The Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday charged Union Minister of State Shashi Tharoor with having abused his office to obtain a pecuniary advantage in pushing the Kochi franchise for the Indian Premier League, while the Congress changed its earlier stand to say Mr. Tharoor himself should explain.

BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad demanded here that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh take note of the scandal and “sack” Mr. Tharoor, who should not continue in the government for a moment more. A CBI inquiry must be ordered. This was a “copybook case of corruption” as Section 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act clearly defined criminal conduct as one misusing public office to a obtain pecuniary advantage for oneself “or any other person.” In this instance, the other person, Sunanda Pushkar, was an acknowledged friend of Mr. Tharoor, Mr. Prasad said.

On Tuesday afternoon, Congress spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed put up some sort of a defence, pointing out that no one could find fault with Mr. Tharoor for taking interest in bringing an IPL team to Kochi. He described the demand for the Minister's resignation or “sacking” as “absurd.” However, by evening, his senior colleague Janardan Dwivedi took the line that it was for Mr. Tharoor to “explain” the entire matter. The party had nothing to do with the controversy.

The Congress adopted a “wait and watch” policy as senior partymen looked for signals from the high command. They said the matter was sure to explode as a number of high ranking politicians were involved with the IPL. Privately, they also said that while Mr. Tharoor's earlier “tweets” could be explained away as slips of the tongue, this controversy was far more serious. Doubts were being expressed whether he would be able to get out of it. While Mr. Prasad was aggressive in his demand for an inquiry, he objected to any “fishing or roving” probe into the entire gamut of IPL affairs that would reveal the stake-holding pattern in the IPL teams from Kolkata, Rajasthan, Punjab or Chennai.

Mr. Prasad said the BCCI and the IPL were private bodies and there was no need for a broad inquiry into their business affairs. However, if a full probe into the IPL affairs were to be ordered, “we will not object.”

Mr. Prasad admitted that many leaders of the BJP were involved in cricket and the IPL as were leaders from other parties. Asked whether he favoured the BCCI coming under the Right to Information Act, his response was, “Why not? This is a suggestion.”

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