Cricket money row rumbles parliament

Indian minister and former high-flying UN official Shashi Tharoor was under pressure on April 14 to step down over a controversy involving the ownership of a new IPL cricket team. Junior foreign minister Tharoor has been in the eye of a storm since Sunday when news broke that a female friend - said by Indian media to be his girlfriend - had been granted a free stake in a new franchise of the glitzy Indian Premier League. (AFP)

A row over corruption allegations against Shashi Tharoor, the junior foreign minister, sparked uproar in parliament on Friday, taking the key budget session's focus away from economic issues such as food price rise.

Opposition lawmakers forced the house to shut for a second day as they shouted for the resignation of Shashi Tharoor over the financing of a cricket franchise.

In a statement to the house, Tharoor gave a point-by-point rebuttal to accusations he used his position to influence the $333 million bid for a team in the Indian Premier League, the world's richest cricket tournament, for financial gain.

"I have not benefited, and do not intend to benefit, in any way financially from my association with the team now or at a later stage," Tharoor said, reading his statement to reporters outside after being shouted down in the house.

The Congress party had already been on the backfoot in the parliament session. It is trying to pass the budget and reform legislation with a thinner majority after two allies pulled out of the ruling coalition to protest a controversial women's bill.

Among other legislation, the government is eyeing passage of a bill allowing foreign universities to set up campuses on Indian soil and another to cut its stake in the State Bank of India.

It has already put on ice until it reaches a political consensus a bill to open its $150 billion civilian nuclear sector.

The government had also faced heavy protests over rising food prices and fuel price hikes, and criticism of its handling of the Maoist insurgency.

The opposition has sought a special vote on food prices which would force the government to resign if it lost.

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