New Delhi: In a sign of growing pressure to clear his name in the controversy surrounding the ownership of the Kochi Indian Premier League (IPL) team, minister of state for external affairs Shashi Tharoor has reached out to Congress party president Sonia Gandhi.
The development comes as a section of the party is seeking Tharoor’s removal as minister. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave no signal of any such move.
Facing flak: Shashi Tharoor. Rajkumar / Mint
“I have heard about these things (allegations against Tharoor). I do not have all the facts before me. When I go back (on Saturday), 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,” Singh said when asked about the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) demand for the minister’s removal.
“I cannot go by hearsay or what is appearing in the various columns of the newspapers,” he told a press conference in Washington, where he was attending the Nuclear Security Summit.
Although top Congress leaders met at Gandhi’s residence on Wednesday evening, there was no official confirmation that the IPL controversy came up.
According to Congress leaders familiar with the developments, Tharoor has written to party president Gandhi explaining his position. Tharoor’s office denied this.
Mounting pressure on the government, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, joined the BJP in demanding Tharoor’s resignation, pointing out that his involvement has “raised a number of questions”.
In a statement, the CPM said: “The IPL is not just a sporting event, but is a big business enterprise in which big money is involved. It is highly inappropriate for a minister in the Union government to be involved in such murky dealings. It is incumbent upon Tharoor to step down from office till his name is cleared of any unethical or irregular behaviour.”
After initially rejecting BJP’s demand to sack Tharoor, the Congress distanced itself from the scandal, saying the association was personal.
A senior Congress leader, who did not want to be identified, said that there has been “tremendous pressure” on both Gandhi and the Prime Minister to take a stand on the issue as Tharoor had been involved in “controversies after controversies”.
These include his reference to travelling by “cattle class” when the party launched an austerity drive and comments that Saudi Arabia could play the role of an “interlocutor” between India and Pakistan.
The BJP on Tuesday demanded that the Prime Minister sack Tharoor and order a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) inquiry into his alleged “misuse” of authority for “securing” the investment of his friend Sunanda Pushkar in the team.
In a statement issued to news agency IANS, Pushkar, who denied being a proxy for Tharoor, said: “Because this (Rendezvous) is a start-up effort, I was told that in lieu of a salary they would grant me minor equity in Rendezvous in return for my efforts.”
Meanwhile, Jacob Joseph, officer on special duty with Tharoor, said the minister received death threats asking him to drop out of the Kochi IPL team.
According to a PTI report, both the ministry of home affairs and the police said they have not received any information on this.
PTI contributed to this story.