Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday showered praise on Home Minister P Chidambaram, who is in the line of opposition fire, saying he derived "immense" support from his "enlightened leadership" and was happy with him "at this stage".
"Since 2004, I have been deriving immense support from his enlightened leadership as finance minister and then as home minister. Whatever task is given to him, he performs with super aplomb," Singh said at a function in Karaikudi in Chidambaram's Sivaganga Lok Sabha constituency.
Singh's remarks came against the backdrop of Chidambaram coming under opposition onslaught on 2G spectrum allocation issue and the charge of misuse of office in helping a Delhi-based hotelier.
"He and I have been colleagues since 1990s and worked hand in hand. I worked as finance minister when he worked as commerce minister then," the prime minister said, referring to Chidambaram who was seated among the audience at a function in the Alagappa University.
At another function, Singh hailed Chidambaram's performance during UPA I and II, saying that as home minister, he was "handling the most difficult portfolio. He performs his task with great dedication and great sense of professionalism and patriotism".
"I am happy with Chidambaram at this stage," Singh said inaugurating Apollo Reach Hospital and Vasan Eye Care.
Noting that he and Chidambaram were colleagues for a long time, he said they worked very closely during the 1990s in the Narasimha Rao ministry. "We worked hand in hand and the economic reforms of 1990s greatly owe to the vision, wisdom and knowledge of Chidambaram".
Gunning for his resignation, Bharatiya Janata Party has been boycotting Chidambaram in Parliament heckling him whenever he rises to speak, with the opposition party using his alleged misuse of office in helping a Delhi-based hotelier as a fresh ammunition against him.
The UPA government and the Congress have rallied behind Chidambaram, rejecting the opposition charges and calls for his resignation.
With his engagements in Karaikudi, Singh wrapped up his two-day visit to Tamil Nadu over which the Mullaperiyar dam row between the state and Kerala cast its shadow.
A day after Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa took up the issue with Singh asking him to advise Kerala not to build a new dam, it was the turn of UPA's key ally and her arch-rival Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam on Monday to raise the pitch for central intervention.
Leading a party delegation that included his daughter Kanimozhi, MP, out on bail in the 2G scam case, DMK Chief M Karunanidhi urged Singh to take steps to "end attacks" on Tamils in Kerala and for implementation of Supreme Court's 2006 order allowing Tamil Nadu to raise water level in the reservoir.
After the 20-minute meeting at Raj Bhavan, Karunanidhi said the prime minister assured him that the Centre would take all steps to maintain friendly ties between the two states and ensure return of normalcy.
The DMK patriarch also quoted Singh as having told the delegation that "the possibility of central government itself protecting the dam could be examined".
"After listening to the delegation, the prime minister said the Centre would take all steps to ensure the long standing relationship between the two states is not strained and peace and normal life returns," Karunanidhi said in a statement.
The dam row has intensified since last month with both Tamil Nadu and Kerala sparring over the latter's insistence on building a new dam in place of the 116-year old Mullaperiyar reservoir, causing tension in border areas of both states.
Kerala has been citing safety concerns for its demand to decommission the dam, which feeds five southern districts in Tamil Nadu, under whose control it comes on a 999 year lease.