Chidambaram: Rise and fall of Harvard-educated, royal family scion

File photo of Chidambaram

Chennai: Well-read, well-dressed and well-behaved. These three adjectives would define P Chidambaram, one of the few successful politicians in Delhi from Tamilnadu.

His arrest Wednesday in the Indian capital after high drama, in the INX Media case after courts refused to grant him any immediate relief, has once again proved that there is no escape for anyone from the long arm of law.

And, the irony is that, Chidambaram spent the night in CBI custody at the agency’s headquarters, a building he inaugurated in 2011 as Union Home Minister.

Chidambaram was born to Palaniappan Chettiar and Lakshmi Achi in Kanadukathan in Sivaganga district (the constituency is now represented in Lok Sabha by PC’s son Karti Chidambaram). His maternal grandfather was Raja Sir Annamalai Chettiar.

A scion of the Chettinad royal family, Chidambaram had his schooling in Madras Christian College Higher Secondary School. He passed the one-year Pre-University course from Loyola College, Chennai.

After graduating with a B.Sc degree in statistics from Presidency College, Chennai, he completed his Bachelor of Law from the Madras Law College and his MBA from Harvard Business School.

His father’s business interests covered textiles, trading and plantations. He chose to concentrate on his legal practice and stayed away from the family business.

On becoming a senior lawyer, he opened offices in Chennai and Delhi and practised in high courts and the Supreme Court. His political entry happened in 1984, when he was elected to the Lok Sabha from Sivaganga on a Congress ticket.

He worked his way up in the Congress. Soft-spoken Chidambaram, with his sharp intellect and acumen, won the admiration of Rajiv Gandhi and G K Moopanar. He was the Tamilnadu Youth Congress president and then the general secretary of the Tamilnadu Congress Committee unit.

He was inducted into the Union Council of Ministers in the government headed by Rajiv Gandhi in 1985 as a Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Commerce and then in the Ministry of Personnel.

He was elevated to the rank of Minister of State in the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions in 1986. In October of the same year, he was appointed to the Ministry of Home Affairs as Minister of State for Internal Security.

In 1991, Chidambaram was inducted as a Minister of State (Independent Charge) in the Ministry of Commerce by the then Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao. He made some radical changes in India’s export-import (EXIM) policy, while at the Ministry of Commerce.

In 1996, Chidambaram quit the Congress and joined the Tamil Maanila Congress floated by Moopanar. In the general elections held in 1996, TMC along with a few national and regional-level Opposition parties, formed a coalition government. It came as a big break for Chidambaram, who was given the key Cabinet portfolio of Finance.

His 1997 budget is still remembered as the dream budget of the Indian economy. The coalition government was a short-lived one (it fell in 1998), but he was reappointed to the same portfolio in the government formed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2004 (by this time, Chidambaram was back in the Congress after he quit the TMC and floated his own Congress Jananayaka Peravai).

After 2004, there was no looking back for Chidambaram, and he handled high-profile portfolios like Finance and Home till the Congress was defeated by the BJP in the 2014 general elections.

It was when Chidambaram was Home Minister that Amit Shah was arrested by the CBI in 2010. Nine years later, Amit Shah is now the Home Minister and the same CBI has arrested Chidambaram, now 73, after the Delhi High Court, while denying relief to him, said, ‘facts of the case prima facie reveal that’ he is the ‘kingpin that is the key conspirator in the case’.

Some call this karma, some others allege this as vendetta, while those in the investigating agencies say law is doing its duty. Will the Chidambara(m) ragasiyam come out?

M Bhaskar Sai