New Delhi: Capping a week-long drama that threatened to suck the government and the Congress party into it, Shashi Tharoor on Sunday night resigned as Minister of State for External Affairs after the high-level Congress Core Group decided that he should quit in the wake of
controversy over the IPL Kochi franchisee.
54-year old Tharoor, a newcomer to politics from
international diplomacy, was summoned by Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh to his residence late tonight and asked to
tender his resignation.
"Shashi Tharoor, Minister of State for External Affairs
has submitted his resignation from the Council of Ministers to
the Prime Minister today. The Prime Minister has forwarded his
resignation letter to the President with a recommendation that
it be accepted," PMO spokesman said tonight.
Tharoor, a writer and a former Under Secretary General
in the United Nations, earns the dubious distinction of
becoming the first minister in the UPA-II to go under the
cloud of corruption charges.
Singh, who met Gandhi one-on-one before the Core Group
discussions, consulted her again before recommending the
resignation to the President.
Tharoor`s meeting with the Prime Minister in the night
was the second during the day. He met him at noon to explain
his side of the story.
Indications that he was on his way out came when
Tharoor went to the Prime Minister`s residence at night in a
private car without the beacon light. Throughout the day, he
avoided the media.
The Core Group meeting discussed continuance of the
minister in the wake of the controversy over allotment of
sweat equity of the value of Rs 70 crore to Pushkar by the IPL
First Gandhi met Singh one-on-one before the Core
Group discussions. Tharoor, whose removal has been demanded
by the Opposition on grounds of corruption, had met Singh at
noon to give his side of the story.
The decision came a day after the Prime Minister
returned from his eight-day visit to the US and Brazil where
he had said that he would take necessary action after getting
all facts of the controversy.
Tharoor made an attempt to clear his name by denying the
allegations that he had any role in getting equity stakes for
Pushkar. He also made a statement in Parliament but opposition
would have none of it.
That the Congress also was not convinced with his
explanation finally forced his exit. In the last two days,
Tharoor had met Sonia Gandhi and Finance Minister Pranab
Mukherjee and Defence Minister A K Antony separately in a bid
to convince them about his innocence.
The Congress leaders are understood to have given their
views at the Core Group meeting that sealed his fate in the
Party sources said Gandhi was unhappy over the entire
development and leaders felt that Pushkar`s offer to return
the sweat equity amounted to admission of guilt.
The continuance of Tharoor, a first time MP from
Thiruvananthapuram who courted controversies throughout his
11-month stint, became untenable in the government ever since
the IPL controversy exploded.
He got into serious problems after IPL Commissioner Lalit
Modi revealed that Tharoor`s friend Sunanda Pushkar had equity
stakes in Rendezvous Sports World (RSW), heading the
consortium that owns the Kochi team.
It was later disclosed that Pushkar got sweat equity of
the value of Rs 70 crore RSW following which the opposition
has been gunning for his removal on the ground that it was
misuse of office for pecuniary gain.
That Pushkar today offered to surrender the sweat equity
and to quit RSW failed to convince the Congress top brass
which met at the residence of the Prime Minister in the
evening to finalise its strategy before Parliament resumes
tomorrow after the week-end.
BJP, Communists sought resignation
The issue has turned out to be an explosive crisis for the government with the BJP and Communist parties charging the beleaguered Tharoor with corruption.
The BJP today, meanwhile, charged the beleaguered Tharoor with corruption, saying Pushkar`s action to surrender her stake was an admission of guilt.
"The surrounding suspicious circumstances outline that he (Tharoor) abused his authority for undue enrichment for his friend (Pushkar)," BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
Prasad alleged that Pushkar was a front for Tharoor in the IPL deal. "He (Tharoor) is the beneficiary, and that is why in haste all these laws were violated and sweat equity was issued (to her)."
The BJP threatened to stall Parliament Monday if the government didn`t sack Tharoor.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) was also not impressed although Pushkar surrendered her stake. Its leader Nilotpal Basu said the Left parties wanted Tharoor to quit. Pushkar`s surrender of her stake doesn`t help, Basu said. "If Pushkar had done no wrong, as she has claimed, why should she give up her stake?"
Communist Party of India`s D. Raja said in similar vein: "If there was nothing murky, why did Sunanda (Pushkar) surrender?"
It may be noted that Parliament was paralysed on Friday with the opposition demanding his resignation. It had also given enough hints
that it would continue to rock Parliament on the issue if
Tharoor was not sacked.
Opposition hails resignation
Opposition tonight hailed Shashi
Tharoor`s resignation as Union Minister saying his position
had become "untenable" in the wake of the Kochi IPL ownership
"Tharoor`s position had become untenable and it was only
appropriate that he resigned. There was so much evidence
against him. The lady giving back her equity does not absolve
him of the charges," said BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman.
CPI leader D Raja said that the exit of Tharoor became
inevitable and Congress should have taken a decision long back
when the controversy exploded.
Since there were serious allegations of Tharoor`s
involvement in the Kochi IPL franchise, his continuance in the
government became untenable. The reported decision of Sunanda
Pushkar surrendering her stake is itself "an admission of
guilt", he said.
The entire IPL functioning and its accountability
needed to be probed and the role of of this sports ministry
will have to be redefined so that a regulator is created to
monitor, Raja demanded.
Congress Spokesperson Jayanti Natarajan said the
government has taken the "correct moral stand".
"Congress has nothing to do with the IPL. It was an issue
of an individual minister. The Party has acted with utmost
restraint. It went through a very decent process by which it
collected facts and a final view was taken by the Prime
Minister," she said.