This might be the worst position Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra finds herself in, with the Lok Sabha Ethics Committee taking up BJP MP Nishikant Dubey’s accusation that she took favours from businessman Darshan Hiranandani in exchange for asking questions on billionaire industrialist Gautam Adani. However, it is not the first exchange between her and the BJP, since she first became a member of the Lower House in 2019.
The flamboyant MP from West Bengal’s Krishnanagar – who has been guilty in the past of letting unparliamentary language slip in as she holds forth in the Lok Sabha – became a star right after her first speech in the House on June 25, 2019.
Speaking on the Motion of Thanks to the President’s address, Moitra said there were seven signs that showed that fascism was rising in India. These, she claimed, were “superficial nationalism, disdain for human rights, media control, obsession with national security, the intertwining of religion and government, disdain for intellectuals and the arts, and the erosion of independence in the electoral system”.
The speech was widely reported in the media, with many seeing in her an articulate member of an Opposition party who could chime with the ‘liberal’ crowd.
However, this wasn’t just an MP trying to make her mark in her maiden speech. Her run-ins with the BJP soon became a regular fixture of her Parliamentary presence.
Run-ins with Nishikant Dubey
In 2021, in the context of an aborted meeting of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, Dubey accused Moitra of calling him a “Bihari goonda (goon)”. Tagging TMC supremo and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Dubey, an MP from Godda in Jharkhand, said on X, formerly Twitter, that Moitra had abused the people of north India, Biharis in particular, by using those words.
Moitra shot back posting that she was “amused” as the meeting in question – on the Pegasus software controversy – did not happen because the committee’s BJP members refused to sign the attendance register. Dubey then said he would give a notice for a privilege motion against the committee’s head, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, on the grounds that the meeting’s agenda had been made public.
In 2021, Dubey and BJP MP P P Chowdhary gave notice for a privilege motion against Moitra for commenting against former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on the floor of the House, citing a breach of Article 121 of the Constitution against discussing the conduct of a judge. Gogoi was a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha at the time. Moitra took to X and said she would not be “bullied into silence” with threats of privilege motions.
Since the Ethics Committee took up the Moitra case on his complaint, Dubey has not let up on his attacks on Moitra. On Thursday, he took a jibe at her saying she “forced her friends to give her expensive gifts” even as her leader Mamata is known for her simple attire of saris and slippers.
Targeting the BJP
Outside the House too, the BJP has been consistently attacked by Moitra. After the Bengal Assembly elections in 2021, in a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi on a TV channel, she said: “There is something we have in Bengal called ‘rock-er chhele’ (roadside fellow), who sits on the wall and who basically calls out to every lady walking past, saying ‘Didi, o Didi!’. This is the Prime Minister doing so.” In a speech during the campaign, Modi had used the phrase.
In February 2022, hours before her reply to the President’s Address in the Lok Sabha, Moitra posted: “Am speaking this evening in the Lok Sabha on the President’s address. Just wanted to give heads up to the BJP to get the heckler team ready and read up on imaginary points of order. Drink some gaumutra shots too.”
Later, in her speech, she hit out at the government for India’s status being downgraded from “free” to “partly free” in the US-based Freedom House’s report and claimed that India had become one of the most dangerous places for journalists. In the Speaker’s chair, Rama Devi asked her to calm down and speak with “less anger”. Outside the House, Moitra accused the Chair of trying to interrupt her speech, leading to the Speaker asking MPs to maintain decorum outside and inside the House the next day.
In February this year, Moitra courted controversy yet again by using an expletive purportedly against BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri in the Lok Sabha, leading to an uproar in the Treasury Benches. Moitra, however, brazened it out, saying “she would call an apple an apple”. Bidhuri, known for controversial statements himself, is now facing a Privilege Committee complaint over his remarks against BSP MP Danish Ali.
Recently, when photos of her holding a glass of wine and cigar at a party with Tharoor went viral on social media, Moitra hit out at what she called the BJP’s “troll army”. “Most amused to see personal photos of me being circulated on the social media by BJP’s troll sena. I like the green dress better on me than the white blouse… Bengal’s women live a life. Not a lie,” Moitra wrote on X. “BJP loses in Bengal every time because they do these kinds of below-the-belt attacks on women,” she added.