A Molotov cocktail of cricket and politics on Tuesday threatened to explode the underbelly of the multi-billion rupee Indian Premier League, with the battle lines drawn between Union Minister of State Shashi Tharoor and IPL commissioner Lalit Modi.
After allegations surfaced that the Kerala team mentor, Mr. Tharoor's acknowledged friend Sunanda Pushkar received a “free” equity of the Kochi team of the IPL worth about Rs. 70 crore, the BJP jumped into the arena, demanding that Mr. Tharoor be sacked as it was a “copybook case of corruption.” Party spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad sought a CBI probe.
While the issue has been taken to court, the Congress seemed to be caught off guard, changing its stance from the defensive to cautious, aware of the start of the second part of the budget session in a couple of days.
Initially, its defence was limited to the legitimacy of Mr. Tharoor helping Kerala get an IPL team. But by evening, the party adopted a hands-off attitude, saying it was for Mr. Tharoor to “explain himself.”
In the morning, Board of Control for Cricket in India spokesperson Rajiv Shukla and External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna met Congress president Sonia Gandhi. Mr. Shukla said the Tharoor matter was not discussed.
Mr. Tharoor, meanwhile, took on Mr. Modi, charging him with wanting to cancel the Kerala IPL to take it elsewhere and committing an “extraordinary breach of propriety” by disclosing confidential information on the Kerala consortium's composition.
Simultaneously, Mr. Shukla said BCCI president Shashank Manohar decided to call a meeting of the IPL governing council within 10 days. Mr. Manohar charged Mr. Modi with “unbecoming” conduct as he had raised serious issues on Twitter, rather than discussing them at a meeting of the governing council.
Vivek Venugopal, co-owner, Kochi IPL franchise, demanded that shareholdings of consortiums that have stakes in Punjab Kings XI, Kolkata Knight Riders and Rajasthan Royals be disclosed.