The former Minister of State for External Affairs, Shashi Tharoor, on Tuesday said his decision to quit the Cabinet was “in the high moral traditions of our democratic system and in keeping with the standards” all would wish to uphold in the nation's public life.
“Today marks a new beginning for me,” he added.
The Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram — who resigned on Sunday night following the Indian Premier League Kochi franchise controversy — told the Lok Sabha that he had “no desire to be an embarrassment” to the government, and believed that his departure at this stage would allow Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Cabinet colleagues to focus on the great challenges facing the nation.
Mr. Tharoor said he was deeply wounded by the “fanciful and malicious charges” against him and had requested Dr. Singh to thoroughly probe them.
“I have led an unblemished life of personal integrity and probity, and it is important to me that my name is cleared,” he said.
Reiterating that his “conscience is clear,” Mr. Tharoor said he had “done nothing improper or unethical, let alone illegal.”
The former Under Secretary-General of the United Nations, who kept getting caught in one controversy or the other since the UPA-II government assumed office last year, said he was new to Indian politics but had a long record of public service, “unblemished by the slightest taint of financial irregularity.”
He said that after his long stint abroad, he returned to India because he believed in “an India of honesty and hard work, not of corruption and malfeasance…an India of openness and straightforwardness, not of hypocrisy and double-dealing.”
Some Opposition members booed him and made sarcastic remarks when Speaker Meira Kumar called Mr. Tharoor to make a statement under rule 199 to explain his reasons for quitting, but began listening to him along with the Treasury benches when he started reading.
Notably, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi were absent in the House.
Clad in a white kurta-dhoti with a Congress brand angavasthram around his neck, Mr. Tharoor quoted Malayalam poet Vallathol: “When you hear the name of India, your heart must swell with pride; when you hear the name of Kerala, the blood must throb in your veins.” Mr. Tharoor said: “My heart swells with pride for India, and Keralite blood throbs in my veins.”
He said Kerala was a trailblazer for India's progress. “Its ethos, with cultural unity amidst religious diversity, high educational standards and respect for democracy, commitment to the empowerment of women and the well-being of the poor, embody the best of India.”
Mr. Tharoor paid rich encomiums to Dr. Singh and Ms. Gandhi, saying that they were “two of the finest public servants our country has ever had,” and that “the country is in good hands.”