Political storm over ‘cash for query’ allegation against TMC MP Mahua Moitra intensifies  

Moitra has slapped a legal notice to both BJP MP Nishikant Dubey and her ex-partner advocate Dehadrai for making ‘defamatory’ allegations

October 16, 2023 10:23 pm | Updated October 17, 2023 10:57 am IST - New Delhi

Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mahua Moitra. File.

Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mahua Moitra. File. | Photo Credit: ANI

The political storm over BJP MP Nishikant Dubey’s “cash-for-query” allegation against Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra intensified, with Ms. Moitra serving a legal notice to Mr. Dubey and advocate Jai Anant Dehadrai who supplied the alleged evidence against her.

Union Minister of State for Information Technology, Rajeev Chandrashekhar, was among several BJP leaders who spoke out against Ms. Moitra, saying, “If true, this is indeed shocking and shameful.” The Adani Group also issued a statement, which said the latest allegations corroborate their stand that “groups and individuals have been working overtime to harm its name and market standing.” 

Meanwhile, stepping up the pressure, Mr. Dubey has written a letter to the Union Telecom and IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw demanding an inquiry committee against Ms. Moitra to ascertain if she shared her Lok Sabha login credentials with an “external entity”. Defending herself, Ms. Moitra said that all the parliamentary work of the MPs is done by personal assistants, interns, and large teams. She urged Mr. Vaishnaw to release the “details of location and login details of all MPs with Call Detail Records (CDRs)”. 

Several Opposition leaders spoke in support of Ms. Moitra. It was also pointed out that Mr. Dehadrai, Ms. Moitra’s estranged partner, has a bitter running feud with the Trinamool leader over the custody of their pet dog. Ms. Moitra had filed multiple police complaints against him in the last six months for alleged criminal trespass, theft, vulgar messages, and abuse. Trinamool sources called the entire episode as “personal vendetta” being used for “political revenge”. 

In her legal notice which was also sent to 15 media houses for carrying news of the allegations, Ms. Moitra vehemently denied all charges. She said that over the years, she has clashed with Mr. Dubey on account of their “difference of opinion” on various issues. Ms. Moitra claimed that in March 2023, she “rattled” Mr. Dubey by questioning the authenticity of his educational qualifications and disclosures in his election nomination papers. She has demanded a public apology from both Mr. Dubey and Mr. Dehadrai for making “defamatory and malicious claims”. 

In his complaint to the Lok Sabha Speaker on October 15, Mr. Dubey, citing a letter from Mr. Dehadrai accused Ms. Moitra of “breach of privilege, contempt of the house, and criminal offence” under Section 120-A of IPC. He said the advocate’s letter provided irrefutable evidence. “There is not an iota of doubt about a criminal conspiracy hatched by Mahua Moitra to protect the interests of a businessman – Shri Darshan Hiranandani – by asking Parliamentary Questions, which is reminiscent of the ‘Cash for Query’ episode of 12 December, 2005,” he wrote. 

Going a step forward on Monday in a letter to Mr. Vaishnaw and his deputy Mr. Chandrashekhar, Mr. Dubey urged that the IP addresses of “all login credentials of Mahua Moitra’s Lok Sabha account” be traced to determine whether her account was accessed at a location she was not present at.

He had claimed in his letter to Speaker Mr. Birla too that the MP gave industrialist Mr. Hiranandani and his staff access to her login credentials for the Lok Sabha website so that they “could utilise it for their own personal gain.” He said this is a violation of “India’s national security”. “The alleged sharing of Ms. Moitra’s Lok Sabha credentials with an external entity poses a direct threat to national security. Access to the Lok Sabha site might provide sensitive, possibly classified, information. Unauthorized access risks exposure of strategic data that could be exploited to undermine India’s policy decisions or strategic interests. Moreover, any compromise of the cyber-security protocols, like sharing credentials, weakens the nation’s digital infrastructure, making it susceptible to domestic and international cyber threats. This act, if proven, not only threatens data integrity but can set a precedent, endangering the nation’s overall security apparatus,” he added.

Without naming the Hiranandani group, Mr. Chandrashekhar questioned the similarity in “language” used in Ms. Moitra’s question to that used by the head of the company when he met him. “It is true that this company was actively and aggressively lobbying for Data Localisation. Language used in the PQ [Parliamentary Question] is very similar (linking need for data localisation to data breaches) to that used when the head of this company met me. I am not aware or privy to the full facts or background on this -- but if it is true then it’s a terrible travesty and misuse of PQs,” he wrote in a post on X.

Quickly responding to this, Ms. Moitra said, “Sir, I am a member of the IT Communication and Joint Parliamentary Committee on Data Protection. This is a valid question for all Indians. If a hostile nation can steal data from apps - can’t they steal India user data stored overseas? Don’t insult my intelligence by alleging I am fronting others,” she said. 

Meanwhile, in a statement, the Adani Group referring to allegations made by Mr. Dehadrai, who has also filed a complaint with the CBI and flagged the complaint filed by Mr. Dubey without naming him, said the development “corroborates” the company’s statement made on October 9 that “some groups and individuals have been working overtime to harm our name, goodwill and market standing”. In this particular case, the statement said, the lawyer’s complaint reveals that this arrangement to besmirch the reputation and interests of the Adani Group and our Chairman Mr. Gautam Adani has been in place since 2018. The Adani Group’s statement does not name Ms. Moitra. 

The Hiranandani group on Monday denied the allegations saying they have “no merit.” “We have always been in the business of business and not in the business of politics. Our group has always worked with the government in the interest of the nation and will continue doing so,” a spokesperson of the Hiranandani group said.

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