"My face is my message"
After five successive wins to the Lok Sabha, P Chidambaram tripped in 1999, fighting alone as the TMC candidate with no political allies.
Former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram knows what a deficit can do — to one's fiscal and electoral account. After five successive wins to the Lok Sabha, he tripped in 1999, fighting alone as the TMC candidate with no political allies to add to his personal vote-bank of about one lakh votes.
In spite of that setback, his personal equation with Sonia Gandhi ensured he got the Congress ticket for the Sivaganga seat, overriding protests of the state Congress. Brushing aside these handicaps, Chidambaram looks gung-ho while reaching out to voters in his inimitable style of meshing the macro picture with micro-level details.
At Mayppal village, he tells the villagers how it was during the UF government at Delhi and the DMK rule in TN that the road was laid under the Nabard scheme. "Both the Centre and the state spent Rs 9 crore for this block alone, but after that not a single rupee has been spent," he tells the villagers. In the same breath, he accuses the Vajpayee government of failing to create jobs for the rural masses.
He admits that the locals felt he did nothing substantial during his long innings as an MP and Minister. "True, I looked at Sivaganga through the larger lens of India. Hereafter, I shall view India through the lens called Sivaganga," he readily replies. He keeps stressing how Tamil Nadu did not get any major ministry in the NDA government, carefully positioning himself as a would-be ministerial candidate.
In 1999, he fought without allies. This time, the presence of the DMK, MDMK, Communists and even a reluctant Congress should comfortably bridge the deficit. His AIADMK rival SP Karuppiah is trying to make his relative anonymity his strong point by arguing that unlike Chidambaram, he'll not run away to Chennai or Delhi but remain at Sivaganga to attend to their problems.
But the Sivaganga voters appear to be taken in by Chidambaram's famous line: "You know me. My face is my message."