into how this was leaked. I repeat - BJP’s 1 point agenda is to expel me from LS to shut me up on Adani,” she said, posting the relevant rules that prohibit leaking any evidence presented before the committee. 

In another setback to her, senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, representing her in Delhi High Court in a defamation case that she had filed against Mr. Dubey and Mr. Dehadrai, withdrew from the case. The senior advocate made the call after Mr. Dehadrai, Ms. Moitra’s estranged partner, complained to the High Court that Mr. Sankaranarayanan contacted him on Thursday night and asked him to withdraw his CBI complaint against Ms. Moitra in return for custody of the dog – Henry – which has been the subject of dispute between the former couple.

Hearing this, the High Court remarked it was “appalled” and questioned Mr. Sankaranarayanan if he was still eligible to appear in this case as he “played the role of a mediator”.

“It’s something that you [Mr. Sankaranarayanan] need to answer yourself,” the High Court remarked, prompting Mr. Sankaranarayanan to withdraw from the case. The High Court then posted the case for further hearing on October 31.

During the brief hearing, Mr. Dehadrai said Mr. Sankaranarayanan had a 30-minute conversation with him on Thursday night over phone. Advocate Dehadrai said the issue involved “serious conflict of interest”.

Responding to this, Mr. Sankaranarayanan clarified that he approached Mr. Dehadrai as they had worked together in the past. Mr. Sankaranarayanan said he had requested Ms. Moitra to let him discuss the matter with Mr. Dehadrai, to which she consented.

BJP Ministers and senior leaders have been persistent in their attack on Ms. Moitra since Mr. Dubey’s complaint surfaced. On Friday, Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan too joined in. “There is no place for bribery in the parliamentary process. This matter is before the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee, which is doing its work. Let everything come before the committee; it will do its work. Everything will be clear,” he said. 

Meanwhile, the Trinamool after showing solidarity for the first few days of the controversy, has been silent on the entire episode. 

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