As a vociferous critic of the Narendra Modi-led government, Ms. Mahua Moitra, the member of parliament from Krishnanagar, West Bengal, is remarkably articulate. The clarity of her thought is visible in her ability to ask the right kinds of questions. Therefore, the “cash-for-query” case, in which she is alleged to have shared her Parliament login credentials and passwords with a Dubai-based businessman, Darshan Hiranandani, in exchange for “gifts and favors,” came as a bit of a surprise.
Do I think that she did something seriously unethical by sharing her Parliament login ID with the “office” of Darshan Hiranandani, a businessman and a rival of the Adani group? The answer is a resounding yes! In an interview with India Today, Mahua Moitra said, “Someone in Darshan Hiranandani’s office typed the question which I gave on the Parliament website. After putting the question, they would call me to inform and I would read all the questions in one go as I am always busy in my constituency. After putting the question, an OTP (one-time password) comes on my mobile phone. I would give that OTP and only then is the question submitted. So, the idea that Darshan would log in to my ID and put in questions of his own is ludicrous.” This doesn’t sound very convincing to me.
As a parliamentarian, she represents the people of India and not one business group that is fighting against another. She should criticize the government keeping the interests of the masses in mind, not the interests of any one particular business group, no matter how close an individual person might be. However, if Mahua Moitra was asking questions that would “embarrass the government by targeting the Adani group”, my point is, what is the government doing that it should be embarrassed about? If the government is honest and upright they have nothing to be embarrassed about. If, indeed, they are embarrassed about something that they are doing, then, merely trying to silence Mahua Moitra is not going to help.
Did she receive cash in return for the queries? I personally do not think so. Probably a few gifts, which friends normally give each other. I see nothing wrong with that. The “sworn affidavit” given by Darshan Hiranandani to the Ethics Committee of Lok Sabha definitely looks like a document signed by a person without too many choices at their disposal. For example, statements like, “She was dominating by nature and assertive in her temperament” are completely irrelevant to the issue. Just for the sake of argument, let us accept the part where he says, “Ms. Mahua Moitra was very ambitious and wanted to quickly make a name for herself at the national level. She was advised by her friends and advisors that the shortest possible route to fame is by personally attacking Shri Narendra Modi, the honourable Prime Minister of India.” Fair enough! But then, he adds, “The only problem was that Sh. Modi enjoyed an impeccable reputation and was not giving any opportunity to anyone to attack him in policy, governance or personal conduct.” For one, the Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, would beg to differ on this point. What has Sh. Modi’s “impeccable reputation” to do with the facts of the matter? Not to be suspicious of the intentions behind the affidavit would be naïve. I can understand if Darshan Hiranandani said that he had no choice in the preparation of the “approver affidavit.” But I simply cannot understand when he says, “Many a times I felt that she was taking undue advantage of me and pressurising me to do things I didn’t want to, but I had no choice, because of the aforementioned reasons.” Grow up, Darshan! You’re not a 14-year old kid. Be a man enough to speak the truth and not submit to pressure, merely to escape consequences.
The line of questioning by the Ethics Committee of the Lok Sabha leaves much to be desired. Questions such as, “which hotel in Dubai she had stayed during her visits and with whom, etc” speak volumes for the character of the people posing these questions. Whether sharing her Parliament login details with Darshan Hiranandani’s office is a breach of “national security,” I cannot say. But, that it is a breach of integrity, I have no doubt about that. It is wrong to betray the trust of the common people who have elected you, not to mention self-betrayal.
From a more practical perspective, for an Indian politician, either Mahua Moitra is a hopeless romantic or an immature person. It is quite possible for intelligent people to suffer from both – a penchant for romance along with a certain degree of immaturity. To be thrown under the bus by two men – one a “close personal friend,” Darshan Hiranandani, who did not hesitate to turn approver the instant push came to shove and another a “jilted ex,” Jai Anant Dehadrai, a pretty honorless character for a Supreme Court lawyer – doesn’t sound like a very smart woman to me.
Women at a certain level of accomplishment have to be wary of what is happening around them. They cannot afford to be foolhardy when it comes to men in general and in particular. Unless a woman sees in every man (with perhaps the exception of one’s own father) a potential rival and an opponent who is out to get her, it is unlikely that she can retain a public position for long, without her reputation being tarnished. Power is a male thing. It is about masculinity. It is men versus men. The world of men is a pitiless world that couldn’t care less for the weak. Unfortunately, intelligent and talented women too have to fight the label of weakness and the prejudice accompanying it.
Mahua Moitra should apologize to the people of her constituency and her country for doing something that she shouldn’t have done. The masses are more forgiving and understanding than political parties, law courts and governments. She should begin to take her job as a mass leader seriously and engage with common people. They are the ones who will stand with her to the very end. She should be their representative in the noblest sense of the term and use that platform to fight the enemies of an egalitarian society.
In my college days a close friend of mine introduced me to the budding pub culture of Hyderabad. In one of those visits, as happens with pubs where loud music is the norm, the popular song by Eurythmics was playing in the background. My friend repeated the lyrics of the song while it played.
Sweet dreams are made of this
Who am I to disagree
I travel the world and the seven seas
Everybody’s looking for something
Some of them want to use you
Some of them want to get used by you
Some of them want to abuse you
Some of them want to be abused…
I cannot say that the lines of the song apply to all real life situations. But, undoubtedly, in politics this is more or less a fact of life – that some want to use you and some want to get used or abused by you. As a woman of the world, Mahua Moitra ought to have known this much.
Prakash Kona is a writer and independent scholar. He completed his doctorate at the University of Mississippi, MS in 1997. His thesis is a comparative analysis of Derrida, Chomsky and Wittgenstein. His areas of interest include Shakespeare, Postcolonialism, World Literature and Afro-American Literature.