Mired in IPL row, Tharoor steps down

Manmohan Singh Shashi TharoorEmbattled Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor Sunday night stepped down, the Prime Minister's Office said, ending a weeklong political drama surrounding a controversial IPL financial deal involving his Dubai-based friend Sunanda Pushkar.

"Shashi Tharoor... has submitted his resignation to the prime minister, stepping down from the union council of ministers. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has forwarded the resignation to President Pratibha Patil with the recommendation that it may be accepted," a statement from the PMO said.

Patil also accepted the resignation.

Tharoor, 54, a former top UN official, submitted his resignation to Manmohan Singh in a nearly half-hour meeting, the second during the day that saw hectic political activity following the prime minister's return after a weeklong trip to the US and Brazil.

The resignation came soon after top Congress leaders held a meeting with the prime minister and party president Sonia Gandhi and concluded that Tharoor had to go.

The Congress party held a flurry of meetings Sunday attended by senior union ministers, over the row at the centre of which was Tharoor and his "mentoring" of the Kochi IPL franchise.

Only on Friday, Tharoor had put up a spirited defence of himself in the Lok Sabha, claiming he had done no wrong and not used his office to promote the interest of Pushkar, a businesswoman who got sweat equity worth Rs.7 crore in Rendezvous Sports World, a member of the consortium that won the Indian Premier League (IPL) Kochi franchise for the cash-rich Twenty20 domestic cricket tournament.

In a statement to IANS Wednesday, Pushkar had claimed she too had done no wrong and denied being a proxy for Tharoor - charge reiterated Sunday by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Tharoor's position became untenable however after Pushkar Sunday gave up her IPL stake, which media reports said had been allocated to her in violation of company law.

The opposition, which had been demanding the removal of Tharoor, welcomed the move.

"This is the victory of truth," BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.

Another party leader Nirmala Sitharaman said his position had become "untenable and it was only appropriate that he resigned".

"There was so much evidence against him. The lady giving back her equity does not absolve him of the charges," Sitharaman said.

Communist Party of India (CPI) leader D. Raja said the exit of Tharoor was "inevitable".

"Since there were serious allegations of Tharoor's involvement in the Kochi IPL franchise, his continuance in the government became untenable. The decision of Sunanda Pushkar surrendering her stake is an admission of guilt," he said.

The Tharoor drama was one of the worst political crisis to hit the Congress-led government since its return to power in 2009.

It was the year when Tharoor, who in 2006 tried to become the UN Secretary General, returned to India and contested the Lok Sabha election, winning handsomely from Thiruvananthapuram, capital of his home state Kerala.

IPL commissioner Lalit Modi ignited the controversy a week ago when he revealed the ownership pattern of Kochi IPL, stating that Pushkar owned free equity in Rendezvous . Modi accused Tharoor of asking him not to reveal the ownership details -- a charge the minister denied.

Pushkar, who is originally from Kashmir, alleged she was being targeted because she was a woman. "As a woman professional, I am shocked to find how easily certain parties with vested interests questioned my credentials mainly because I am a woman," she said.