IPL row: Cong leaves Tharoor to bat alone
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Last Updated: Wednesday, April 14, 2010, 08:36
Zeenews Bureau

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 involving Sunanda.

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 other city.

"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 had enough."

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 Sunanda.

Dubbing it as a "copy book case of corruption", BJP chief spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad said "the prime minister must sack Tharoor."

"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 President.

"This issue was not discussed with her," Shukla said after meeting Gandhi.

(With PTI inputs)

First Published: Wednesday, April 14, 2010, 08:36

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