From a hard core Leftist in the late 1960s to being the liberal face, Palaniappan Chidambaram combines in him the qualities of a bold reformer, experienced administrator and a taskmaster in whatever assignment given to him.
63-year-old Chidambaram, who hails from a small business community of prosperous Chettiars of Tamil Nadu, was in the forefront of the economic reforms unleashed during the P V Narasimha Rao government post 1991 and executed by Manmohan Singh as Finance Minister.
The Harvard educated MBA and eminent lawyer played an adequate foil to that team as Minister of State for Commerce with independent charge.
The experience gained during that period came to his help when he was made the finance minister with cabinet status in the United Front Government in 1996 under Deve Gowda.
He presented a budget that vastly slashed tax rates and contained a number of sops for the cooperate sector that it was hailed as a "dream budget". That the budget could not have its full run due to unstable political situation and the fall of the government, is a different matter.
Chidambaram again made his entry into the Finance Ministry after the UPA was voted to power in 2004 beating many other claimants to the post.
It is a home-coming of sorts for Chidambaram in the Home Ministry, where he was the junior minister in charge of internal security in the Rajiv Gandhi government in late 1980s.
As the Minister for Personnel in the Rajiv government, he had carried out a number of administrative reforms.
Chidambaram, a darling of the country's industrialists, has now been called upon by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to bring reforms in the security set-up, an issue on which the UPA was cornered when Shivraj Patil was in-charge.
Beginning his political career as a Congressman, Chidambaram, a suave and articulate politician, was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 1984 from the Sivaganga constituency in south Tamil Nadu and was inducted into ministry Rajiv Gandhi.
Chidambaram's hardwork and adeptness in handling the economic issues facing the country made him India's youngest finance minister under Gowda government in 1996.
Chidambaram had then quit the Congress and joined the Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) of G K Moopanar, who had floated the regional outfit after falling out with the Congress over aligning with AIADMK.
As the then Finance Minister, he had strived to bring discipline in government spending and introduced an innovative tax reforms programme to tackle the growing fiscal deficit.
Chidambaram, who lost the Parliamentary elections only once in 1999, parted ways with Moopanar in 2001 when the veteran Congressman decided to align with Jayalalithaa's AIAMDK for the 2001 Assembly elections and floated his own outfit Congress Jananayaga Peravai.
In his early life, Chidambaram practiced as an advocate in the Madras High Court and later in the Supreme Court, and was an adviser to several multi-nationals.
Since 1984, he was re-elected to the Lok Sabha from the same constituency in 1989, 1991, 1996, 1998 and 2004. He lost only in 1999 on a TMC ticket.