New Delhi: Union minister Shashi Tharoor, locked in a fresh controversy around the Kochi IPL team which he helped set up, on Tuesday hit back at IPL boss Lalit Modi alleging he had made attempts to pressure the winning consortium to abandon their bid for the Kerala outfit.
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.
In a statement, the minister of state for external affairs 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.
Voicing his displeasure at the turn of events which saw him pitted against Lalit Modi, Tharoor also tweeted, “I have had enough.”
“Rendezvous includes a number of people including many I have never met, and Sunanda Pushkar, whom I know well,” he said. Tharoor is reportedly planning to marry Sunanda. Rendezvous bought the franchise for the IPL Kochi team for $333 million.
In his tweet on Monday, Modi had not only publicly disclosed the names of the owners of the consortium that bought the franchisee but had also alleged that he was told by Tharoor not to ask who these shareholders were.
Tharoor said he was issuing the statement in a personal capacity to respond to the allegations made against him personally.
He said Rendezvous bid successfully in an open and transparent process. “Their unexpected success upset the plans of a lot of powerful people, who had wanted the franchise to go elsewhere,” he added.
“Mr Modi raised assorted objections to the bid documents but finally had no choice but to approve them, ” he said.
Tharoor alleged that Modi’s extraordinary breach of all propriety in publi cly raising issues relating to the composition of the consortium and himself personally is clearly an attempt to discredit the team and create reasons to disqualify it so that the franchise can be awarded elsewhere.
The minister also emphatically said he did not intend to benefit in any way financially from his association with the Kochi team now or at a later stage.
“My role in mentoring the consortium included several conversations with Lalit Modi, who guided us through the process and presented himself as a trusted friend,” he said.
A consortium led by Rendezvous was set up to bid for an IPL team, he said, adding, they approached him for help and guidance. “I steered them towards Kerala”.
Tharoor said contemptible efforts have been made to drag in matters of personal life which “I do not intend to dignify by commenting on them.”
The minister said he called Modi to ask why he was further delaying the approval of the franchise when all the legal requirements had been fulfilled.
“Mr Modi had held up approval by the IPL of the franchisee agreement earlier in the day, by insisting on the reversal of a change in the document that he himself had earlier suggested.
This change was made, the consortium members flew to Bangalore and met with Mr Modi after that night’s IPL game for what they had been told would be a routine exercise.
Instead they were submitted to a barrage of questions which led some to suspect that Mr Modi was seeking a further excuse to delay approval. This was the reason for my intervention with Mr Modi. Had he conducted himself in good faith throughout, no call would have been necessary.”
On the question of his interests in the franchise, Tharoor said he was proud to have helped the consortium come to Kerala.
“I have neither invested nor received a rupee for my mentorship of the team. Whatever my personal relationships with any of the consortium members,” he added.
The “unethical” efforts that have been made by Modi and others to thwart the Kerala franchise which had been won fair and square in a transparent bidding process are disgraceful, he said.
“It has been clear for some time that the real motive is to assign this IPL team elsewhere than Kerala. All of us in Kerala hope that the BCCI will not permit statements and activities which seek to discredit the Kerala team before it has even had a chance to prove its worth. The public attempts by Mr Modi to besmirch the consortium in fact bring the IPL itself into disrepute,” he said.