Arriving here on his first visit to his home state after 15 months in jail, former Telecom Minister and 2G spectrum scam key accused A Raja was today given a boisterous reception by his supporters and an emotional welcome by DMK chief M Karunanidhi who called him as his young brother.
"It is like an elder brother meeting his younger brother after a year," 89-year old Karunanidhi told reporters after the 10-minute meeting with Raja who drove straight to the party headquarters from the airport to meet the DMK chief.
Answering questions, the DMK patriarch said Raja was still active in politics and would speak in public meetings.
Echoeing the sentiments expressed by Karunanidhi on their meeting, Raja, when asked if DMK stood by him, said "I was, have been and will be like a child in the hands of revered and respected leader (Karunanidhi)."
Asked about the 2G scam being described as the biggest one since independence, he said no court has framed charges against him for the Rs 1.76 lakh crore (presumptive loss as estimated by the Comptroller and Auditor General).
"Earlier Rs 1.76 lakh crore was mentioned in the Supreme Court. Then CBI said it is Rs 35,000 crore. The trial court did not accept even that. Only the media is quoting the CAG and says that it is Rs 1.76 lakh crore. No court has framed charges against me for Rs 1.76 lakh crore," Raja said.
To persistent queries on the CAG figure, he said Rs 1.76 lakh crore was not substantiated. "It was not admitted by the trial court. Why should I bother about it? The chargesheet said Rs 35,000 crore but the trial court did not accept it."
Asked what was the actual figure, he said "no, you go through the charges framed. The charges framed by the trial court clearly says the exchequer loss is not mentioned and exchequer loss is not necessary. On the other hand, (charge of) abuse of power was framed."
Asked if he still maintained he was innocent, Raja said "yes".
"I have said already. 43 witnesses have been examined. I have argued in a court filled with journalists. I am the eighth son in my family. They have conducted raids against all seven brothers and sisters. ED had come, CBI had come. Income Tax had come. I asked what have you found? I asked in the open court. I will continue to ask the same question," he said.
Asked if he felt Congress had made him an accused, he declined to respond saying the case was pending in the court.
To a question whether he was a victim of political vendetta, Raja replied "I cannot speculate".
"I don't feel so," Raja said when asked about reports of security threat to him in jail.
On his days in prison, Raja said he had read and re-read Karunanidhi's books which had made him stronger and prepared him to face any adversity and come out clean.
About the absence of senior leaders at the airport to receive him, he said "after M K Stalin (Karunanidhi's son) came to my house yesterday, I felt the entire party welcomed me."
Asked if he was accorded the same reception as Karunanidhi's daughter Kanimozhi, a co-accused in 2G scam, on his arrival here, the DMK chief intervened and chided the media."Until now, you have been asking questions. But now you are playing mischief...Please behave like good journalists."
Raja, projected as DMK's Dalit face, was greeted by supporters who thronged the airport in good numbers hailing him a "Bold" and "Bright Sun", DMK's election symbol.
However, senior leaders of the party were conspicuous by their absence at the airport.
A visibly happy 49-year old Raja, clad in a white dhoti and fullarm shirt, waved at his supporters before heading to the party headquarters on the arterial Anna Road where he was received with bursting of crackers.
At the airport, slogan-shouting and folk numbers played by a band greeted the MP from Nilgiris. The supporters wore T-shirts with pro-Raja slogans and carrying the picture of party leader M K Stalin.
"Raja had conquered Tihar jail", read the slogans, apparently referring to his incarceration and release from the Delhi prison where he was lodged after he was arrested by CBI.
A Delhi court had on Thursday allowed Raja to visit Tamil Nadu between June 8 and June 30 accepting his plea.
The court had earlier while granting him bail on May 15 imposed certain conditions, including that he would not visit his home state without its prior permission.
Raja had sought the court's permission also on the ground that the trial proceedings would not be undertaken from June 9 to June 30 owing to summer vacation.
Raja's Lok Sabha constituency meanwhile is gearing up to accord him a big reception when he goes there on July 10.
The DMK leader is scheduled to visit Udhagamandalam and several other places in the constituency, spread over Nilgiris and Coimbatore Districts, party sources said.