Was it a case of a guilty conscience being pricked? For otherwise it was inexplicable that Sonia Gandhi and other top leaders of the Congress party “take to the streets”, to supposedly express solidarity with former prime minister Manmohan Singh who has been summoned as an accused in a case relating to allegedly dubious allocation of a coal bock.

Creating an impression of “backing” Singh would lend itself to interpretation of the party having “used” and then dumped him — for as the 2014 elections approached it was palpable that he had become a political liability. And now the party is seeking to atone. An even more sinister interpretation would point to the show of solidarity amounting to covert pressure on Singh to not spill the proverbial beans and disclose why he took the short cuts that appear to have landed him in a bit of a pickle. Even as a one-off “show” its utility was questionable; “insider reports” suggesting more such affairs are being planned only fuel speculation — for, apart from some stray comments of those without much authority, the BJP and other rival parties have rightly chosen to stay aloof and let it be a purely judicial affair. Which actually make it even more complicated and embarrassing for both Singh and the Congress.

The public display of anger, outrage, indignation, disappointment or whatever could backfire if it was seen as a cheap bullying tactic directed against the judicial officer who issued the summons. Remember that allegations of judicial overreach have been made by some Congress leaders who have questioned the court&’s rejecting the CBI line that after questioning Singh it found no evidence on which a prosecution could be initiated. There are indeed several legal queries that need answering — but in a court of law not on the streets.

The personal credibility and cleanliness of Singh has never been questioned; it is only his perceived weakness that has been assailed. Now the party must harness its considerable legal resources to clear any doubt that when handling the coal portfolio he was lax, or worse. As of now there appears little need for any political “spin”, it would tarnish Singh&’s reputation if that was injected into the equation. The eminent academic, economist and former prime minister has rightly said he would “fight” the matter legally. Propriety demands he “fights” in no other forum, and party “enthusiasts” refrain from making that judicial action a tamasha.