The silence of the Congress on l'affaire Shashi Tharoor on Wednesday was eloquent. It signaled the party would not go out of its way to defend the controversial minister of state for external affairs currently caught in the Kochi franchise versus Indian Premier League Chairman Lalit Modi controversy.
Tharoor was pretty much on his own.
On Tuesday Congress spokes-man Shakeel Ahmed had been dismissive of the BJP demand for Tharoor's dismissal. On Wednesday, spokesman Abhi-shek Singhvi refused to discuss Tharoor at all.
Congress sources indicated that after two rounds of meetings of senior leaders — which were held to discuss strategy with Parliament reconvening on Friday, but took up the Tharoor issue too — it was decided Tharoor should fend for himself. If it emerged he was indeed guilty of impropriety, the party's image should not suffer as a result.
The action to be taken against Tharoor, if any, will be decided after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh returns from his tour of the US and Brazil on April 17.
Tharoor himself is ready to explain his position to Singh.
"I have sought an appointment with the Prime Minister and would also like to put all facts my party president," he told a news channel.
In Washington, Singh implied he could take action if it was warranted. "When I go back, I will get all the facts, and in light of those, if any action is necessary, I think that would be the proper way to proceed," he said.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee called Tharoor late Wednesday night to discuss how to counter the opposition attack if the issue is raised — as it almost certainly will be — in Parliament.
On Wednesday, the Left joined the BJP in demanding Tharoor's resignation. It was "highly inappropriate" for a union minister to be involved in "murky dealings" in connection with the IPL, a CPI(M) statement said. But Tharoor categorically ruled out stepping down.
"I am not going to resign. I have not done anything wrong. Resigning would mean I have given up," he said.
Adding a new dimension, Jacob Joseph, Officer on Special Duty with Tharoor, alleged in a message to television channels that the henchmen of Karachi-based underworld don Dawood Ibrahim had threatened Tharoor to stay out of IPL Kochi team or face death.
However, both MHA and police have said they have not received any such information.