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Pawars plead not guilty, Cong muted
Sharad Pawar

New Delhi, June 4: Sharad Pawar today tried to explain away allegations that he had concealed links between his family and an IPL franchise bid, but failed to convince Opposition parties which have demanded his resignation.

Ally Congress, however, stayed away from the controversy while the agriculture minister received a ringing endorsement of his version of events from the suspended IPL commissioner, Lalit Modi.

A news report today said that Pawar, his wife and his daughter Supriya Sule together controlled about 16 per cent shares in City Corporation, a firm that unsuccessfully bid for the Pune franchise earlier this year.

Pawar and Sule had so far steadfastly denied links to the bidding process in the IPL, which has turned from a cash cow into a quagmire for politicians, already forcing the Centre to sack former junior foreign minister Shashi Tharoor.

Father and daughter today accepted that the family owned 16 per cent shares in City Corporation. But they said the Pawar family had no role in the bid that they claimed was made by another company board member in his personal capacity. The tender documents identify City Corporation as the bidder.

“Neither I nor my family is involved with any IPL team or with the bidding process,” Pawar said this morning.

Pawar and Sule, separately in conversations with reporters through the day, claimed that City Corporation managing director Aniruddha Deshpande had approached the company board with a bid proposal. But the board had shot it down, only allowing Deshpande to bid in his personal capacity.

Deshpande, however, had already bought the tender in the name of City Corporation. Tender documents for the bid therefore carry the name of City Corporation, Sule said.

Modi backed the claim that Deshpande had made the bid in his individual capacity, according to PTI. “Facts are he (Pawar) directly or indirectly was never part of any bidding process,” Modi was quoted as saying.

The BJP demanded Pawar’s resignation. “Pawar has misled the nation. If he does not resign, the Prime Minister should take stern action against him,” party spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said. Both he and the CPI’s D. Raja demanded a joint parliamentary committee probe.

Sources in Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party accepted that the reports had placed the party in an embarrassing position and hinted at a Congress hand in the “leak” of documents used in the reports. Allies Congress and NCP have a long history of bickering and are now jostling over the choice of Rajya Sabha candidates from Maharashtra.

However, asked to comment on the controversy, Congress spokesperson Abhisek Singhvi said: “Pawar is a valuable ally. We don’t comment on our allies. You should put the question to him.”

Asked if the Congress was satisfied with the explanations given by Pawar and Sule, Singhvi said: “Of course.”

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