Posted by: John Elliott | November 30, 2008

Chidambaram is a good choice as India’s Home Minister

This is good news, at last.

Palaniappan Chidambaram has been made India’s home minister, replacing Shivraj Patel. He is one of India’s most focussed and analytical politicians, and he was a wasted resource at the Finance Ministry, now that the international financial crisis has switched the economic focus to Manmohan Singh, the prime minister, himself a former finance minister, and his office (PMO), along with Montek Singh Ahluwalia who runs the Planning Commission.

Chidambaram had security responsibilities as minister of state in the 1980s, so he knows his way around the security apparatus. He is also a top international lawyer, so can bring that skill and knowledge to the job.

He is not the most tactful of politicians, nor always the most polite, but these are not traits that are needed at this time. What is needed is that he establishes himself as the sole top authority on security and that he commands those down the line to follow his directions and perform. He then needs to put effective security systems in place and ensure they are implemented efficiently

This would be a tough test for any minister and Chidambaram needs to be allowed to get on with it, without interference from the PMO or other departments.

News that has emerged in the past day or so indicates that an attack from the sea had been expected for some time before Wednesday night’s terrorist assault on Mumbai, and that the waterfront Taj Hotel had warnings that it was likely to be a target.

This indicates that there was disastrously poor direction and management from the Home Ministry and PMO down to the targeted buildings. There were reports this afternoon that M.K.Narayanan, the national security adviser who works in the PMO, offered to resign, but PMO sources say he is staying.

Dynastic considerations

As an aside, it is worth noting that dynastic considerations (see my last post) have not played a part in these changes. Patil was protected for a long time because Sonia Gandhi saw him as a Nehru-Gandhi family loyalist – whereas Chidambaram, who was once part of a breakaway Congress party, is an outsider.

I wonder who is influencing Sonia Gandhi to make such a decision.

And who persuaded her to allow Sheila Dikshit, Delhi’s Congress chief minister, to play a leading role as the apparent chief ministerial candidate in the current Congress Party’s state assembly election campaign? Usually Congress politicians have to wait for the elections to be over before being announced by what is euphemistically known as the “high command”

Is Sonia Gandhi’s son Rahul, who is a general secretary in the party, influencing such events? It’s good news if he is.


  1. I came to this blog by accident. Great Article. As an Indian i am appalled that a enemy country can stage an attack like this on our soil & get away with this misdeed.No Action from the Indian Government will embolden them to be more ingenious in their attack which can come in many form ( Air, Land, Water).

    I do not think any group in India can do these kind of attacks, if you can cripple the flow of money & infiltrate the intelligence in sensitive districts you can assume the domestic part can be covered.

    As far as chidambaram appointment is concerned i am not sure what he would accomplish,there may be cosmetic changes to your police force,response time may be better, local intelligence can be reactivated.What is more important from a strategic perspective is what is the threat you can give to a enemy country & make some bold decisions there which proves we are not impotent. I admire the audacity of a country which has a 150Million population which challenges a 1.20Billion people & get away pillaging & plundering in the 21st century.

    Given this context about Indian politics i cannot think unless you have a strong federal government alone will act as a deterrent to Pakistan.The kashmir crisis started in 1989-91 & if we chronicle our history sice then we have never seen a strong government except for a brief period of Bjp ruling 1998-2003.

  2. It is not capability that gets you a job – it is your loyalty to the Nehru-Gandhi family. Be loyal get a job. If along the way you pick up skill sets and do a reasonable job, then the nation is lucky.

    If on the other hand, you perform poorly and there is no rage from ordinary folk like us or questions of accountability then you go on with the job.

    This time the death of 200 + (official figures) going live across the world forced the Congress to take stock and action. Even a fool completely taken in by one’s own intelligence and superiority would stop in tracks and introspect and retrospect.

    India and more importantly needs to look beyond the Gandhi family. They have served the nation well, but this parasitic relationship between the ruler and the ruled has also bred a culture of subservience that stifles democracy within the party; rewards power brokers and blocks new blood from entering the party.

    a)Why police force is not centralized ?

    b)Why after any incident,a blame game starts between center VS state or state VS state government ?

    c)Why do we get to see incapable home minsters like Narayan Rane and Shivraj Patil on TV giving some bull-shit lecture or excuses even after their serial failures ?

    d)Why there is no benchmark of performance for ministers ?

    I believe these are the common questions each individual has on their minds now. The first and foremost priority of any leader coming to power next year is to boost internal security wings like NSG/centralised police force with commando training and rehamp secret agency like RAW on the lines of CIA/KGB instead of going for mega defence deals.Centralised Police force is the need of this hour.As both India and pakistan are nuclear powers, War is a rare possibility but proxy war like this would continue.

    India needs a true leader.Manmohan singh is highly regarded,educated person but India needs a strong and iconic leader like Indira Gandhi today.Can’t see any suitable person other than young blood like Rahul Gandhi, or crisis management expert as Pranab Mukherjee.
    Advani looks seems to over ambitious and behaves like lalchi Baniya Daddu.
    Narendra modi is an able leader and administrator but with an unfortunate tainted record.
    So,Whom should we vote ? And please for God’s sake don’t give media coverage and attention to people like Raj COWARD Thackeray/Bal COWARD Thackeray who splits our country and weakens our unity for the sake of votes.I wonder if they’ve stepped out of Maharashtra ever or do they actually consider themselves as Indian first.Learn to say I am Indian first and proudly shout slogans like “Jai Hind” instead of “jai Maharashtra”.By the way ! that was the only slogan we heard after the NSG rescue operation didn’t we ? I believe Indians have already started to shun filthy regional politics and realised the power of staying united at this hour of crisis.”Jai Hind”

  4. thanks Manikandtan – my word was “wasted” not “waste” – no criticism was intended. He is an very experienced minister who, to put it in different words, can contribute more at the home ministry than finance.

  5. Saying that Chidambaram was a waste of resource at the FM post is too critical.

    He proved his worthiness when we were passing through the financial turmoil. I doubt the PMO can do a good job at managing this crisis which is far from over.

    As in the case of Patil, I would say Sonia Gandhi would have been seriously pressurized (by?) to kick him out; something quite unlike the iron grip she holds over the party.

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