You have spoken and the jury has decided. Here is the first of the results of the search for the Indian of the Year that started two weeks ago. And he will not come as a surprise to most of you. Take a guess.
He was the candidate who went by the SMS voting code IPOL E, who was always to be a favourite of every punter with a rupee invested in the booming Indian economy. That pretty much means you and I and our neighbour.
To Finance minister P Chidambaram goes the credit of giving India a spectacular growth rate and the ability and resilience to sustain it, and not let it flag under the commonplace pressures of coalition politics.
And the finance minister is the winner from the category of politicians. He will be in contention with the winners of the five remaining categories — sports, business, public service, entertainment and NRI.
The overall winner will be declared the Indian of Year for 2006, an honour instituted by CNN-IBN in partnership with the Hindustan Times. And that will be on January 29. But before that will be the other winners, one a day.
They are being elected by people sending in their votes through SMS and online and by a jury comprising lawyer Soli Sorabjee, HDFC chairman Deepak Parekh, Infosys co-chairman Nandan Nilekani, Hindustan Times Media Limited vice-chairperson and editorial director Shobhana Bhartia, billiards champion Geet Sethi, actor Mohanlal Viswanathan Nair and former police officer Kiran Bedi.
Here is what Sorabjee had to say for Chidambaram at the deliberations by the jury: “He has intellectual ability and unquestioned integrity. His ministry is carrying on the process of reform and he has gone on despite barks and bites sometimes from various sources and sometimes from people within his party. He has a commitment and a certain stature.”
That’s the way it is. Chidambaram has been stopped and questioned at every stage of the reforms — by colleagues in the parties, members of the allied parties and, of course, the Left.
But he has pressed on. And the results speak for his work. Growth is poised at record levels, the Sensex is booming and India is very much a success story that not only rivals China’s but also outshines it.
It couldn’t have been easy for the voters and the jury though. He was up against competitors like CPM general secretary and UPA’s chief tormentor Prakash Karat, UP Chief Minister Mayawati, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, Uttarakhand Chief Minister and builder of highways B.C. Khanduri and External Affairs Minister and UPA’s chief troubleshooter Pranab Mukherjee.
Chidambaram must now wait to find out who the contenders are from the remaining categories. Watch this space.