Tue. Feb 27th, 2024
Mahua Moitra expelled from parliament for cash for query

The recent expulsion of Mahua Moitra from the BJP’s Ethics Committee has brought to light a disturbing trend of stifling dissenting voices within Indian politics. Moitra, a prominent MP known for her fiery speeches defending India’s constitution and secular values, was unapologetically vocal in criticizing the ruling party’s Hindu nationalist agenda. Her expulsion is seen by many as an attempt to silence an influential critic and promote a singular ideological narrative.

Unapologetic, Unstoppable: The Ousting of Mahua Moitra and the Suppression of Dissent

Moitra’s Rise as a Prominent Dissenting Voice

Mahua Moitra first gained national attention in 2019 with her maiden parliamentary speech that went viral online. In a takedown of the government’s nationalistic rhetoric, Moitra outlined the early signs of fascism and authoritarianism taking root in India. This speech established her as a prominent dissenting voice and tough critic of the administration.

Over the next few years, Moitra remained stubbornly vocal against controversial policies like the Citizenship Amendment Act, arrests of academics and activists under draconian laws, and the government’s failure in controlling communal violence. She highlighted cases of misgovernance, abuse of authority, and circumvention of democratic principles to accuse the ruling BJP of promoting a partisan ideology hostile to India’s minorities and endangered freedoms.

As one of the few opposition voices capable of influencing online discourse and garnering support from liberal youth, Moitra represented a crucial political counterweight to the administration. Her speeches reached millions, calling out majoritarian dog whistles in a way no other MP managed. This momentum positioned her as an unignorable voice of dissent against the marginalization of minorities and encroachment of civil liberties.

The Build-Up to Expulsion from the Ethics Committee

The final trigger for Moitra’s ouster from the parliamentary Ethics Committee centered on the Adani-Hindenburg row which wiped billions off valuations of Adani Group companies. The US-based short-seller Hindenburg Research published an explosive report accusing the conglomerate of stock manipulation and abuse of power enabled by government ties.

Moitra vocally supported calls for a JPC probe into allegations around preferential treatment and murky offshore shell companies linked to Gautam Adani. She highlighted the meteoric rise of Adani’s empire during PM Modi’s tenure and pointed out potential conflicts of interest.

As the Opposition forced disruptions demanding a JPC probe on Adani links, Moitra’s commentary on the controversy reached millions online. Painting the government’s refusal for an independent bipartisan probe as a cover-up attempt, she said MPs had a moral duty to ascertain whether policy decisions unduly benefited PM Modi’s “crony capitalist friends.”

This struck a raw nerve for the administration trying to control the narrative around accusations of quid pro quo between Modi and Adani. Moitra’s speech was likely the tipping point for her removal from a key parliamentary committee where the Opposition could demand further probes.

Mahua moitra expelled from  parliament

The Committee’s Decision Reflects Authoritarian Tactics

On 7th December 2023, TMC MP Mahua Moitra was expelled from the Lok Sabha’s Ethics Committee headed by BJP veterans like L.K. Advani and Sumitra Mahajan. The letter informing her simply stated she was being expelled for “breaching confidentiality rules” by commenting on the Committee’sprivate discussions on the Adani controversy.

However, analysts pointed out that Moitra’s public statements focused on demanding transparent governance around Adani links, rather than revealing details of confidential committee deliberations. As one of the most influential opposition figures taking on crony capitalism enabled by proximity to power, her removal is being called out as an excuse to quash dissent.

The Ethics Committee has often been criticized as an opaque body vulnerable to political agendas overriding ethical considerations. Its vague diktats on confidentiality seem arbitrary, lacking transparent processes to decide issues with massive implications for parliamentary democracy. 84 MPs have been removed from this committee historically, but never has the justification seemed so weak.

Moitra’s expulsion fits a definitive pattern under this regime—open criticism leads to penalization when it becomes inconvenient for authorities. Whether jailing human rights activists on terror charges without trial or using financial agencies to raid troublesome media outlets, this government has exhibited zero tolerance towards dissent. Moitra even highlighted in Parliament how overjoyed BJP MPs seemed while voting for her suspension.

Weaponization of Ethics for Political Vendetta

From an ethical standpoint, the Committee’s grounds for expelling Moitra completely ignore the larger moral issues around transparency and accountability in governance that she represents. Instead, obscure technicalities of confidentiality were used as convenient excuses to remove an assertive dissenting voice from this platform.

Critics have pointed out that confidentiality was not considered sacrosanct when BJP MPs themselves leaked details of Ethics Committee proceedings for political gain. Yet Moitra faced expulsion for general commentary about accountability in the Adani controversy engulfing Parliament, rather than specifics of the Committee’s private discussions.

This smacks of unethical double standards, apart from abuse of authority since the committee itself lacks minority representation after Moitra. Essentially, the majority ruling party now has unilateral control over ethical supervision of the Lok Sabha.

INDIA Alliance Came in Support

While the BJP may have succeeded in removing Moitra from a parliamentary committee, their authoritarian tactics seem to be backfiring instead by consolidating wider support for her stand. Recently, INDIA – the opposition’s floor coordination group consisting of the INC, NCP, DMK, JMM, SP, and others – unanimously condemned her expulsion as “murder of democracy.” MPs like Rahul Gandhi and Omar Abdullah have also voiced outrage over the Centre “shutting down voices that make them uncomfortable,” showing rising solidarity for dissent across the political spectrum.

Clearly, the BJP had not anticipated opening up new fronts against opposition unity by targeting Moitra over a relatively minor issue. Far from silencing her, the excessive reaction has only amplified her criticism about creeping totalitarianism.

“Today, I am sad to see the attitude of BJP. How they betray democracy… They didn’t allow @MahuaMoitra to explain her stand. Full injustice has been done.”

Mamata Banerjee, CM , West Bengal

Broader Implications for Dissent and Democracy

Moitra’s removal has incensed the opposition by signaling that the government can cite dubious technical grounds to penalize vocal critics without democratic recourse. Her party TMC has alleged conspiracy to protect corporate cronies, while other MPs remark that weaponization of the ethics concept against political rivals will embolden the government against dissent nationwide.

Youth supporters across India are outraged since Moitra represented a rare bold voice articulating their frustrations. Many now fear her expulsion indicates that no criticism of the government will go unpunished. Without voices like hers within institutional platforms, India’s opposition may further weaken and totalitarian tendencies strengthened.

By insulation from ethical accountability and transparency, the administration can enable more questionable policies like extreme digital surveillance systems vulnerable to abuse or police crackdowns on student protesters. Moitra’s speeches in Parliament often highlighted such overreach, making her dangerous in the face of rising authoritarianism.

Her removal also risks chilling effects on free speech, if punitive penalties are threatened over dissent. In 10 years of BJP rule, India has already slipped 10 places in the global Press Freedom Index into the red “difficult” zone. Further censorship could transform the world’s largest democracy into an autocracy hostile to civil rights.

Unstoppable Ideals: Legacy of Dissent in India

While the expulsion of Mahua Moitra from Parliament’s Ethics Committee signals disturbing consequences for Indian democracy, history shows that dissent cannot be extinguished when the ideals behind it strike a chord.

Moitra follows a long tradition of vocal critics of repressive regimes who faced punishment for speaking inconvenient truths to power. Figures like Audrey Truschke continue raising awareness on spreading religious polarization despite vicious right-wing backlash and threats. Arundhati Roy’s trenchant anti-establishment writing still resonates globally though she faces occasional arrests in India. Advocate Prashant Bhushan was convicted of contempt for tweets criticizing the Supreme Court but remains unapologetic about demanding accountability.

Similarly, the issues Moitra highlights around creeping fascism and threats to India’s constitutional values will continue inspiring supporters. Narratives painting her as anti-national for calling out chauvinism will be questioned by many Indians who share her fears. Already, global commentators are highlighting the signal her removal sends about the tyrannical direction India’s democracy has taken.

By eliciting such outrage over relatively minor dissent, the ruling BJP risks a Streisand effect that amplifies Moitra’s criticism rather than silencing her. The government’s openness towards weaponization of nebulous technicalities to punish opponents also damages India’s reputation among democratic nations.

Conclusion: No Force Can Obliterate Truth

The unapologetic expulsion of Mahua Moitra from Parliament’s Ethics Committee showcases an authoritarian administration’s intolerance towards vocal criticism, especially regarding crony capitalist links to power. However, the issues of transparency and accountability she represents around creeping loss of rights and bigotry cannot be brushed aside so easily.

Using obscure parliamentary rules to muzzle dissent may allow more questionable policies that favor certain vested interests to pass unchecked. But in the longer run, such censorship and punishment of dissent galvanizes more citizens against the regime’s undemocratic tactics.

After all, the truth often wields a mirror to corrupted power. And no matter what totalitarian tactics a state adopts, no force has yet proven capable of indefinitely hiding inconvenient realities from the masses or permanently silencing dissent rooted in truth. If anything, the attempt makes the fall of the powerful regime built on lies even more inevitable once the illusion shatters beyond repair.

Talktails | Truth is our currency

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