New Delhi: Caught in a storm over his role in Kochi IPL franchise, Shashi Tharoor was summoned by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, even as the former dug his heels saying he would not quit office on the matter.
The opposition cornered Congress on the Tharoor issue on Thursday and the minister will make his statement over the IPL Kochi row at 1 PM later in the day.
Pranab summoned Tharoor after a Congress meeting in the evening which was presided by Sonia Gandhi mulled over the party’s strategy for the Budget session of Parliament that re-opens on Thursday. UPA is set to face its worst test of strength as the Opposition has asked for Tharoor’s head on the issue.
Defence Minister AK Antony was also present at the meeting. Sources said Tharoor explained his version of the issue to the two leaders who further mulled over the matter after he left.
Tharoor, has however, refused to quit.
"If I had done anything wrong, I would have resigned. To resign because people have chosen to deliberately misrepresent you or misperceive you means that you are giving more importance to other people`s perception than to your own character and your own integrity. I am not going to resign," Tharoor said.
Tharoor asserted in his interview telecast live on the channel that the charges were motivated by political and business interests.
"In fact, the fact of the matter is I have done nothing wrong. I stand with my head held high," he added.
Tharoor said that he will brief both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi on the matter.
Tharoor added that his involvement with the IPL team had nothing whatsoever to do with Sunanda Pushkar, who has a stake in the company that is a co-owner of IPL Kochi franchise, and with whom he has only been "recently close".
Allegations flew thick and fast during another day of
high drama which included a claim by Tharoor`s personal staff
that he had received a threatening call from Dawood Ibrahim
gang asking him to drop out of Kochi team. In the end it
turned out that the call had been made from Delhi for which
one person was detained tonight.
Tharoor`s friend Sunanda Pushkar, who is getting sweat
equity worth about Rs 70 crore from the Kochi franchisee which
has touched off the controversy, broke her silence and lashed
out at the media for "haunting" the minister and reducing her
to a "caricature".
Amid mounting pressure from the Opposition, mainly the
BJP and Left parties, that Tharoor should resign, the Minister
said, "I am not going to resign. Obviously I am not
going to be an embarrassment to the party. These are false
and motivated charges levelled by business interests of some
As a fresh controversy exploded in the government`s
face, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh indicated to reporters in
Washington that he could take action if warranted.
"I have heard about these things (allegations against
Tharoor. I do not not have all the facts before me. When I
go back (on Satuday), I will get all the facts and in the
light of those, if any action is necessary, I think that would
be the proper way to proceed," he said.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and the Communist Party of India (CPI) echoed the Bharatiya Janata Party`s (BJP) demand that Tharoor be thrown out of the Manmohan Singh ministry.
The BJP went even further, asking for the prime minister to sack Tharoor, without waiting for evidence.
"Everything is now in the public domain. By abusing his ministerial position and authority, Tharoor ensured that his friend Sunanda Pushkar is richer by Rs.70-75 crore without investing anything," BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters here.
IPL commissioner Modi stuck to his position, saying there was a question mark over the ownership of Kerala team.
"Tharoor called me and asked me to keep the identity of Sunanda Pushkar under wraps. The conversation with Tharoor is minuted," he said.
He also dismissed reports that he had offered money to the consortium to not bid for the Kerala team. "I never made a $50 million dollar bribe," said Modi.