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India minister in IPL cricket row

13 April 10 09:03 GMT

An Indian minister and the head of the Indian Premier League (IPL) have traded claims over the ownership of a new team in the lucrative cricket tournament.

Junior foreign minister Shashi Tharoor said IPL chief Lalit Modi had tried to persuade the owners of Kochi to drop their bid in favour of another city.

On Sunday Mr Modi leaked names of Kochi shareholders and their stakes. He has yet to respond to Mr Tharoor's claim.

Kochi was sold to Rendezvous Sports World Limited for $333m at auction.

It is one of two new franchises which will join the IPL from 2011, taking the total number of teams to 10.

'Breach of propriety'

The row between the two men began after Mr Modi sent out a series of Twitter messages on Sunday, "disclosing" the owners of the Kochi team and their shareholding stakes.

The names of the owners included Sunanda Pushkar, a Dubai-based businesswoman, who is a friend of Mr Tharoor.

Mr Modi wrote that he was sending out the messages because a "lot of you [are] asking shareholders and events surrounding the Kochi team". He did not elaborate.

Mr Tharoor accuses Mr Modi of an "extraordinary breach of all propriety in publicly raising issues relating to the composition of the consortium [of owners] and myself personally".

He said in a statement that Mr Modi was attempting to "discredit the team and create reasons to disqualify it so that the franchise can be awarded elsewhere".

Mr Tharoor said the Kochi team had bid in an "open and transparent" auction, which took place in Madras (Chennai) last month.

"Their unexpected success upset the plans of a lot of powerful people, who had wanted the franchise to go elsewhere," he said.

Latest reports in the Indian media quote Mr Modi telling senior cricket officials that Mr Tharoor had called him and asked him not to disclose the names of the Kochi team shareholders.

Mr Tharoor has denied this, saying that he had only called Mr Modi to find out why "he was further delaying the approval of the franchise after all the legal requirements had been fulfilled".

Mr Tharoor said he had "neither invested or received a rupee" as a mentor of the Kochi team.

The team is based in Kerala in southern India, Mr Tharoor's home state.

"The unethical efforts that have been made by Mr Modi and others to thwart the Kerala franchise which has been won fair and square in a transparent bidding process are disgraceful," Mr Tharoor said.

Mr Modi is yet to respond to Mr Tharoor's statement.

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

The games feature some of the world's biggest stars and are played out against a backdrop of razzmatazz, including Bollywood music and cheerleaders.

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