Shashi Tharoor on Friday rejected Opposition demands for his resignation as Minister of State for External Affairs by asserting that the allegations against him on the IPL issue were “baseless, ill-founded and ill-motivated“.
“The real motive behind the public controversy that has been created around me is to make the Kochi team unviable and to assign this IPL franchise to elsewhere than Kerala,” he said in a statement tabled in the Lok Sabha amid opposition demand for his sacking.
The opposition members stormed the well and were in no mood to listen to the minister. They demanded his immediate removal which prompted Speaker Meira Kumar to order Mr. Tharoor to lay the statement he was reading out.
Seeking to mount an attack on IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi, with whom he is involved in a spat over the ownership of the Kochi IPL team, Mr. Tharoor said “the game and the benefits accruing from it should not be retained only by an influential coterie with interests in a few privileged centres“.
He said it was essential in democracy that institutions of interest to the general public are “run openly, rather than restricting their opportunities to a favoured few“.
No misuse of official position
Mr. Tharoor rejected allegations that he had misused his official position.
“No misuse of my official position was involved. The issue has nothing to do with my ministry. As a minister, I was in no position to influence the bid process, let alone its outcome,” he said.
The Lok Sabha witnessed two adjournments following opposition uproar on the issue while the Rajya Sabha was adjourned for the day after one adjournment in the morning.
“I have neither invested nor received a rupee for my mentorship of the team,” Mr. Tharoor said.
Apparently referring to reports about his friendship with one of the Kochi stakeholders, marketing professional Sunanda Pushkar, he said, “Irrespective of my personal relationships with any of the consortium members, I have not benefitted, and do not intend to benefit, in any way financially from my association with the team now or at a later stage.”
He said the “unethical efforts” that have been made to thwart the Kerala franchise were “disgraceful“.
They were also “dangerous to the health and credibility of a sport that has captured the passions and the loyalty of a majority of Indians. Indeed, such behaviour brings the IPL itself into disrepute”, he said.
Referring to suggestions that he had “indirectly received personal benefits from this enterprise”, Mr. Tharoor asserted that this allegation was “particularly wounding because I have had a three-decade career in international public service that has never been sullied by the slightest taint of financial wrongdoing.
“Those who know me are aware that money has never been a motivating factor for me in any of my actions or decisions.”
“I trust I have clarified my position to the satisfaction of this august House,” Mr. Tharoor said.
Rejecting opposition allegations that he misused his office, Mr. Tharoor said, “indeed my ministerial position was altogether irrelevant to the bid and so could not have been used or misused to ensure its success.”
Leader of the Lok Sabha Pranab Mukherjee was present in the House along with several other ministers but Congress President Sonia Gandhi and party leader Rahul Gandhi were absent.
Earlier in the day, Ms. Sonia Gandhi met senior party leaders and is understood to have discussed the Tharoor issue.
Mr. Tharoor met Mr. Mukherjee twice in the day before making a statement in the Lok Sabha.
Later, Mr. Tharoor read out the statement to reporters at Parliament House but refused to take any questions.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister P K Bansal said that the opposition attitude in the House was against the principles of democratic norms.
He said Tharoor was a member of the Lok Sabha and part of the government and had made the statement as per the rules and procedures of Parliament.
Mr. Bansal said the opposition should have allowed the Question Hour to go on after getting an assurance from the government that Tharoor would make a statement after 12 noon.
Rajya Sabha adjourned till Monday
The Rajya Sabha was adjourned till Monday with angry opposition MPs, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), creating a furore demanding a discussion on the IPL row involving Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor.
The upper house of parliament will reconvene at 11 a.m. Monday.
The problem started Friday as soon as the house assembled at 11 a.m. and BJP members, S.S. Ahluwalia and Ravi Shankar Prasad, were on their feet demanding a debate on the issue. They were joined by MPs from the Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and Asom Gana Parishad (AGP). The house was adjourned till noon.
But the din continued when the house reassembled. Amid the din, Deputy Chairman K. Rahman Khan called for the official papers to be laid in the house.
As opposition members continued to raise procedural issues, Home Minister P. Chidambaram stood up to read two paras from a statement laid by Tharoor in the Lok Sabha.
In spite of an appeal to members to allow the house to function, the din continued and the Rajya Sabha was adjourned till Monday.