Siddharth Varadarajan

Washington: Whatever the facts of the dispute between Shashi Tharoor and Lalit Modi, this is the third time that a controversy surrounding the junior foreign minister has threatened to overshadow the Prime Minister during an important overseas visit.

Halfway through Manmohan Singh's ongoing visit to the U.S. and Brazil for the Nuclear Security, BRIC and IBSA summits, the media back home have already turned their attention to Mr. Tharoor, much to the irritation of the travelling delegation.

On Tuesday night, TV channels devoted virtually all their time to the Tharoor-IPL issue, tuning out what the Prime Minister had to say in Washington.

In February this year, Mr. Tharoor's on-the-record comments to Indian reporters during an informal dinner hosted by the Indian ambassador in Riyadh triggered a controversy over his use of the word ‘interlocutor.' Though PMO officials agree that the media erred in alleging that he had called for Saudi ‘mediation' with Pakistan, they say the junior minister invited the controversy upon himself and that he should not have spoken to the press in the first place during the Prime Minister's visit.

Last September, part of the Prime Minister's press conference during the India-Asean summit was spent in firefighting after Mr. Tharoor's tweets about travelling in ‘cattle-class' triggered a political controversy back home.

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