Page last updated at 09:28 GMT, Tuesday, 20 April 2010 10:28 UK

India former minister Tharoor says 'conscience clear'

Shashi Tharoor. Photo: April 2010
Shashi Tharoor denies any wrongdoing

Former minister Shashi Tharoor has told India's parliament that his "conscience is clear", in his first comments since he resigned over a cricket scandal.

Mr Tharoor said he had done nothing "improper or unethical" and that he resigned because he did not want to be "an embarrassment" to the government.

It is alleged that a female friend got a free stake in an Indian Premier League (IPL) team he helped set up.

Indian authorities have begun a probe into the financing of the tournament.

Opposition lawmakers in parliament alleged that the multi-billion dollar cricket league was used for money laundering and illegal betting.

IPL chief Lalit Modi denies any allegations of funding irregularities. He has described the claims as "absolutely baseless".

'Deeply wounded'

He said he quit to allow "the PM and cabinet to focus on the challenges facing the nation".

In many ways, Mr Tharoor's inglorious departure is a big blow to urban, English-speaking Indians who believe that the country's politics needs people like him to change the rules of the game.

Mr Tharoor said he was new to Indian politics, but he had a long record of clean public service.

"I am deeply wounded by the malicious charges against me," he said.

Mr Tharoor resigned on Sunday after a row over allegations that a female friend, Dubai-based businesswoman Sunanda Pushkar, had received a free stake in a new IPL franchise.

Mr Tharoor claimed he was just a mentor for the new Kochi team, to be based in his home state of Kerala, and denied allegations that he was set to benefit financially.

He and Ms Pushkar say the stake was awarded as "sweat equity" in return for marketing and professional services to the new franchise - but she later offered to surrender the stake.

Mr Tharoor's resignation followed his public spat with Lalit Modi, the head of the IPL, over ownership of the Kochi team.

Kochi was sold to Rendezvous Sports World Limited for $333m at auction. It and Pune are to join the IPL from 2011, taking the total number of teams to 10.

Media reports suggest there are plans to force Lalit Modi from his office.

The IPL has become a multi-billion dollar industry, which attracts some of India's wealthiest businessmen and women.

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