New Delhi/Mumbai: IPL controversy on Friday returned to haunt Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar and his Parliamentarian daughter Supriya Sule storm over a bid for the IPL Pune team by a company in which they had direct shareholding as BJP targeted him and demanded his resignation.
The two, who are members of Lok Sabha from Madha and Baramati in Maharashtra, were back at the centre of a fresh storm over a newspaper report that it held over 16 per cent equity in City Corporation, a Pune-based construction company which bid Rs.1,176 crore for a franchise in March.
They dismissed suggestions that they were lacking in transparency by not not disclosing details of their interest in the company six weeks ago when the IPL controversy raged. Both of them maintained that there was no necessity felt for doing so at that time.
“I have stated earlier also that neither I nor any of my family members were involved in any IPL team or the bidding process and I reiterate that statement,” Pawar said reacting to reports that he, his wife and daughter held 16 per cent shares in the City Corporation.
The former BCCI President insisted that the company’s Managing Director Aniruddha Deshpande made the bid in his individual capacity though the bid was made in the name of the company.
“The board took a unanimous decision not (to get) involved. (But) the managing director was eager to get associated with the bidding process, so he was allowed in his individual capacity.
“In (the Board’s) resolution, it was made absolutely clear that there is no direct or indirect involvement of any shareholder other then Mr Deshpande personally,” Pawar said.
Sule also took a similar line saying they had nothing to do with Deshpande’s bid for the Pune IPL team, which eventually lost out to the Sahara Group.
She released a letter purportedly written by City Corporation Director Arun Mehta’s letter to its MD Aniruddha Deshpande which said that if any associates or directors wished to bid for the IPL team they should do so in their personal capacity.
Deshpande made a statement that neither Pawar nor his family members were involved in the failed bid and that he had acted in his individual capacity. Former IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi also sprang to Pawar’s defence and said there was no truth in reports that he had any role in the bid.
However, the BJP was not prepared to buy any of these explanations. Its spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad accused Pawar of “misleading” the nation by “misrepresenting facts” on the issue and demanded his immediate resignation.
“If he does not do so we will demand that Prime Minister should take stern action against Pawar,” Prasad told a press conference at his party office. He also demanded a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe into the IPL affairs.
The BJP leader said Singh should not merely speak about “good governance, probity and fairness” but actually implement these benchmarks.
Pawar’s ally, Congress, however, refused to comment on the controversy. On BJP’s demand, Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said “Do you expect Opposition to demand anything else.”
Sule told reporters in Mumbai that “We are a minority shareholder in the company and we don’t sit on the board. Now if people (Deshpande) have gone in without the permission of the board, how am I involved?
“The board had passed a resolution not to bid and if Mr Deshpande still wants to go ahead, he should do it in his individual capacity. We have nothing to do with that,” she said.
“We have the documents to prove that the board did not approve of any bid,” she added.
Asked why no one from the Pawar family revealed anything about the bid earlier, Sule said, “See, we were just not interested in the bid and the company itself was against it. We have documents to prove it.
“What an individual does is none of our business. We have so much to worry about our constituencies, how much time we really have for these things?” she asked.
Sule said if Pawar wanted, he could have bought an IPL franchise when the Twenty20 league started in 2008.
“Remember Mr Pawar was the BCCI President when IPL started and if he wanted, he could easily have got a team in the first season itself, and that too much cheaper than some are paying now. It was just that we were not interested in it,” Sule said.
She also dismissed suggestions that Deshpande was used as a proxy in the bidding process.
“There is nothing illegal in bidding for an IPL team but why would the board object to Deshpande’s bidding if they really wanted to get a team?” she asked.
Pawar also rubbished suggestions of any underhand dealing in the bidding process, saying if he had used his influence, the company wouldn’t have lost to Sahara.
“I was somebody in that organisation. Had I used any influence, do you think it would have lost the bid?” he asked.
Pawar reiterated that the IPL is clean and there is nothing murky about the ownership patterns and financial transactions in the league.
Even at the height of the IPL controversy in April that saw the exit of Shashi Tharoor from the Union Government, allegations were levelled that Pawar, Sule and their near relatives held stakes in a company that bid for one of the new teams. They had then strongly denied the allegations.