New Delhi: Shashi Tharoor resigned Sunday night, 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 franchise, capping a week-long drama that threatened to suck the government and the party into it.
54-year old Tharoor, a newcomer to politics from international diplomacy, was summoned by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to his residence late Sunday night 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 forwarded his resignation letter to the President with a recommendation that it be accepted,” PMO spokesman said tonight.
According to Rashtrapati Bhavan spokesperson, “The President on the recommendation of the Prime Minister accepted the resignation of Shashi Tharoor, MoS in MEA from the council of ministers with immediate effect.”
Also Read | Tharoor’s stint dogged by controversies
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.
Tharoor talking to the media at Parliament House in New Delhi on Friday. PTI
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 Rs70 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.
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 Rs70 crore to Pushkar by the IPL Kochi franchise.
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 ministry.
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 Core Group is also believed to have discussed the damage wrought by the controversy to the government and the party and that a decision should be taken in a way the party could face Parliament.
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 not sacked.