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The Rediff Interview/Karti Palaniappan Chidambaram

Karti on his father, P Chidambaram

Aditi Phadnis | February 26, 2005

Karti ChidambaramKarti Palaniappan Chidambaram is fast talking, quick thinking and wants passionately to change India. In that he's his father's son, the Chidambarams' only child.

His sense of humour is all his own. He's clearly been brought up as a distinct personality and does not shy away from differing from his father, so the senior Chidambaram has got that right!

He completed his schooling at the Don Bosco School, Chennai, went to the University of Texas, Austin, Texas USA for his Bachelors' degree in Business Administration and followed that with a degree in law from Cambridge University, England.

He runs a legal consulting firm called Chess Management Services that provides legal compliance services to corporates and a website called

He has represented the state and the university in tennis. He is also an avid cricket player. In this interview, Chidambaram Jr talks about Chidambaram Sr.

"He" is the finance minister.

Is he a strict or a lenient father?

He is very strict but has always given me tremendous freedom and leeway.

He said once that he has never and would never raise his hand at his child.

That is absolutely true, he has never raised his hand. I too don't believe in corporal punishment.

But have you always got what you want?

Generally, I have got what I wanted.

Is he stubborn? Does 'no' always mean 'no' or can you persuade him to review a course of action he intends to take?

Yes, he is pretty set in his views.

I know through experience and trial and error what will meet his approval and what won't. Timing and presentation of the issue is important in getting his approval.

I 've always believed he's a perfectionist.

He is rather unforgiving of failure, which I think is a huge drawback. He is very quick on the uptake on most issues, and at times doesn't appreciate that others don't get it at once. He has a very good eye for detail. I am more of a generalist. This is perhaps the biggest difference between us and at times the cause for differences.

How does he react to your losing ?

Not too badly as long as he knows I did my best. The question of losing doesn't arise now since I have stopped playing competitive tennis.

Are you always expected to be the first, the best, the ablest?

Yes, I was expected to be good at pretty much everything I did. But the pressure was not abnormal or high. I have known cases of parents who are unduly demanding.

When you're disappointed, can he sense it? How does he comfort you?

I don't show my disappointments easily. He is pretty strong willed, his being there is comfort enough for me.

If you look at the continuum that is your father's life, what have the turning points been ?

His biggest break was getting the ticket to contest the Lok Sabha for the first time in 1984. His national prominence is greatly due to Rajiv Gandhi.

People don't really know that he started off his political career at the age of 23. He was a union leader for MRF and worked his way up in the Congress party.

He was the TN Youth Congress president and then the general secretary of the TNCC unit. His rise was not sudden; in fact, it is truly a growth from the grassroot level.

I know that he was closest to G K Moopanar and everything Moopanar represented in Tamil Nadu politics -- and Moopanar was very fond of you

True. I'd known Moopanar since I was a kid.

So the decision to form the Tamil Maanila Congress was a big event.

Yes. Parting from it and forming the Congress Jananayaka Pervai was also an important event. Rajiv Gandhi's death was another.

I was personally affected by this, I had come down for the election campaign during my vacation from college. Rajiv Gandhi was supposed to come down to Sivaganga the day after to campaign for my father and I was really looking forward to it.

It never happened. I never met Rajiv Gandhi.

What values has he taught you to cherish most?

Ethical behaviour.

I've noticed that he never takes his oath in the name of god, always in the name of the constitution. So truthfulness in law is more important to him than religion.

I am a believer in god, a bit more religious than my father.

Can you cut corners and get away with it?

Absolutely not.

He loves children. What was his first reaction when he got the news about his first grandchild ?

He dotes on Aditi. But he seldom spends time with her, since he is away from Madras most of the time.

How much of your father do you have in you?

Most people think we look alike and are surprised to know that he has a son as old as me. I am 33. He is more cerebral, but I am more passionate.

I have grown up, and continue to live, in his shadow. Even though it has brought me great privileges, it irks me at times. Since I have political ambitions and aspirations.

I am sure the comparisons are going to get more shrill as time goes by. But I am confident of my identity.

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