Following her expulsion from the Lok Sabha last week, Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra has now moved the Supreme Court over the 'cash-for-query' allegations levelled against her by Parliament's Ethics Committee, Live Law reported.
The TMC MP was ousted on grounds of 'unethical conduct' and on the Ethics Committee's charge of breaching national security by sharing parliamentary login credentials with businessman Darshan Hiranandani.
This comes after political circles and the Trinamool Congress had predicted the possibility of Mahua seeking judicial redress for not being given an opportunity to defend her case.
On Sunday, she hit her constituency in Krishnanagar through a video message saying that she would fight till the end.
Mahua's Legal Action Was Imminent
Mahua has certainly emerged as the biggest beneficiary of this gripping, high-decibel drama, having secured the support of a wide spectrum of political outfits, opposed to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its supremo Narendra Modi.
She also succeeded in enlisting an outpouring of support from her own party chief Mamata Banerjee and the entire TMC leadership who, in all these months and weeks, had been reticent to come out openly in her support and had virtually made it a battle for Mahua to fight by herself.
Never for a moment did Mahua looked defeated as she walked out of the lower house of Parliament last week.
This also brings to the fore several important factors, the most significant being the guarantee of a political recovery out of Moitra's temporary martyrdom.
How Expulsion Gives Way for Opposition Cohesion
By all means, it may still be premature to predict how her expulsion is going to shape the future course of an opposition alliance.
The immediate outcome, however, has been spectacular.
It highlighted how the individual fight of a woman MP transformed into a collective battle for the Congress, the Trinamool Congress, the National Conference, the Left, and several others who constitute the 'INDIA' (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance) bloc against the mighty BJP. It has, at least, momentarily galvanised the INDIA alliance.
Only months back, these very hallowed precincts of the new Parliament House were witness to the glorious introduction and passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill. On 7 December, however, the unfolding spectacle was of a woman MP who, at first, alleged vastraharan by a House Ethics Committee and now cried foul against the punishment for expulsion from the House without being heard.
One of the defining moments of the expulsion was probably the group photograph captured vividly in the portico of the new Parliament House. Moitra was flanked by TMC heavyweights with Sonia Gandhi towering over her back along with Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference, Rahul Gandhi, and several others forming a ring around her as she roared to take on Adani and Modi for the next 30 years.
It was a frame that was missing for a long time in the INDIA alliance’s fight against the BJP.
On Mamata’s Renewed Support for Mahua
Mamata Banerjee, who was attending a government programme and a family wedding in the distant hills of Kurseong, exploded at Mahua’s expulsion.
"Our MP was being unjustly victimised for having spoken truth to power,” the CM said. The BJP could not defeat her in the ballots, which is why they were now resorting to this vindictive and dirty expulsion, she thundered.
She further indicated that there was no reason why Mahua should not get a nomination and an electoral rerun from the Krishnanagar seat in the upcoming Lok Sabha polls that she represented. She will be a front-runner as her popularity ratings have soared several notches. In an organisational reshuffle, Mahua was recently made the party’s Krishnanagar district president.
There are reasons for the Trinamool Congress supremo to come out with such overwhelming support for her MP. Her government in West Bengal had been battling several scandals with the arrest of a large number of party leaders by the ED (Enforcement Directorate) and the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) who are now languishing in jail, what Mamata has called "vendetta politics.”
So, here is a moment when Mahua’s image of a victim fits well into that narrative. Mahua herself fears that the CBI would be snooping down on her any moment now in connection with the cash-for-query investigation to hound her.
Besides, the chain of events clearly depicts that there would not be any hesitation on the part of the Congress to induct Mahua, where she originally began her political career, should there be any adverse circumstances for her in the Trinamool Congress.
Does TMC's One-upmanship Threaten The Left?
If the Karnataka polls had given the Congress a superior bargaining power among the INDIA coalition partners, it is the Mahua Moitra expulsion coming in the backdrop of the grand old party's dismal performance in the recently concluded elections in Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh, that catapults the Trinamool Congress' fortunes.
It pushes Mamata Banerjee into a position of eminence, allowing her to bargain with a large number of constituents of the INDIA Bloc not least by questioning the ability of the Congress leadership to take on the BJP.
The sense of camaraderie generated between the Congress and the TMC over the Mahua issue, if sustained till the Lok Sabha polls, should yield dividends for both. In West Bengal, a TMC-Congress combine has the potential to neutralise much of the anti-incumbency factor for the TMC, thereby creating ground for a large number of Lok Sabha seats.
But not everything is expected to be hunky-dory with the Left, led by the CPM, watching minutely the developments with a fair degree of anxiety. A TMC-Congress bonhomie upsets the Congress-CPM equations that have grown over the years in Bengal, particularly with Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Leader of Opposition of the Congress, playing the chief architect.
However, on the Mahua issue, Chowdhury had lent crucial and vociferous support, and it would be interesting to watch how he plays the balancing act to perfection.
Will Mahua Come Back With a Huge Mandate?
Mahua Moitra knows that her fate now hinges on her voters.
"I am the daughter of this soil,” she said in a message to her constituency in Krishnanagar on 10 December. She also appealed: “I will work for you as long as you stand by me and not give up this fight. We will win.“
A popular mandate, maybe a bigger one than her last election win, would be the best answer to the ordeal she faced.
Simultaneously, it has given the TMC party chief Mamata Banerjee a powerful pitch to go to the next round of the 'INDIA' alliance talks on 19 December.
The focus this time would certainly be the seat sharing formula of a one-to-one fight against the BJP.
(The writer is a Kolkata-based senior journalist. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)