Trinamool Congress leader Mahua Moitra's expulsion from the Lok Sabha triggered a political slugfest on Friday, with the opposition calling it a 'betrayal of India's parliamentary democracy' and the Bharatiya Janata Party asserting that it was an 'apt decision' as there was proof of the allegations levelled against her.
Moitra was expelled from the Lok Sabha on Friday after the House adopted the report of its ethics committee that held her guilty of accepting gifts and illegal gratification from a businessman to further his interest.
After a heated debate over the panel report during which Moitra was not allowed to speak, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi moved a motion to expel the TMC MP for 'unethical conduct', which was adopted by a voice vote..
Moitra equated her expulsion from the Lok Sabha with hanging by a 'kangaroo court' and alleged that a parliamentary panel is being weaponised by the government to force the opposition into submission.
Flanked by the leaders of the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (INDIA) who staged a walkout from the House, including former Congress presidents Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, Moitra read out a speech that she said was intended to be placed on the floor of the House.
She was not allowed to speak in the Lok Sabha during a discussion on the ethics committee report, citing precedents.
West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee denounced Moitra's expulsion and said the action was a 'betrayal' of India's parliamentary democracy.
"It is a disgrace to parliamentary democracy. We condemn the expulsion of Mahua Moitra, the party stands firmly with her. Unable to defeat us in elections, the BJP has resorted to vendetta politics. It is a sad day that marks a betrayal of India's parliamentary democracy," Banerjee said at a press conference in Darjeeling.
She accused the BJP of preventing Moitra from presenting her defence.
Banerjee highlighted the submission of the nearly-500-page report in Parliament, followed by a mere 30-minute window for all parties to discuss the matter.
Expressing disappointment that Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not intervene, Banerjee said, "This is unfortunate and unacceptable. Moitra will emerge victorious in the next battle and people will deliver a resounding response and justice. They (BJP) will face defeat in the upcoming election. I am fully convinced of this."
The BJP said the expulsion was 'apt' and there was no ground left for the TMC leader to remain as an MP as there was proof of the allegations levelled against her.
Talking to reporters at the Parliament complex, Joshi said, "This is not a women's issue. Questions were asked (to Moitra) about money and some gifts. She admitted that she got scarfs of so and so brand, lipstick of so and so brand, she did not deny it."
"(Businessman) Darshan Hiranandani made his statement in an affidavit before the consulate.... What bigger evidence is needed than this?" he asked.
"Despite this, (Moitra is) challenging, instead of expressing regret for what she has done," Joshi added.
BJP MP Rajiv Pratap Rudy said the evidence against Moitra was alarming and incriminating.
"And the facts that have emerged were possibly such that no Parliament would have allowed it to happen. Hence, the decision is very apt," he said.
Congress's whip in the Lok Sabha Manickam Tagore slammed the Centre over Moitra's expulsion, saying it was an attack on the parliamentary system itself.
Responding to a post on X on Moitra's expulsion, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said, "It's a complete travesty.... Fortunately it has only strengthened Mahua Moitra who is now likely to be re-elected with a bigger majority. Also do note how the INDIA parties all stood with her. Another good augury."
Communist Party of India-Marxist MP John Brittas said an articulate member was dismissed from the Lok Sabha.
"She (Moitra) has been a vocal critic of the Modi government. The charges that have been hurled at her are so flimsy that they do not stand a scrutiny," he said.
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) MP Danish Ali said the 'brute majority' that the government enjoys does not mean that it can 'throttle the opposition'.
"When filthy questions were being asked by the ethics committee and we questioned that, they started making allegations against our conduct. What is happening? If you have a brute majority, that does not mean you will throttle the opposition and expel MPs from the opposition parties," he said.
Congress MP Karti Chidambaram pointed out that paragraph 72 on page 52 of the report says the panel found Moitra's conduct 'highly objectionable, unethical, heinous and criminal' but in the very next line, it recommends an 'intense legal, institutional inquiry by the government in a time-bound manner'.
"After finding her conduct criminal, you are asking for an inquiry. How can you find someone's conduct criminal and then ask for an inquiry? You should have done an inquiry before coming to the conclusion that you are a criminal. If you find somebody a criminal, you must follow the procedure that means you should allow cross-examination," he said.
People's Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti said it is a sad day for the world's largest democracy.
'It's a sad day for the world's largest democracy when a brilliant feisty Parliamentarian like Mahua Moitra is harassed to no ends, slandered and eventually expelled from Parliament in an utter disregard for the due process. This is the price she paid for speaking truth to power,' Mufti said on X.