New Delhi: The Congress Monday removed Shashi Tharoor as a party spokesperson for praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a decision the diplomat-turned-politician said he accepted as a "loyal party worker".
The All India Congress Committee (AICC) Monday took the decision following a complaint by its Kerala party unit, which, according to sources, was upset over Tharoor's praise for Prime Minister Modi, and his decision to join the Clean India Campaign.
Tharoor was one of nine people nominated by Modi in the Clean India Campaign.
"Congress president Sonia Gandhi has accepted the recommendation of AICC disciplinary committee to remove Shashi Tharoor from the list of spokespersons of the AICC with immediate effect," said party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi in a statement.
The three-member disciplinary committee comprised Motilal Vora, A.K. Antony and Sushilkumar Shinde.
Tharoor, Lok Sabha member from the Thiruvananthapuram constituency in Kerala, said he accepted the decision.
"I have seen the press release issued by the AICC and, as a loyal worker of the Congress party, accept the decision of the party president to relieve me of my responsibilities as a spokesman," Tharoor said in a statement.
He said he has not yet seen the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee (KPCC) complaint against him, following which he was sacked.
"While I have not yet seen the KPCC complaint referred to, and while I would have welcomed an opportunity to respond to it and draw the attention of the AICC leadership to the full range of my statements and writings on contemporary political issues, I am now treating this matter as closed and have no further comment to make," he said.A
Congress leaders backed the party decision but it faced severe criticism from the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said Tharoor was supposed to speak for the party, not for himself.
"He was a party spokesman, he was supposed to speak for the party, not for himself," he said.
Three-time Delhi chief minister Sheila Dikshit refused any direct comment, only saying: "The party has the right to take a decision."
The BJP, meanwhile, slammed the Congress for politicising the Clean India Campaign.
"It is an internal matter of the party... But it shows the level of intolerance within the Congress," BJP spokesperson Sidharth Nath Singh said.
"It is a campaign based on Mahatma Gandhi's statement, it is an apolitical campaign," he said.
Tharoor, who was a union minister in the erstwhile Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government, was also dragged into a controversy recently when a leaked post-mortem examination report of his wife Sunanda Pushkar stated "poisoning" as the cause of her death.
Pushkar was found dead amid mysterious circumstances in a hotel room in Delhi Jan 17.