New Delhi:Allegations of corruption, a cover-up, and now, a death threat received via SMS - a Ram Gopal Verma movie has nothing on what's being delivered everyday by the Shashi Tharoor vs Lalit Modi battle.
On Wednesday, a senior member of Tharoor's staff claims that the minister has received a death threat via SMS in connection with his alleged link to the Kochi IPL team. The aide says that Tharoor's security has been tightened and that the police have been alerted.
The Ministry of Home Affairs, and Delhi police sources, however, denies receiving any complaint from the minister's office, or of giving him additional security.
Tharoor is at the centre of a controversy over the Indian Premier League (IPL) team that was sold to Kochi last month for 1530 crores. A close associate of Tharoor's, Sunanda Pushkar, was gifted equity worth 70 crores by the team-owners. This was revealed by Lalit Modi, IPL Commissioner, in tweets on Monday.
The BJP has demanded that the Prime Minister sack Tharoor for inappropriate "patronage and protection". The BJP alleges that Pushkar was a front for Tharoor, and that the CBI must investigate Tharoor for "criminal misconduct by a public servant" in what it describes as "a copybook case of corruption."
The Left has also said that Tharoor should step down till the charges against him are cleared.
The Prime Minister, who was in Washington for President Obama's nuclear safety summit, told reporters that any action, if required, would be taken only after he returns to India and investigates the matter. Dr Manmohan Singh said "I do not have all the facts before me."
In a press release on Tuesday, Tharoor acknowledged that he knows Pushcart well, but denied that he benefits financially from the Kochi team. He, in turn, accuses Modi of being unhappy with the fact that the Kochi bid won over other bids from Ahmedabad, a franchise which Modi allegedly preferred.
On Tuesday, the Congress first said that the BJP's request for Tharoor's dismissal was "absurd." But within hours, the party changed its stand and said that the IPL controversy was a personal affair of Tharoor's and that he should explain his role.
Modi has also been criticized, both by the Kochi team-owners, and by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for tweeting the details of the different stake-holders in the consortium that bought the Kochi franchise. While the Kochi owners have threatened to take legal action against him, the BCCI President, Shashank Manohar, has warned him that cricket issues should not be discussed publicly. The BCCI has also called a special meeting to discuss the controversy.
Political analysts suggest that the Congress is wearying of the multiple controversies it's been landed with, courtesy Tharoor. Last year, his tweets describing economy air travel as flying "cattle-class" left his party blushing, given that Sonia Gandhi had directed ministers to fly coach as part of the government's austerity drive. Tharoor was forced to explain his statement to Gandhi and the Prime Minister.
He then offended his boss, Minister for External Affairs SM Krishna, when he took to Twitter again to discuss his reservations about the new visa policies the government was introducing for foreigners.
Through it all, Tharoor has defended his penchant for tweeting as a unique way of staying in touch with voters.