Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra on Friday alleged that the affidavit submitted to the Lok Sabha ethics committee by businessman Darshan Hiranandani accusing her of spreading unverified information about industrialist Gautam Adani had been drafted by the prime minister’s office.

Hiranandani, the chief executive officer of real estate company Hiranandani Group, claimed in his affidavit on Thursday that Moitra had provided him her parliament’s login credentials so that he could post questions directly on her behalf when required.

In the letter that was shared widely on social media on Thursday, the businessman claimed that Moitra “thought that the only way to attack [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi is by attacking Gautam Adani and his group as both were contemporaries, and they belong to the same state of Gujarat”.

Hiranandani also claimed that Moitra was “getting help from other people like [journalist] Sucheta Dalal… who were feeding her with all kinds of unverified information relating to Gautam Adani and his companies”. The veteran financial journalist, who is the managing editor of news portal Moneylife, denied the claim.

Later in the day, Moitra said that the contents of the letter were “a joke” and remarked that it appeared to have been drafted by “some half-wit in the PMO who doubles up as a creative writer in the BJP’s IT cell”, in a reference to the saffron party’s social media wing.

The Trinamool Congress MP said: “The affidavit is on white paper and not on official letterhead or notarised. Why would one of India’s most respected/educated [businessmen] sign a letter like this on white paper unless a gun was put to his head to do it?”

Moitra asked why Hiranandani himself had not read out the affidavit in a press conference or tweeted it. “If indeed he has ‘confessed’ to this, why is he not releasing it officially rather than through back channel leaks?” she asked.

Moitra questioned how Hiranandani, who she claimed “enjoys direct access to every minister and the PMO”, could be “coerced by a first-time Opposition MP into giving her gifts and giving into her demands”.

The Trinamool Congress MP alleged that the prime minister’s office had drafted the letter and held a “proverbial gun to Darshan and his father’s [Hiranandani Group co-founder Niranjan Hiranandani] heads” to force them to sign it.

“They were told they will be finished, the CBI would raid them and all government businesses would stop and all PSU [public sector unit] bank financing would be stopped immediately,” she added.

In response to Hiranandani’s claims, journalist Sucheta Dalal said that she did not know Moitra personally and so, the question of helping her did not arise.

The row

On October 15, Bharatiya Janata Party MP Nishikant Dubey had written to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla seeking to have Moitra immediately suspended for allegedly taking bribes from Hiranandani to ask questions in parliament.

He accused Moitra of breach of parliamentary privilege, contempt of the House and criminal conspiracy. Nearly 50 of the 61 questions asked by Moitra were meant to “seek information with the intent of protecting or perpetuating business interests” of Hiranandani, Dubey alleged in his letter.

Dubey cited a letter from advocate Jai Dehadrai, reportedly Moitra’s estranged partner, claiming that he had shared “irrefutable evidence” about the Trinamool Congress MP asking questions in parliament in exchange for cash and gifts.

On Friday morning, Dehadrai claimed that an attempt was made on the previous day to coerce him into withdrawing his complaint “in exchange for Henry” – referring to a pet dog over whom he and Moitra are engaged in a custody battle.

“I flatly refused – will give details to CBI,” Dehadrai added. “Messenger is totally innocent - but tells you everything about her.”

On October 16, the Hiranandani Group said that Dubey’s allegations had “no merit”. “We have always been in the business of business and not in the business of politics,” the company’s spokesperson had told The Indian Express a day later. “Our group has always worked with the government in the interest of the nation and will continue doing so”.