Kottayam: It was an unusual sight Sunday to see P.C. George, vice-chairman of the Kerala Congress-Mani, and chief whip of the Congress-led ruling coalition in the state, waving a T-shirt with images of BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on it.
The Kerala Congress-Mani is the third-largest ally of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) coalition government in Kerala. And its vice-chairman, 62-year-old P.C. George, six-time legislator, is not one unfamiliar with controversy.
On Sunday, George was cheering along those taking part in the "Run for Unity," a programme held nationwide by Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, on the death anniversary of Sardar Vallabhai Patel.
The run is being held simultaneously at 565 places across the country -- to coincide with the number of princely states that joined the Indian union thanks to the efforts of Patel.
The event is being billed as the first marathon of its kind, organised at so many places for a single purpose -- the building of what is being projected as the world's tallest statue, one of Patel, to be named "Statue of Unity".
The statue is to be built on the banks of River Narmada, and the metal and soil for it are being collected from across the country.
George was in Kottayam to flag off the run. He had a saffron shawl wrapped around his neck, as he waved a T-shirt with pictures of Modi on the front and back.
Asked if he was at the right place, he said he had, like all Indians, studied in school that Patel was the "Iron man of India".
"Look, this was not a BJP programme. I was told about the construction of the world's largest statue, and I went for it. What's wrong, I attended a programme meant to honour Sardar Patel," George said.
In response, Congress party spokesperson Pandalam Sudhakaran told reporters in the state capital that what George perhaps forgot was that he is also chief whip of Kerala's ruling coalition.
"This is totally unacceptable. Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, state Congress party chief Ramesh Chennithala and George's party leader K.M. Mani should take appropriate action against George, who is known for breaching discipline. If such a thing had happened in our party, he would have been booted out. Since George belongs to an ally of the Congress, it's his party which should take the call," said Sudhakaran.
George's party colleague Antony Raju said: "He should not have taken part in the function. He should have been careful, it was a programme of communal elements, so what if it was in the name of Patel? Who does not know that this is nothing but drumming up popularity for Modi? George has erred seriously."
Incidentally, George was the one who made public, earlier this year, the news that then state Forest Minister K.B. Ganesh Kumar was beaten by his lover's husband. That revelation meant the end of Ganesh Kumar's term as minister, and his marriage ended in divorce.