Speaker Sumitra Mahajan asked the Lok Sabha ethics committee on Wednesday to probe the conduct of Trinamool Congress MPs allegedly caught taking bribes in a sting that has emerged as a political flashpoint ahead of the West Bengal polls.
Trinamool lawmaker Saugata Roy called it a unilateral decision, but Mahajan brushed aside his objections, pointing out that similar complaints have been referred to the panel that oversees the ethical behaviour of the members.
The panel can recommend censure, reprimand or suspension for an MP it finds guilty.
The media group that conducted the sting says top Trinamool Congress leaders, including Lok Sabha lawmakers Roy and Sultan Ahmed, accepted bundles of cash to lobby for a fictitious firm.
It released the tape of the operation, which it says it carried out over the past two years, just days ahead of the elections in West Bengal where the ruling Trinamool Congress will fight a probable Left-Congress combine and a buoyant BJP.
Protesting the speaker’s decision, Saugata Roy said if every complaint is referred to the ethics committee, anyone can do a sting against members and an inquiry will be ordered based on “unverified” contents. He, however, added that veteran BJP leader LK Advani, who will head the 15-member panel, will be fair and he has “complete respect” for him.
When the CPI(M), BJP and Congress raised the issue on Tuesday, Roy termed the sting operation a political controversy. “I am sorry that I have to live this day to hear these things in Parliament,” he said.
But the NDA government made it clear that it cannot remain a silent spectator and asked the speaker to refer the allegations to the ethics committee. Parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu had hinted that the government would probe the charges if the House panel did not.
The issue also rocked the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday with CPI(M) members alleging “match-fixing” between the government and Trinamool Congress while demanding a probe by a panel comprising members of both Houses.
Trinamool MP Derek O’Brien, however, rubbished the charges and questioned the credibility of the journalists behind the sting.