Biography of P. Chidambaram

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Indian Union Cabinet Minister  P. Chidambaram Biography

P. Chidambaram (born September 16, 1945) is an Indian politician and present Union Minister of Home Affairs of the Republic of India. He is one of the most prominent cabinet ministers of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) union government led by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

From May 2004 to November 2008, he was the Finance Minister of India. However, after the resignation of Shivraj Patil, Chidambaram was made the Home Affairs Minister.

P. Chidambaram was also a Cabinet Minister with the Finance portfolio for a brief period in the United Front coalition government from 1996 to 1998. Prior to this, he was Minister of State (Deputy Minister) in the Rajiv Gandhi and Narasimha Rao led Congress-party governments, holding other portfolios. He hails from the family of Nagarathar or Nattukotai Chettiars of Tamil Nadu.

Chidambaram, as finance minister under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Deputy Chairman of India’s Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia is a part of the Planning Commission of India.
Chidambaram also has been a director of controversial mining company, Vedanta Resources just before quitting to become the finance minister of India.

EarlyLife and Education

Chidambaram was born to Kandanur L. Ct. L. Palaniyappa Chettiar and Mrs. Lakshmi Achi in Kanadukathan in the Sivaganga District, in the state of Tamil Nadu, India. He was born into the royal family of Chettinad.

Chidambaram did his schooling from the prestigious Madras Christian College Hr.Sec.School, Chennai. After graduating with a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Statistics from The Presidency College, Chennai, he completed his Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) from the Madras Law College currently Dr. Ambedkar Government Law College, Chennai, and his Masters in Business Administration (M.B.A.) from Harvard Business School. He also holds a Masters from Loyola College, Chennai.
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P. Chidambaram  enrolled as an Advocate in the Chennai High Court. He was designated as a Senior Advocate in 1984. He has chambers in Delhi and Chennai and practices in the Supreme Court and in various High Courts in India. He has also appeared in a number of arbitration proceedings, both in India and abroad.

Politics and Ministerial Portfolios

Chidambaram was first elected to the Lok Sabha (Lower House) of the Indian Parliament from the Sivaganga constituency of Tamil Nadu in general elections held in 1984. He was re-elected from the same constituency in the general elections of 1989, 1991, 1996, 1998, 2004 and 2009. He was a union leader for MRF and worked his way up in the Congress party.

P. Chidambaram was the TN Youth Congress president and then the general secretary of the TNCC unit. He was inducted into the Union (Indian federal) Council of Ministers in the government headed by Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on 21 September 1985 as a Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Commerce and then in the Ministry of Personnel.

P. Chidambaram main actions during his tenure in this period was to control the price of tea. He has been criticized by the Government of Sri Lanka for destroying the Sri Lankan tea trade by fixing the prices of the commodity in India using state power. He was elevated to the rank of Minister of State in the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions in January 1986.

In October of the same year, he was appointed to the Ministry of Home Affairs as Minister of State for Internal Security. He continued to hold both offices until general elections were called in 1989. The Indian National Congress government was defeated in the general elections of 1989.

When Chidambaram was first given a ministerial post, he was one among a relatively young, well-educated class of men brought into the Government by then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1984.

Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in May 1991, during an election campaign appearance in the state of Tamil Nadu; in the general elections the following month a wave of sympathy for the assassinated Rajiv Gandhi, and a disunited opposition brought the Congress party back to power.

Manmohan Singh, a socialist economist who had advised the Indian government on many socialist policies and who was a former Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (India’s central bank) was made Finance Minister in the new government headed by Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, essentially the first bureaucrat on the job in post-independent India.

Dr. Manmohan Singh introduced a range of liberalizing free market reforms that transformed the erstwhile stagnating socialist economy. In June 1991, Chidambaram was inducted as a Minister of State (Independent Charge) in the Ministry of Commerce, a post he held till July, 1992.

He was later re-appointed Minister of State (Independent Charge) in the Ministry of Commerce in February 1995 and held the post until April 1996. He made some radical changes in India’s export-import (EXIM) policy, while at the Ministry of Commerce.

In 1996, Chidambaram quit the Congress party and joined a breakaway faction of the Tamil Nadu state unit of the Congress party called the Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC). In the general elections held in 1996, TMC along with a few national and regional level opposition parties formed a coalition government.

The coalition government came as a big break for Chidambaram, who was given the key cabinet portfolio of Finance; this put him in the limelight. 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.

In 1998, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) took the reins of the Government for the first time and it was not until May 2004 that Chidambaram would be back in Government. Chidambaram became Minister of Finance again in the Congress party-Communist Party United Progressive Alliance government on 24 May 2004.

During the intervening period Chidambaram made some experiments in his political career, leaving the Tamil Maanila Congress in 2001 and forming his own party, the Congress Jananayaka Peravai, largely focused on the regional politics of Tamil Nadu. The party failed to take off into mainstream Tamil Nadu or national politics.

Just before the elections of 2004, he merged his party with the mainstream Congress party and when the Congress won the election, he was inducted into the Council of Ministers under the new Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as cabinet Minister of Finance.

On November 30, 2008, he was appointed the Union Home Minister following the resignation of Shivraj Patil who had come under intense pressure to tender his resignation following a series of terror attacks in India, including the Mumbai attacks on November 26, 2008. The public response to this move was generally favourable given Chidambaram’s reputation for competence and efficiency.

In 2009, Chidambaram was re-elected from Sivaganga Lok Sabha constituency in the Congress victory and retained the Home ministry.

Political Traits
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Chidambaram has fulfilled multiple roles as a politician, moving from the politics of his home state of Tamil Nadu, to addressing the financial media in Mumbai, and presenting India’s views at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland.

P. Chidambaram is a trustee of the Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, and also a trustee of the Tamil ‘Ilakiya Chintanai’ (Tamil Literary Foundation – literally, Tamil Literary Thoughts), Chennai, India.

Chidambaram has been classed as a socialist, was a trade union activist in his early years. He was a critic of Friedrich Hayek and the free-market. Chidambaram was also instrumental in implementing the ideas of Friedrich Engels by banning futures trades in wheat and rice.

As an ideologue opposed to the free-market and as a firm believer of the planned economy, he forced the steel industry to cut its exports and threatened the cement manufacturers to cut prices or face punitive action.

At the same time, he has also been pegged as a pro-business
reformer. His Budget in 1997 was termed a “Dream Budget” by a large segment of the Indian business community.

As part of the team that in 1991 laid the foundations for significant macroeconomic reforms under then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao and Finance Minister Manmohan Singh, he is widely known as someone who moved India away from the infamous ‘license-quota-permit raj’ towards greater economic freedom and global integration. He is particularly[weasel words] popular with the educated middle class in India.

P. Chidambaram was very close to Mr. Mooppanar[citation needed]. He was in No. 2 position when he was with Mooppanar in TMC. He was not in agreement with Mooppanar for aligning with AIADMK as the TMC party itself was formed opposing Congress party’s alliance with AIADMK few years back. Till today, he has been dead against aligning with AIADMK, because of which he enjoys a very good rapport with the other Dravidian party DMK and its leader M Karunanidhi.

P. Chidambaram Controversies

P. Chidambaram represented the bankrupt American energy giant Enron, as a senior lawyer in India, and is again set to revive its Dhabol power project.

P. Chidambaram resigned on 10 July 1992 from the Minister position owning moral responsibility for investing in Fairgrowth, a company allegedly involved in securities scam.

In 1997, he announced a controversial Voluntary Disclosure of Income Scheme (VDIS) which granted income-tax defaulters indefinite immunity from prosecution under the Foreign Exchange Regulation Act, 1973, the Income Tax Act, 1961, the Wealth Tax Act, 1957, and the Companies Act, 1956 in exchange for self-valuation and disclosure of income and assets.

The Comptroller and Auditor General of India condemned the scheme in his report as abusive and a fraud on the genuine taxpayers of the country.
It should be noted that Chidambaram also represented the controversial British mining conglomerate Vedanta Resources in the Mumbai High Court until 2003 when he became the finance minister of India. He was also a member of the board of directors of that company.

In August 2006, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam gave permission to enquire into the allegations that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Finance Minister P. Chidambaram had been holding office of profit at the time of elections.

It has been alleged that they both had been the board members of Rajiv Gandhi Trust Foundation. The Election Commission has been authorised to enquire into the allegations.

On 7 April 2009, P. Chidambaram was shoed by Jarnail Singh, a Sikh journalist during a press conference in Delhi. Singh, who works at the Hindi daily Dainik Jagaran was dissatisfied with Chidamabaram’s answer to a question on the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) clean chit to Congress leader Jagdish Tytler on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case.

Later, Jarnail Singh appeared on a few media channels and thanked Chidambaram for taking no action against him and said that he would apologize to Chidambaram if he got a chance to meet him personally.

P. Chidambaram also said that his method of protest was wrong, but the issue was right. He also declined to take money offered to him by the Shiromani Akali Dal, a Sikh political party.

Mr. Chidambaram has been in public conflict with other members of the UPA government on policy issues. There have been several instances where his public positions have exposed confusion in the policy agenda of the UPA government.

In the past he has regularly announced plans to end Naxalism in the impending future. The most recent announcement was on Jul 30 2010.Another previous such declaration was on November 10, 2009.
In 2009 Parliamentary elections, it was reported[by whom?] that Chidambaram has pressurised the Returning Officer of Sivaganga and doctored the poll results in his favour.

AIADMK candidate Kannappan who lost in the poll demanded recounting of votes, which was declined. In December 2010, it was reported that he blamed migrants for the rising rate of crime in New Delhi. He is alleged to have said that Delhi attracts a lot of migrants who live in unauthorized colonies and indulge in behavior that is unacceptable in any modern city.

P. Chidambaram  quote was apparently a reaction to the Sultanpuri gang-rape incident where an 18 year old girl was the victim. This quote attracted a lot of criticism from opposition parties, with UP chief minister Mayawati alleging that, being the Home Minister, Chidambaram was biased against North Indians.

P. Chidambaram Family

P. Chidambaram grand uncles and grand father were the Co-founders of Indian Overseas Bank, Indian Bank, United India Insurance and Annamalai University. He is married to Nalini Chidambaram who is a Senior Advocate and a tax lawyer practicing in the Madras High Court and the Supreme Court, primarily in litigation related to the Central Excise department of the Government of India.

P. Chidambaram has a son, Karti P. Chidambaram, who graduated with a BBA degree from the University of Texas, and a Master of Law from Cambridge University.