Pandemonium in Parliament over IPL row
Saturday, 17 April 2010
Delhi: Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor yesterday said he had not misused his position to influence the IPL Kochi franchise but found few takers in the opposition that continued to bay for his resignation while the clouds of suspicion over the cricket extravaganza darkened.
It was the combustible mix of Tharoor, cricket and money that stalled both houses of Parliament, which were finally adjourned till Monday. If Thursday was devoted to protests about the Maoist massacre in Chhattisgarh, yesterday was Tharoor’s day.
With only a day to go before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh returns from his weeklong trip to the US and Brazil to decide on his political future, Tharoor pleaded innocence to allegations that he was linked to the Kochi franchise through his friend Sunanda Pushkar, a shareholder who received free equity.
He tried to read his statement in the Lok Sabha but the clamour for his resignation drowned him out. He could just lay his statement on the table.
“The allegations against me which have been seized upon by honourable members of the opposition are baseless, ill-founded and ill-motivated,” Tharoor said in the statement.
“No misuse of my official position was involved,” he said, adding that his role in mentoring the Kerala consortium was “throughout within the bounds of appropriate conduct...”
The former high ranking UN bureaucrat said the suggestion that he had “indirectly received personal benefits from this enterprise because the Rendezvous management team, who hold stakes in the venture, includes a close friend of mine... is particularly wounding.
“I have had a three-decade career in international public service that has never been sullied by the slightest taint of financial wrongdoing.” The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was unimpressed.
Threatening to disrupt parliament on Monday as well, party spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said the prime minister “must explain why Tharoor has not resigned so far”. While the political waters got murkier, the tax administration, which paid a visit to the Mumbai offices of the Indian Premier League (IPL) on Thursday night in a bid to probe the source of the money, proposed similar investigation in other cities to ascertain the source of funds of the various franchises.
“This will be an ongoing process...,” a top official in the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) said in New Delhi after the nightlong examination of documents and records related to the IPL and its commissioner Lalit Modi, who was questioned for
over seven hours.
According to top officials here, the operation in Mumbai was primarily to establish that the source of money involved in the cricketing extravaganza was “clean” with no loss to the exchequer on account of evasion.
Officials said their main concern was black money abroad and tax evasion. They added that just as they try to prevent such ill-gotten funds from going out the country, they also try to probe if it is channelled back into India illegally.
Who are the people behind the multimillion dollar IPL franchise? The question gained more urgency after the franchise for the Kochi team was won in an auction last month by Rendezvous Sports for over $330m.
Along with the Sahara group, which bagged the franchise for the Pune team, the Kochi team is scheduled to join the eight other teams from the next edition of the cricket tournament.
The man at the centre of it all, IPL czar Lalit Modi told reporters in Dharamsala where he landed for an IPL match: “The IPL matches would continue and we would provide each and every information that is required by the government.”
He told a television channel: “We have a promise to the stakeholders, owners, broadcasters and fans and we will not allow that to be derailed under any circumstances.” As the details of the exciting mix of cricket, politics and entertainment unravelled, bit by bit quite like an onion, cricket fans were, however, more focused on Kings XI Punjab vs Deccan Chargers in Dharamsala.