The controversy surrounding the Indian Premier League's Kochi franchise took yet another political turn on Thursday as Lalit Modi was accused of working under the pressure of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to take away the bid to Ahmedabad.
Shashi Tharoor, the man at the centre of the controversy facing allegations of securing sweat equity for his friend, Sunanda Pushkar, from the Kochi team owners, expressed readiness to make a statement in Parliament after a second meeting in two days with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
Kochi franchise spokesman Satyajit Gaikwad on Thursday brought Narendra Modi in the line of fire, saying the whole world knew about his nexus with Lalit Modi and he put pressure on the IPL Commissioner to bring a team to Ahmedabad.
"We were told that we won't be allowed to work. The Adani group and Narendra Modi had a stake in the Ahmedabad IPL bid. After we won the bid, our investors spoke to [former BCCI chief] Sharad Pawar and asked him which city to choose. He said 'you can take your pick', so we decided to take Kochi," Gaekwad told reporters in Delhi.
"The inaugural IPL bidding happened when Vasundhra Raje Scindia was Rajasthan's Chief minister. Vasundhra and Narendra Modi may have put pressure on Lalit (Modi) to bring a team to Ahmedabad. There is politics involved," he added.
The Gujarat government rebutted the allegations, saying they are baseless and Chief Minister Modi had nothing to do with the controversy.
State Home Minister Amit Shah told reporters that some promoters had met the Chief Minister, but that meeting does not decide the bidding process where the highest quote becomes successful. Gujarat will welcome any team for holding matches in the state, he said.
But Gaikwad was supported in his attack on Modi by former Gujarat Cricket Association chief Narhari Amin, who said both the Modis were pushing for Ahmedabad.
Gaikwad also demanded that Lalit Modi disclose the ownership details of all the IPL teams now that he has revealed the details of the Kochi team.
"I ask the government to reveal the ownership details of other IPL teams under the corporate law. Government should investigate. We are clean and we have nothing to hide," he said.
Meanwhile, Tharoor had a second meeting with Mukherjee and Defence Minister A K Antony in Parliament House.
Asked whether he will be making any statement in Parliament on the issue, Tharoor said nobody has so far directed him to do so. At the same time, he indicated that he is open to it.
He, however steered clear of questions on whether the meeting was to finalise the draft of the statement he may make as also if he is meeting Congress President Sonia Gandhi or if he has sought any appointment from her in this regard.
Tharoor, who was closeted in a meeting with the two leaders for close to 30 minutes on Thursday, had also met them last night. The two leaders had met Gandhi on Wednesday.
Opposition parties have demanded Tharoor's resignation in the wake of the controversy. CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat said that the government should investigate the matter and the minister should step down immediately.
Tharoor strongly denied allegations that he had misused his office for any personal gains or for securing any gains to his friend, Pushkar.
Commenting on the controversy, Sports Minister M S Gill said, "It is just not cricket."
"Accountability should be there. Democracy applies everywhere. Democracy is like a sunflower which seeks sunshine. Therefore, all institutions should work accordingly," he said.