The Minister of State for External Affairs, Shashi Tharoor, seems to have won a reprieve — at least for the time being --- after giving his version of the IPL controversy to Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Thursday.
Gandhi's brief audience to Tharoor for the first time since the controversy erupted came ahead of the BJP and Left's move to raise the issue during Zero Hour on Friday. The Opposition has accused him of misusing his ministerial position to help his friend Sunanda Pushkar get "free" equity amounting to Rs 70 crore in the IPL Kochi franchise --- a charge Tharoor has rejected.
Party sources said that Tharoor got a respite as the issue has taken on a BJP vs Congress dimension in view of reports that Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi were trying to take the Kochi bid away to Ahmedabad.
"How can we take any action when the BJP will get the advantage and put us in a tight spot? If Tharoor is removed now it will send a wrong signal. But if any linkage, for instance of pecuniary benefit, is established, he will have to go. He is innocent only till proved guilty," said a party leader on condition of anonymity.
He added: "Though there is a view that Tharoor be dropped when the reshuffle happens, his continuation would depend on the top leadership."
While raising the issue on Friday, the BJP, the Left and the Samajwadi Party would seek an explanation from the government and demand the resignation of the minister who they charge of violating the Anti-corruption Act. The Left is expected to call for a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the funding of IPL franchisees. There is no word yet, but the Opposition could spring a surprise by giving notice for an adjournment motion.
The Congress and the government have distanced themselves from the controversy but without abandoning the minister. If the issue comes up, the minister would exercise his right to reply and make a personal statement on the issue in the House.
On Thursday, Tharoor spent time with senior leader Pranab Mukherjee reportedly to go through the personal statement he would make before the House.