Just over a decade ago, when the NDA was in power and Atal Behari Vajpayee’s health appeared to be failing, a prime ministerial balloon was floated in New Delhi. Jaswant Singh, who had served as finance, defence and foreign minister in the NDA regime, was suddenly being “discussed” as a replacement for Vajpayee. What was interesting about this “candidature” was that it was not floated by the BJP or even the NDA, but by foreign missions in Delhi and Indian journalists who were in touch with them. Foreign correspondents posted in New Delhi even did a few stories on the “PM candidate” who was clubbable, affable and spoke English in that grand manner. He was one individual in the BJP that westerners and Indians of a certain class could relate to. The “Jaswant for PM” idea was, however, quite bogus and completely out of sync with realpolitik.
The “Chidambaram for PM” idea, similarly, is being taken more seriously in circles that only speak English instead of those who can revert to the vernacular in order to play a real political hand. Presumably, the latter would be more likely to read the political pulse. Most politicians, for instance, just say the idea is plain “ridiculous” and not worth discussing. A few give reasons for this. The CPI(M)’s Basudev Acharia just says, “Why do you ask if he can be the PM when it does not even look likely that the Congress will form the next government!” But that is the old Communist dismissal of individuals they believe are selling off the nation!
It is part of the game to discuss future scenarios, especially when elections in the world’s largest democracy are just a year away. The most plausible scenario emerging from the opposition corner is Gujarat CM Narendra Modi being the face of one campaign, while Rahul Gandhi will lead the other. But since Rahul has never shown the slightest inclination for office, there has been some speculation about the search for his Manmohan Singh. Since one plus one makes two and we do not have to balance the math of a budget before speculating, we may well ask: why not P. Chidambaram?
He seems good for the part, particularly if it’s up for discussion in editorial columns and TV studios. Chidambaram is bright, cogent, savvy, apparently attractive to middle class India, certainly comes through well on television, has been smiling a lot more at his press conferences, has friends in the corporate world (for some of whom he has also been a lawyer). And it is also said that he is quite the wit, with a penchant for dark sarcasm. And now he has delivered a reasonable budget. So why not Chidambaram as the running mate for reluctant prince Rahul?
He is also seen as not that good with human beings and “arrogance” (at times a characteristic of the very bright) appears to be his undoing. Prof Saugata Roy, MP and senior leader, Trinamool Congress, puts it bluntly: “I don’t think that P. Chidambaram has the potential to be a replacement for Manmohan Singh. He is bright but he is not brilliant. He has no political base in his own state, though one would say the same thing about Manmohan Singh, but the PM has three special qualities—he is a scholar, he is honest and he is a humble person.” The reason why Sonia chose Manmohan when she made her spectacular and dramatic “sacrifice” was that he offended no one and would never really threaten the dynasty. Chidambaram is a very different personality.
The other argument for Chidambaram is that, like Modi, he is a tough “fix-it” guy who can be a counter to the Gujarat CM. But Modi has a proven electoral base while Chidambaram had difficulty winning his own seat in Tamil Nadu and is said to be quite unpopular with the current state leadership of the Congress party. Still, the lack of a mass base could be an advantage in selecting a partner to Rahul, as leaders with real bases do not always fare well in the Congress. Many have either carved an independent path (like Sharad Pawar) or been cut loose by the party (like Jagan Reddy).
So, if we start ticking the boxes, we may actually conclude that Chidambaram could be smart enough, but not popular enough, to play Manmohan’s part in the future. Presuming that Sonia and Rahul are convinced and inform the party of the choice, the real problem would be the regional players and parties. It is worth remembering that legislation pushed by the ministries Chidambaram has headed has often got stuck in Parliament because his management of other parties was poor and, quite perversely, his colleagues in the Congress often just stood by as his proposals sank. Now, one of his former colleagues inhabits Rashtrapati Bhawan. So why shouldn’t Chidambaram dream big?
By Saba Naqvi with Panini Anand
Ramki >>Fact is PC is one of the most CORRUPT, Most DISHONEST, MOST PERVERTED, MOST UNCIVILIZED and MOST INDECENT POLITICIANS in CONGRESS PARTY.
Do you know the meaning of fact. Hope Karti Chidambaram is not reading this else you have a lot to worry about ;-)
"The farther one is from the heartland (geographically and culturally) the more difficult it is to make a mark at the centre. It is no coincidence that we are yet to have a Bengali, Tamil or Marathi speaking prime minister (am not even counting states like Kerala or the north east)."
The argument does not hold water at least in case of Tamils. Soon after Deva Gowda was removed, GK Moopanar had a very good chance to become PM. And that chance was scuttled by another Tamilian-Karunanidhi. And it was after that that Gujral became PM.
So before blaming others, Tamilians would do well to look within.
" If he had joined one of the Kazhagams and toed the line of the Dravidian parties (maybe most people don't realise that Chidambaram is equally erudite and eloquent in Tamil), the outcome may have been very different."
Whose fault is that? I mean if the guy cannot hold his own in his home state then how credible his claim is for PM post. I believe you are mistaken in assuming that the only thing that matters to Hindiwallahs is how well their representative can speak Hindi. Have you heard mummyji speak in chaste Hindi? That comedy is one of the big reason that she draws such crowds.
As for Bengal, well, Jyoti Basu had a golden chance that was scuttled by his own compatriots. Same with Pranab Da.
From Maharastra, Sharad Pawar has always been the dark horse but had the misfortune of challenging the family.
I am sure I speak for the majority of us that we would prefer anyone but the Gandhis. We have had enough. I think Jayalalitha is an excellent candidate: a woman, a strong personality, excellent administrator, wonderfully articulate, and more importantly, or at least hopefully, she won't start a dynasty.
In your complaints against the Hindiwallahs, you forget that Kamraj was a powerful kingmaker at one point. I just think that it's important to be fair.
Sudharshan >> I would have certainly come to the conclusion that this is paid news, If this was not about Chidambaram. He is one of the very few competent, honest and decent people left in the Congress. The Hindi heartland would never back a Tamil who has no qualms about telling Shah Rukh Khan that he does watch hindi movies without sub-titles. Therefore, the "Vesti Clad tamil PM" idea (or the pipe dream of the other "arrogant" Saree Clad lady) is a non starter.
Whether this is a paid news or not, the post of yours is certainly a paid post by a chamcha of PC. But it is simple that you are so stupid to reveal your bias so obviously.
Even PC's most ardent supporters will never cliam that he is competent, honest and decent.
Fact is PC is one of the most CORRUPT, Most DISHONEST, MOST PERVERTED, MOST UNCIVILIZED and MOST INDECENT POLITICIANS in CONGRESS PARTY.
PC is more dangerous than King Cobra, and he is poisonous.
The whole world knows that PC did not win his elections , but bought his victory . For that crime alone he deserves to be OUT and OUSTED..
Yes, it is possible that PC will be made PM in 2014 (if people reelect UPA to power). But please dont even bring the non issue about doing good to South India/Tamils..
PC has done ABSOLUTELY ABSOLUTELY NOTHING To improve the well being of South Indians/tamils in last 15 years (as he was the FM/HM whatever) and he is not going to do anything now.
I would rather prefer someone like Azhagiri or Raja to be a PM than this PC. For once, Azhagir and Raja are quite open about their intentions and not hiding their activities. PC is not such one.
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