New Delhi: Controversy-prone Shashi
Tharoor today battled allegations that a beautician
romantically linked to him had received Rs 70-crore free
equity in Kochi IPL team and his party, the Congress told the
minister to explain for himself.
In clear indications that trouble was brewing for the
54-year-old minister of state for external affairs, the
Congress first appeared to defend him but within hours did a
U-turn to say, "let him explain."
Tharoor's latest troubles started with the IPL
Commissioner Lalit Modi publicly disclosing the names of some
of the owners of a consortium that recently bought the Kochi
IPL franchise for a whopping USD 333 million. Rendezvous
Sports World private limited, the company that led the
consortium, received 25 per cent free equity.
Out of this free equity, 19 per cent is said to have gone
to Sunanda Pushkar, a Kashmiri beautician closely linked to
Tharoor who is reportedly planning to marry her after
divorcing his second wife, a Canadian. This equity is valued
at nearly USD 16 million(approx. Rs 70 crores).
Tharoor admitted "mentoring" the consortium and said in a
statement " Rendezvous includes a number of people including
many I have never met, and Sunanda Pushkar, whom I know well."
He denied any wrongdoing.
BJP lost no time in attacking Tharoor and demanding his
sacking from the Government for alleged corruption. It also
sought a CBI probe into the entire nature of the transaction
On behalf of the Congress, party spokesman Shakeel Ahmed
dismissed the BJP demand as absurd and said that the
controversy was not an embarassment to the party.
In a quick volte face, Ahmed's boss Janardhan Dwivedi,
head of the media cell and the party general secretary, said
that the party had nothing to do with the controversy. "Let
him explain. Let others explain what is the truth," he said.
In a statement earlier in the day, Tharoor hit back at
Modi alleging he had made attempts to pressure the winning
consortium to abandon their bid for the Kochi IPL team.
Tharoor also denied that he had told Modi not to ask
details about owners of the consortium led by Rendezvous that
bought the new franchisee.
He trained his guns on the powerful cricket board
official alleging that various attempts were made by Modi and
others to pressure the members of the consortium to abandon
their bid in favour of another city in a different state.
According to reports, Ahmedabad was being mentioned as the
"I deny Mr Lalit Modi's allegation that I called him
during his meeting with investors in the Kochi consortium in
Bangalore on Saturday night in order to press him not to
question the composition of the consortium," Tharoor said.
"My role in mentoring the consortium included several
conversations with Mr Lalit Modi, who guided us through the
process and presented himself as a trusted friend," he added.
Voicing his displeasure at the turn of events which saw
him pitted against Lalit Modi, Tharoor also tweeted, "I have
Stepping into the picture, BJP called Tharoor's role in
Kochi IPL team a blatant case of corruption and demanded that
the prime minister sack Tharoor from the government and order
a CBI probe into the entire nature of transaction involving
Dubbing it as a "copy book case of corruption", BJP chief
spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad said "the prime minister must
"From twitter to corruption is the migration of this
enfant terrible of the Congress party," he said.
As the row escalated, External Affairs Minister S
M Krishna met Congress President Sonia Gandhi.
Krishna drove past waiting newsmen without answering
any question from them outside Gandhi's residence. It was not
known as to what figured in the discussion between the
Minister and Gandhi.
Congress MP Rajeev Shukla, who is also Vice President
of the BCCI, also had a meeting with Gandhi. Shukla, however
said he did not discuss the Tharoor issue with the Congress
"This issue was not discussed with her," Shukla said
after meeting Gandhi.
(With PTI inputs)
First Published: Wednesday, April 14, 2010, 08:36