Happy to see younger brother Raja, says Karunanidhi

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Happy to see younger brother Raja, says Karunanidhi

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Chennai:  After being greeted by a sea of supporters at the Chennai airport, A Raja drove to his party headquarters to meet his mentor and party chief, M Karunanidhi.

"I am happy to see my younger brother," said Mr Karunanidhi. Mr Raja chose not to ignore the elephant in the room. "It has not affected me," he said, referring to the telecom scam that landed him in in prison for a little over a year.

Mr Raja is far from done with the morass of allegations against him. He was granted bail last month, and permission to visit Tamil Nadu till the end of this month. But a Delhi court is trying him for graft charges so serious that if he is convicted, the former telecom minister could be sentenced to prison for life.

Here on his home turf, though, he was every inch the confident and charismatic leader with top billing in his party, the DMK. About 2000 people had gathered at the airport to meet him. Some waved placards that that extolled the former minister as a "flame of self-respect." Hundreds of young men wore t-shirts that declared he will "emerge clean" in the telecom trial. Many of them were from Mr Raja's hometown Perambalur and his constituency, the Nilgiris. They say he is not tainted by his jail time or his court case - it's a charge that has yet to be proved, they argue.

Mr Raja is being tried in a Delhi court for breach of trust by a public servant, cheating and criminal conspiracy. As telecom minister in 2008, he sold licenses to companies who allegedly paid him to be moved to the head of a long waiting line. Earlier this year, the Supreme Court cancelled 122 of the licenses he had sanctioned.

Sources close to him say Mr Raja will stay at his Chennai residence on Friday and Saturday. He is likely to visit his constituency on Sunday, where a large reception has been planned.

On Wednesday, Mr Raja, who is known for his proximity to his party president, and remains the DMK's Propaganda Secretary, is likely to join Mr Karunanidhi at a public meeting in Tiruvarur as part of the DMK chief's birthday celebrations.

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Soon after Mr Raja's arrest last year, and before the Tamil Nadu elections, the DMK had projected Mr Raja as a visionary who ensured that mobile phone services were made affordable to the common man. He was described as a martyr who was being punished for being a Dalit.

With the Lok Sabha elections due in two years, political observers are curious to see how the DMK will handle his profile during his visit to Tamil Nadu.

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