NEW DELHI: TMC MP Mahua Moitra, who is in the middle of a political storm over cash-for-query charges, on Friday put up a brave front and said she is ready to answer questions from the CBI and the Parliament’s Ethics Committee. “I welcome answering questions to CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) and Ethics Committee (which has absolute majority of BJP members) if and when they call me.I have neither time nor interest to feed a Adani-directed media circus trial or answer BJP trolls,” Moitra said on X. The TMC MP also alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) agenda is to expel her from the Lok Sabha.

Mahua Moitra is on a sticky wicket after Darshan Hiranandani, the CEO of real estate-to-energy group Hiranandani accepted in an affidavit that he used Mahua’s Parliament login to raise questions in Parliament to target the Adani Group.
Meanwhile, her legal challenge in the Delhi high court against BJP MP Nishikant Dubey who raised the matter and advocate Jai Anant Dehadrai who made the charges, failed to take off as her advocate was forced to withdraw after it was revealed that he tried to play a mediator.

Cash for query row: Mahua Moitra claims ‘PMO forced Hiranandani at gunpoint to write statement against me’

Here are the key developments of the day:
‘Chairman of Ethics Committee should first probe how affidavit was leaked’
Mahua Moitra on Friday alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) agenda was to expel her from the Lok Sabha.
“Chairman Ethics Committee openly speaks to media. Please see the Lok Sabha rules below. How does an “affidavit” find its way to media? Chairman should first do an enquiry into how this was leaked. I repeat – BJP 1 point agenda is to expel me from LS to shut me up on Adani,” Moitra posted on X.
She has also attached with her message some details on “Evidence report and proceedings treated as confidential”, as per the Ethics Committee rules.
Vinod Sonkar, chairman of the Parliamentary Committee of Ethics on Friday informed that he has received an affidavit from the businessman Darshan Hiranandani regarding the ‘Cash for Query‘ scandal which mentions the alleged role played by TMC MP Mahua Moitra in this row.

Cash for Query: Mahua Moitra’s lawyer withdraws over ‘conflict of interest’, next hearing on October 31

PMO ‘forced’ Hiranandani to sign affidavit
Mahua Moitra has raised questions over the credibility of Hiranandani Group CEO Darshan Hiranandani’s affidavit, alleging that it was “drafted by the PMO” and he was forced to sign it after being “threatened” with “total shut down” of his family’s businesses.
“Three days ago (16.10.2023), the Hiranandani Group put out an official press release stating that all charges levelled against them were baseless. Today (19.10.2023), an ‘approver affidavit’ has been leaked to the press.
“This ‘affidavit’ is on a white piece of paper with no letterhead and there is no official origin aside from a press leak. Why would one of India’s most respected/educated businessman sign a letter like this on white paper unless a gun was put to his head to do it,” Mahua said in a statement.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) held a “proverbial gun” to Darshan and his father’s heads and gave them 20 minutes to sign this “letter”, the TMC MP claimed.
Hiranandani, in a signed affidavit, said that the TMC leader targeted billionaire industrialist Gautam Adani to “malign and embarrass” Prime Minister Narendra Modi whose impeccable reputation gave the opposition no opportunity to attack him.
He alleged that Mahua provided him with her Parliament login and password to ask questions targeting Adani after the state-owned Indian Oil Corporation booked capacity at the Gujarat-based conglomerate’s Dhamra LNG import facility in Odisha and not at his firm’s planned facility.
Delhi HC ‘appalled’; Mahua Moitra’s counsel withdraws
Mahua Moitra’s counsel on Friday withdrew from a case in Delhi high court which seeks restraint orders for BJP MP Nishikant Dubey, advocate Jai Anant Dehadrai and several media houses from circulating any alleged defamatory content against her.
The Delhi high court said it was “appalled” to know that TMC MP Mahua Moitra’s counsel Gopal Sankaranarayanan contacted and tried to mediate between her and the advocate against whom she has sought restraint orders to prevent him from circulating any defamatory content against her.
“I am really appalled. You are a person who is expected to maintain the highest professional standard. If you have been in contact with defendant no. 2 (advocate Jai Anant Dehadrai)…” Justice Sachin Datta told senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan.
The public expression of displeasure by the judge prompted Sankaranarayanan to withdraw himself from the case.
During the brief hearing, Dehadrai said, “There is something very disturbing. There is a very serious conflict of interest. He (Sankarnarayanan) had a 30-minute call with me. He asked me to withdraw the CBI complaint in exchange for the dog (which Dehadrai was alleged to have stolen from Moitra). He can’t appear in the matter, I have the recording.”
Responding to the claim, Sankaranarayanan said Dehadrai has instructed him in the past in some cases and that’s why he approached him.
He also said he told his client, Moitra, that Dehadrai was a member of the Bar and he had earlier assisted him in a case so let him speak to the latter to which she agreed.
The judge said, “You tried to play the role of a mediator. Are you then eligible to still appear in this matter? It is something that you need to answer yourself. It is your call”.
‘Ethics Committee doing its work’
Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Friday said there is no place for bribery in the parliamentary process.
“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,” Pradhan said.
Trinamool Congress ‘keeping close watch’
The Trinamool Congress is keeping a close watch on the Mahua Moitra issue. “Right now we have nothing to comment on the matter. Any reaction in the matter will come from the appropriate leadership and at the appropriate time,” Trinamool Rajya Sabha member Santanu Sen said.
A member of West Bengal cabinet said “The chief minister and party’s national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee are keeping a close watch on the entire development. Any comment or reaction in the matter will be given by either of them.”
(With inputs from agencies)

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