New Delhi, April 14 (ANI): Breaking silence over the ongoing controversy about his alleged links with the Kochi IPL team and the Opposition's demand for his resignation as a minister, Shashi Tharoor, the Minister of State for External Affairs, on Wednesday said that he has done nothing wrong and stands his head held high.
The minister has been accused first by IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi and by the BJP and Left of inappropriate links to the Kochi IPL team bought last month for Rs. 1530 crores.
Tharoor, in an interview with NDTV, talked about a host of issues that have been linked to him and turned into controversy by various quarters.
"I have done nothing wrong, I stand with my head held high," Tharoor said.
"I'm still reeling...I've spent a lifetime in international public life without the slightest taint on my integrity... It's the one thing I never thought anybody would have any excuse to say against me," Tharoor stated.
About his role in the Kochi IPL team, Tharoor explained that he "wanted to see cricket coming to life in Kerala" and: "As an elected representative of my State, I said let me try and help get an IPL team to my State. I've mentored a group of business people of which I am not a part..and they have participated in a fair and transparent manner."
Asked about charges of quid pro quo-that he used his ministerial office to lobby for the team that won the bid and that in return, his close friend, Sunanda Pushkar was rewarded with a gift of Rs. 70 crores in equity, Tharoor said: "How on earth can any minister use influence to get an outcome guaranteed from a closed process? I didn't even know the amount this team was going to pay... there were 5 bidders after all...no minister can guarantee the numbers of the other bidders. How could I use my ministerial power to guarantee the outcome?"
Referring to Pushkar, he said, "Our media cannot accept an attractive woman as a serious business professional."
He added: "She is one of several people in the consortium. She is a senior business professional who has worked in brand management. I'm not a part of this business arrangement but this is sweat equity...she has to earn it. Right now, nobody is making any money...there may be profits later."
Tharoor stressed his "involvement has nothing whatsoever to do with her."
Tharoor said that he is "recently close to Pushkar...only recently...but close."
On charges of Sunanda being a proxy for Tharoor, he said: "That means I'm really dumb. If I wanted to be corrupt then would I do it like this." And added that it was: "Insulting to say an attractive woman can't be a successful businesswoman."
Tharoor said that the Rendezvous Sports World, which is the main owner of the team, told him that they were under considerable pressure from Modi to walk away.
Meanwhile, in another interview to NDTV, the CEO of the consortium, Shailendar Gaekwad, said that Modi offered the group 50 million dollars to sell the team.
Tharoor described this " as a closed shop was operating and they breached this by winning (the bid)."
He also said that Modi's version that Tharoor called him to ask that he not disclose the real ownership of the team including Pushkar's, was incorrect.
Tharoor said that in fact, he called Modi to ask why the process of transfer of ownership was taking unnaturally long. He says any request to withhold information on the owners was aimed at protecting the confidentiality of all IPL ownership agreements.
On resistant to releasing info, Tharoor said: "Simply ..because there was a confidentiality." "What was the motive for doing so for only one team. Turned out to be a malicious intent." "If Lalit has recorded the conversations, let him release these recordings."
"I thought I knew the man(Modi), but it turns out I didn't. Sad thing for me .. I've been vilified for something that hardly takes a percent of my time each week. Suddenly this has coloured my reputation across the country," said Tharoor.
The Opposition has demanded that Tharoor be sacked, and his party has distanced itself from the minister, describing this as a personal matter and one that the minister should explain.
Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, presently on a weeklong tour to the U.S. and Brazil, has said he will examine the facts before deciding whether any action is required.
On Wednesday evening, Congress party President Sonia Gandhi held a meet with senior party leaders to discuss the Tharoor controversy.
Moreover, BJP has confirmed it will bring up the issue in parliament on Thursday.
On Congress party's role during the controversy, Shashi Tharoor said that his party has not left him out in the cold, and that "resigning would mean I've given up."
Tharoor said he would convey the details of his relationship with the Kochi Indian Premier League (IPL) to Sonia Gandhi and the Prime minister. (ANI)