There is speculation that apart from Rahul Gandhi, over a dozen other MPs may be linked to the scandal.
The alleged “cash for query” scandal in Parliament involving TMC MP Mahua Moitra appears to have a Rahul Gandhi connection as well, according to a signed purported statement by businessman Darshan Hiranandani in which he has admitted using the TMC leader’s Parliamentary login to frame questions targeting the Adani Group.
The Dubai-based real estate tycoon’s purported statement, circulating on social media, said that the Congress leader was apparently in touch with Moitra on issues related to companies owned by Adani—a businessman Gandhi has hit out several times for allegedly getting preferential treatment from the Narendra Modi government.
Hiranandani, 42, CEO of real estate-to-energy group, said in his statement, “Clearly, there were others who were also assisting her (Moitra) in this targeted attack. She had interactions with many Congress leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, on matters relating to Adani companies.”
Amid talk of TMC chief Mamata Banerjee seeking Moitra’s resignation, there is speculation that apart from Gandhi over a dozen other MPs may be allegedly linked to the cash-for-query scandal.
Hiranandani’s purported statement also names other people as Moitra’s sources for “all kinds of unverified information relating to Gautam Adani and his companies”. Most of those whom he has named have denied any wrong-doing but the list is interesting due to the presence of names of top mediapersons, lawyers and activists. The list mentions Sucheta Dalal, lawyer Shardul Shroff and Pallavi Shroff, former employees of the Adani group and journalists from Financial Times, the New York Times, the BBC and also several Indian publications. Adani group-bashing was a strategy that Moitra, 49, adopted to indirectly malign Prime Minister Narendra Modi so that she could enjoy instant fame by hitting the headlines, said Hiranandani, who apparently developed a close friendship with the TMC leader after their first interaction in 2017.
The signed statement by Hiranandani seems to be a complete U-turn from the initial denial issued by his group over his role in the matter and virtually corroborates the allegation made by BJP MP Nishikant Dubey against Moitra that she had targeted Adani at the behest of a rival businessman – which now seems confirmed as Hiranandani himself has now admitted so in his signed statement.
The TMC MP, however, has remained combative all through the controversy and even gone on to question the relevance of Hiranandani’s purported statement and the timing of its “selective leak”. In her latest two-page statement, Moitra alleged that the Prime Minister’s Office forced Hiranandani to give a statement showing her in negative light.
She also slammed attempts by some media houses to describe Hiranandani’s statement on a plain “white paper” —instead of an official letter-head—and without any authentication by a notary as an “affidavit”. She said on X, “Darshan Hiranandani has not been summoned by the CBI or the Ethics Committee or indeed by any investigative agency yet. Who then has he given this affidavit to?”
While Moitra tried to deflect attention by raising technicalities related to Hiranandani’s signed statement, there was a buzz on social media over calling the three-page document his affidavit and the possibility of him having turned an “approver”. The debate also revolved around legal nuances that the tycoon could not turn “approver” without first being named as an accused in the matter.
BJP MP Dubey and advocate Jai Anant Dehadrai have been summoned by Lok Sabha’s ethics committee to appear before it to give oral evidence on 26 October. If the allegation against the TMC lawmaker—that she handed Hiranandani her parliament login ID—is proved, she may face the consequence for a breach of privilege that could bring a suspension order against her.
In his purported statement, Hiranandani admitted using the TMC MP’s parliamentary login to frame a question targeted at Adani after Indian Oil Corporation ignored his firm’s planned facility and booked capacity at Adani’s Dharma LNG import facility in Odisha. Dubey’s allegations on “give and take over” parliamentary questions and alleged “penal offence of criminal conspiracy” were also virtually endorsed by Hiranandani in his purported statement as he alleged that Moitra frequently sought “expensive luxury items”. His statement also said that she made demands for “providing support on the renovation of her officially 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”.
Hiranandani, who has an MBA from Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, said in the signed document that he met Moitra at Bengal Global Business Summit in 2017 when she was an MLA and designated to engage with visiting industrialists at the summit. He admitted that he found the Trinamool leader “knowledgeable, expressive and outspoken”.
Their friendship blossomed fast thereafter as indicated by Hiranandani in his statement which said, “On many occasions in India, especially in Kolkata, Delhi or Mumbai, or overseas, we met socially. We used to communicate frequently on telephone, ranging from weekly to daily calls. We frequently met when I came to India or when she visited Dubai.”
The 42-year-old real-estate tycoon holds a top position as the head of Hiranandai Group’s real estate business in Dubai, UAE. The Hiranandai Group also has interests in realty projects in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai and Bengaluru. He also oversees the operation of data centres in Navi Mumbai and Noida.
Soon after Dubey raised the “cash-for-query” issue, the Hiranandani group had denied any involvement. “We have always been in the business of business and not in the business of politics. Our group has always worked with the government in the interest of the nation and will continue doing so,” a spokesperson had said.
The Adani Group has said the allegations against Moitra prove that some groups and individuals have been “working overtime” to harm its “name, goodwill and market standing”. Hiranandani concluded his signed statement by clarifying the purpose behind going public with details. He said, “Since this matter involves me directly and has snowballed into a political controversy with the Parliamentary Privilege Committee and the judiciary also now seized of the matter, I consider it incumbent upon me to state the facts, in public interest, through this sworn affidavit.”