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Tough taskmaster Chidambaram back in Home Ministry

india Updated: May 23, 2009 16:05 IST
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A tough task master, P Chidambaram returns to head the high-profile Home Ministry after a short stint during which he geared up the security and intelligence set-ups and brought in greater accountability to meet challenges of terrorism and insurgency.

The 64-year-old Harvard educated lawyer, Palaniappan Chidambaram was moved from Finance to the Home Ministry soon after the 26/11 Mumbai terror strikes replacing Shivraj Patil.

Known as a good economic administrator, Chidambaram moved swiftly setting up a mechanism to daily monitor the security situation with constant interaction with heads of para-military forces and intelligence.

The month-long general elections which passed off by and large peacefully was another feather in his cap.

Within a fornight of his taking over, he constituted a National Intelligence Agency for taking up important terrorist related cases.

An ardent leftist in 1960's, Chidambaram became the face of India's economic reforms when he took over as the Finance Minister in United Front government in 1996 under HD Deve Gowda.

He presented a budget that vastly slashed tax rates and contained a number of sops for the corporate sector which was hailed as a "dream budget". That the budget could not have its full run due to the fall of the government then, 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 runners to the key post.

Hailing from a small business community of prosperous Chettiars of Tamil Nadu, he was a leading figure of economic reforms undertaken by PV Narasimha Rao government post 1991 and executed by Manmohan Singh as Finance Minister.

It was a home-coming of sorts for Chidambaram in the Home Ministry last year. He was the junior minister in charge of internal security in the Rajiv Gandhi government in late 1980s.

During his short tenure, Chidambaram has successfully strengthened the security apparatus across the country. He reorganising the intelligence network, tightened the provisions in the anti-terror laws and amended the CISF Act to enable the security force to guard vital private installations.

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 by Rajiv Gandhi.

Chidambaram's hardwork and adeptness in handling the economic issues facing the country made him India's youngest finance minister under the Gowda government in 1996.

Chidambaram had then quit the Congress and joined the Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) of GK 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 Parliamentary elections only once in 1999 on a TMC ticket, 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 multinational companies.

Since 1984, he had been re-elected to the Lok Sabha from the same constituency in 1989, 1991, 1996, 1998, 2004 and in the just concluded Parliamentary elections.