Indian minister quits over cricket graft charges

NEW DELHI (AP) — Shashi Tharoor, India's junior foreign minister and a one-time candidate for the post of U.N. secretary-general, has resigned amid allegations of corruption in the auction to add a new team to the lucrative Indian Premier League cricket tournament.

Last month, a group of investors Tharoor helped put together made a successful bid of more than $330 million to bring a team to Kochi, a port city in southern Kerala state, part of which he represents in Parliament.

Premier league chief Lalit Modi later questioned why a 25 percent share in the franchise, which is now part of the Twenty20 cricket league, was given to a group that included a friend of Tharoor's. It was alleged the friend's shares were really intended as a hidden gift to Tharoor.

Opposition politicians demanded Tharoor resign, but the politician initially defended himself, saying there was no reason for the investors to bribe him since his ministry has nothing to do with the league, and he had no way of influencing the auction.

He said he only helped put together the winning bid because he wanted to bring a team to Kerala.

Tharoor met with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and several senior leaders of the ruling Congress party on Sunday before sending in his resignation later that night.

A statement from the prime minister's office said Tharoor's resignation was forwarded to President Pratibha Patil who accepted it.

Tharoor was U.N. undersecretary-general for communications and public information under former Secretary-General Kofi Annan. His name was among those considered for the top U.N. post in 2006, when Ban Ki-moon was voted in. In 2009, Tharoor won a seat in India's Parliament.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said income tax authorities were investigating the sources and channels of funding of the team owners.

"No guilty (party) or wrongdoer will be spared," Mukherjee told agitated lawmakers, some of whom demanded a ban on the Twenty20 cricket league.

Gurudas Dasgupta, a Communist Party of India leader, said a committee of lawmakers should probe the funding of various teams.

Earlier Sunday Tharoor's friend, businesswoman Sunanda Pushkar, announced she would resign from her position on the team and give up her stake in the Kochi franchise.