Trouble for beleaguered minister of state for external affairs, Shashi Tharoor grew on Friday with opposition paralysing Parliament demanding his removal and his own ministerial colleague Farooq Abdullah favouring his stepping down to protect the "honour" of the government.
Congress party sources also indicated that the fate of Tharoor, facing allegations of having misused office to get sweat equity valued at Rs 70 crore for his friend Sunanda Pushkar in the Kochi IPL franchise, hangs in balance and his position in the ministry cannot be considered safe.
After normal business on the opening day of the Budget session on Thursday, Parliament was rocked on Friday by the opposition which demanded Tharoor's scalp even as he got up to give his side of the story. The first-time MP from Thiruvananthapuram came with a prepared statement by way of a personal explanation but the opposition would not have any of that. He was prevented from making the statement in the Lok Sabha and Speaker Meira Kumar directed it to be tabled.
In his statement, 54-year-old Tharoor rejected opposition allegation of misuse of office to influence IPL Kochi franchise's successful bid or get any financial gains for him or to his friend Pushkar. "No misuse of my official position was involved. The issue has nothing to do with my ministry. As a minister, I was in no position to influence the bid process, let alone its outcome."Those who know me are aware that money has never been a motivating factor for me in my actions or decisions," he said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party stepped up pressure on the government for his removal and demanded that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should come to Parliament and make a statement on why he has not sought the Minister's resignation or removed him from the government. "We want a structured debate. We need a statement from the government. But the government is not ready for it," BJP Spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters. He alleged that the minister's Officer on Special Duty was present at the time of bidding. "There is a clear case of quid pro quo for the minister through the front of minister's friend getting undilutable sweat equity in perpetuity," he said.
Tharoor's ministerial colleague and United Progressive Alliance constituent Farooq Abdullah said he would leave it to Tharoor to decide whether he should continue in the government but had he been in Tharoor's position he would have resigned. "I will go," Abdullah said, "to protect the honour of not only my but of the country and the government."
Congress sources said the Prime Minister's arrival from abroad on Saturday was being awaited before a decision is taken on Tharoor's fate.The sources felt that the government has already securing details of the bidding process and would be in a position to decide on the issue in a couple of days before Parliament resumes on Monday after the weekend.