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The ‘cash for query’ scandal is a form of political corruption that undermines the democratic principles and integrity of elected representatives in legislative bodies.

It typically involves members of parliament or legislators accepting bribes, gifts, or other valuable favors from external entities, including businesses or individuals, in exchange for posing specific questions, typically during parliamentary sessions.

In the context of the “cash for query” scandal, “quid pro quo” refers to a Latin term that means “something for something.” It implies that there is an exchange of something valuable (such as money, gifts, or favors) in return for a specific action or favor.

So, in the “cash for query” scandal, the quid pro quo involves the alleged exchange of cash or gifts by external entities (such as businesses or individuals) to a Member of Parliament (MP) or legislator in return for that MP using their position to pose certain questions or take specific actions in parliament.

The MP is receiving something of value (cash or gifts) in exchange for providing a service or favor to the entity offering the inducements. This practice raises ethical and legal concerns as it may compromise the integrity and impartiality of the legislative process and the responsibilities of elected representatives.

Mahua Moitra’s Case

‘Cash for query’ scandals typically involve illegal activities such as bribery and corruption, which can result in criminal charges against the involved parties, including elected representatives and those offering bribes. These allegations tarnish the reputation of the individuals involved and can lead to legal consequences.

The ‘cash for query’ scandal involving Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mahua Moitra has taken a new turn with the emergence of a purported affidavit submitted by businessman Darshan Hiranandani.

The controversy centers around allegations that Moitra accepted expensive gifts from Hiranandani in exchange for asking parliamentary questions targeting Prime Minister Modi. Here’s a breakdown of the key developments and responses in this ongoing scandal.

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Darshan Hiranandani’s Affidavit

Darshan Hiranandani’s purported affidavit in the ‘cash for query’ scandal has revealed several startling allegations, shedding light on the alleged collusion between him and Mahua Moitra, a Member of Parliament from the Trinamool Congress.

According to The Quint, in this written statement, Hiranandani recounted his initial encounter with Mahua Moitra at the Bengal Global Business Summit in 2017 when she held the position of a Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) representing the Karimpur constituency in Nadia district.

Over time, their relationship developed into a “close personal friendship,” which Hiranandani sought to leverage for expanding his business interests in states governed by Opposition parties.

The purported affidavit read, “Moitra was very ambitious and wanted to 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 Modi.

One of the most remarkable claims in the affidavit is that Moitra allegedly shared her Parliament login and password with Hiranandani. This revelation is significant, as it suggests that she granted him direct access to her parliamentary account, effectively allowing him to pose questions on her behalf.

These questions were allegedly aimed at targeting two prominent figures, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and billionaire businessman Gautam Adani. The questions posed may have been designed to create a narrative that cast these individuals or their businesses in a negative light.

She shared with me [Hiranandani] her email ID as Member of Parliament, so that I could send her information, and she could raise the questions in the Parliament. I went along with her proposal,” the affidavit claimed.

As per the information provided in the affidavit, Hiranandani posed inquiries that were directed at Prime Minister Modi and the billionaire entrepreneur Gautam Adani. These questions emerged in the aftermath of the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) choosing to reserve capacity at Adani’s Dhamra LNG import facility in Odisha, rather than at Hiranandani’s originally intended facility.

According to PTI, Hiranandani further said that Moitra had made frequent demands, including “expensive luxury items, providing support on the renovation of her official allotted bungalow in Delhi, travel expenses, holidays, etc, apart from providing secretarial and logistical help for her travels within India and to different parts of the world.

Ms. Moitra, in her endeavor, was getting help from other people like Sucheta Dalal, Shardul Shroff, and Pallavi Shroff, who were also in touch with her, and who were feeding her with all kinds of unverified information relating to Sh Gautam Adani and his companies.

Union Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, expressed shock at these allegations. His statement hints at the possibility that the questions raised by Moitra were, in fact, driven by the interests of a data center company, presumably represented by Hiranandani.

This interpretation suggests that the ‘cash for query’ scandal extends beyond the personal relationship between Moitra and Hiranandani and may involve broader corporate or commercial interests.

Chandrasekhar’s response underscores the seriousness of the allegations and the need for a thorough investigation to determine whether parliamentary questions were manipulated to serve the interests of external entities, such as data center companies, at the expense of the nation’s democratic processes.

It raises concerns about the potential misuse of parliamentary privilege and the responsibility of elected representatives to act solely in the public’s best interests.

Mahua Moitra’s Response

Mahua Moitra’s response to the allegations outlined in Darshan Hiranandani’s purported affidavit has been marked by her firm dismissal of the contents and a commitment to addressing the situation through established legal and ethical channels.

Firstly, Moitra characterized the affidavit as a “joke,” suggesting that she viewed the document with a degree of incredulity. Her assertion that the document lacked official letterhead or notarization was an attempt to question its authenticity and reliability.

In many legal contexts, official documents are expected to bear specific markers of authenticity, such as official letterheads or notarization, which can impact the document’s legal standing. Moitra’s focus on these aspects was intended to raise doubts about the veracity of the claims made in the affidavit.

Moitra in her note on X (formerly Twitter) wrote, “Why has Darshan not done a press conference and read this out or tweeted it himself or his company put it out? If indeed he has “confessed” to this why is he not releasing it officially rather than through back channel leaks?”

Moitra also pointed out that the Hiranandani Group had categorically denied all allegations. This statement can be seen as an attempt to shift the burden of proof back to the accuser, emphasizing that the accused party has unequivocally denied any wrongdoing.

By highlighting the denial of the Hiranandani Group, Moitra implied that the burden of proof rested on those making the allegations, suggesting that they needed to provide concrete evidence to substantiate their claims.

Furthermore, Moitra expressed her willingness to cooperate with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Parliament’s Ethics Committee.

Nishikant Dubey’s Allegations

Nishikant Dubey, a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of Parliament, played a pivotal role in the ‘cash for query’ scandal by making serious allegations against Mahua Moitra. His claims added a layer of complexity to the controversy and intensified the scrutiny of Moitra’s actions.

Dubey alleged that Darshan Hiranandani had provided Mahua Moitra with substantial financial incentives, including a substantial amount of money and lavish gifts. Among these gifts was an iPhone, a high-value electronic device, which suggests a significant level of expenditure by Hiranandani.

Furthermore, Dubey claimed that Hiranandani had financed Moitra’s election campaign with substantial funds. These allegations point towards a financial relationship between Moitra and Hiranandani that raises questions about the motivations behind Moitra’s actions as a Member of Parliament.

What’s particularly noteworthy in Dubey’s allegations is his assertion that the questions raised by Moitra in the parliament were primarily intended to benefit Hiranandani’s business interests, with a specific focus on the Adani Group.

Dubey alleged in his letter to Om Birla that 50 out of 61 questions Moitra asked in the Parliament involved the Adani group, “Moitra’s questions in Parliament shockingly seek information, with the intent of protecting or perpetuating business interests of Shri Darshan Hiranandani and his company. The questions were also often focused on the Adani Group, another business conglomerate Hiranandani Group was bidding for business against.”

Dubey purportedly claimed that he was making these allegations based on documents provided to him by advocate Jai Anant Dehadrai, who asserted that he possessed undeniable evidence of bribes being exchanged between Moitra and Hiranandani.

Despite the reported close friendship between Moitra and Dehadrai, their relationship appears to have soured over time. Dehadrai is alleged to have engaged in a troubling pattern of behavior, which includes sending offensive and threatening messages to Moitra.

Along with that, he is accused of trespassing into her official residence and taking some of her personal belongings, including her pet dog named Henry.

Jai Dehradai is not some Supreme Court lawyer who has done painstaking research on me. He is a jilted ex with an acrimonious personal history with me who wanted to somehow get back at me,” Moitra was quoted as saying.

Dubey also raised the issue of whether Moitra’s Lok Sabha account was accessed from locations where she was not present. This query suggests a suspicion of unauthorized access to Moitra’s parliamentary account, potentially indicating that someone else might have been using her credentials to post questions or engage in parliamentary activities.

The investigation into this matter is crucial to ascertain the legitimacy of her actions as a Member of Parliament. The Trinamool Congress (TMC) has chosen not to provide any official commentary on the allegations made against Moitra, as reported by Hindustan Times.

The Lok Sabha Speaker has forwarded Dubey’s complaints against Moitra to the Lok Sabha’s Ethics Committee, which is under the chairmanship of BJP MP Vinod Kumar Sonkar. Reportedly, Dubey and Dehadrai have been summoned to appear before the Ethics Committee on October 26th.

The ‘cash for query’ scandal involving Mahua Moitra and Darshan Hiranandani has raised serious allegations of impropriety in parliamentary proceedings. The emergence of the purported affidavit has added a new layer of complexity to the controversy, prompting further scrutiny by the Ethics Committee of the Lok Sabha.

This ongoing scandal highlights the importance of maintaining the integrity of parliamentary processes and the need for transparent investigations to ascertain the truth of these allegations.

Sources: The Quint, The Hindu, The Indian Express

Image sources: Google Images

Feature Image designed by Saudamini Seth

Find the blogger: Katyayani Joshi

This post is tagged under: Mahua Moitra, cash for query, Gautam Adani, Narendra Modi, Parliament, scandal, Hiranandani Group, Jai Dehradai, Nishikant Dubey, Rajeev Chandrashekhar, corruption, bribe, Ethics Committee, Lok Sabha, Trinamool Congress

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