Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave friendly pat to a former ministerial colleague on Tuesday. An ordinary gesture but it could create a controversy, for the man he patted is former telecom minister A Raja.
Singh patted and shook hands with Raja, who is at the centre of the 2G spectrum controversy, while being greeted at a function in Delhi to pay homage to late party leader Murasoli Maran on his seventh death anniversary.
Raja and other DMK leaders greeted Singh at the party office in Parliament House. Singh patted Raja on his shoulder before leaving the venue. Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee attended the function too.
DMK party leader T R Baalu and his colleagues from the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, several Congress MPs also paid homage to Maran, who was commerce minister in the National Democratic Government.
The BJP was quick to criticise Singh's gesture, saying it sent a wrong signal at a time when the Supreme Court is hearing the 2G scam case.
"At such a time, the Prime Minister patting Raja's back at a public event would appear like a message in itself to the people and does not look good".
But the Congress was dismissive of BJP criticism. "Personal relationship and emotions do not work on switch-off, switch-on mode. Raja has worked under the Prime Minister for six years. He is a senior MP of an ally, DMK. I do not think, he (PM) has done anything wrong," said party spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed.
He went on to add, "of course CAG has raised an issue and submitted its report to Parliament. But that is a separate issue," he said.
Raja, who struck a defiant note for several days, was forced to resign on November 14 in the wake of the government auditor's report that there was a loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the exchequer at the rates spectrum was allocated.
Parliament was stalled over the spectrum controversy for the eighth consecutive day on Tuesday with the opposition unrelenting on its demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe and the government refusing to yield.