Indian minister quits over Kochi franchise deal
The controversy over the sale of the IPL Kochi franchise has claimed its first victim, with India's junior foreign minister Shashi Tharoor resigning over allegations of a conflict of interest in his mentoring the consortium through the successful bid. Earlier in the day Sunanda Pushkar, Tharoor's close friend whose 4.7% "free equity" stake in the franchise had become the source of the controversy, said she had offered to give up her holding.
"It's a voluntary resignation. I don't want to embarrass the party. I want parliament proceedings to go on, hence I have decided to resign," Tharoor said in his letter. A statement from the Prime Minister's office said the resignation had been forwarded to the President "with a recommendation that it be accepted".
Pushkar's offer to give up her share in the franchise - seen as an attempt to save Tharoor - was revealed in the evening, a few hours before Tharoor's resignation. "Given the deeply unpleasant publicity surrounding my involvement, I can no longer find the enthusiasm required to associate myself with any IPL activity in the future," Pushkar said in a statement. "I therefore voluntarily offer to return to Rendezous the sweat equity they offered me. I do not wish to ask for compensation for my services rendered to them."
The decision, Pushkar's lawyer said, was made on Saturday. On Sunday, Tharoor, a member of the ruling Congress party, met with the Indian prime minister amid speculation over whether he would resign from his post as junior minister for foreign affairs because of the controversy about whether Pushkar was acting as a proxy for him, a charge Tharoor had denied. Tharoor tendered his resignation late on Sunday and it was accepted by the prime minister.
Pushkar had also denied she was acting as a proxy for Tharoor and said the Rendezvous Group had given her equity as payment for her marketing expertise and her help in putting the bid together. Tharoor, however, was criticised, by the opposition party among others, for not revealing his link to Pushkar earlier.
The controversy over the ownership of the Kochi franchise became public after IPL Commissioner Lalit Modi revealed the composition of its stake holders on his Twitter account. According to his posts, the Kochi consortium break-up was: Rendezvous Sports 1%, Anchor 27%, Parinee [Developers] 26%, Film Waves Combine 12%, Anand Shyam 8%, Vivek Venugopal 1% with Rendezvous having an additional 25% free equity. That equity is held by Kisan, Shailender and Pushpa Gaikwad, Sunanda Pushkar, Puja Gulathi, Jayant Kotalwar, Vishnu Prasad, Sundip Agarwal.