Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor, who with his senior minister SM Krishna came under fire for staying in a luxury hotel for three months, had been travelling economy class much before the austerity measures were announced by the government.
Sources close to Tharoor said the minister had taken several flights from Aug 9, travelling to Bangalore, Chennai and Kochi, and on all occasions booked himself in economy class.
"The austerity measures were announced mid-August during the party's working committee meeting but it came into effect later. However, Tharoor has been on these economy flights earlier. He began taking a Kingfisher flight from Mumbai to Kochi on Aug 9," a close aide told IANS, not wishing to be identified.
The sources also pointed out that Tharoor was unlikely to respond to Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan who disapproved of the expression "cattle class" the minister used in his latest tweet.
Tharoor again ran into trouble for a message he posted on the social networking site Twitter in which he said sarcastically that he would travel "cattle class out of solidarity with all our holy cows!"
Natarajan took strong exception to the term that came out in the media and said Tharoor was perhaps not conscious of local sensitivities since he was new to Indian politics.
"He is out for a week travelling to Ghana and Liberia where he has important engagements. I don't think he has time to respond to this (charge)," added the aide.
Ruling Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi led the push to trim official spending in the backdrop of the country struggling with the worst drought in two decades and food prices on the rise.
Sonia Gandhi asked all Congress MPs to accept a 20 percent pay cut for a year and also set a personal example by forgoing her normal chartered plane and flew economy class to Mumbai early this week.
Her son and party general secretary Rahul Gandhi went one step ahead and travelled by train to Ludhiana in Punjab instead of chartering a helicopter.