Chidambaram, with his clean and sophisticated image and an impressive track record in governance could just be the next Prime Minister

As we enter a decisive phase of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections more and more names are being thrown up for the post of the Prime Minister of the country. Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal, Jayalalitha, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Mamata Bannerjee are already in the running.

The dark horse that could be thrown up in the event of a hung parliament include Nitish Kumar, the old veteran at the top and Rajnath Singh if NDA allies are too scared of Modi. That Lalu has not given up his dream of becoming the PM is also a standing joke, but when provoked, he admits that he too had a right to dream like any politician.

But now that people have started talking seriously about alternatives to the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty in the Congress to lead the charge against the multi-pronged Opposition attack in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections the options are wide open.

Most pre-poll surveys are predicting a hung parliament with neither the NDA, the UPA or the Third Front touching the magic 272 mark the possibilities are endless. A 200 plus Third Front or Federal Front whatever you call it, could lead to an interesting situation where the UPA with around 100 seats could again be in the driver’s seat. Unlike the majority of pollsters who are calling Rahul the Shehzada and Yuvraj, my sixth sense tells me that the scion of Gandhi family will not take up the top job and like Sonia Gandhi he will allow someone else to sit in 7, Race Course Road.

In that eventuality the best option for the top job could be P Chidambaram, the Harvard educated lawyer who knows his job like no one else. If you don’t believe me just watch how this veteran of many battles who made his debut in the Lok Sabha in 1984 from Sivaganga constituency in Tamil Nadu and became a Deputy Minister in the Rajiv Gandhi cabinet on September 21, 1985, tackle the likes of Barkha Dutt on NDTV and Karan Thapar’s Devil’s Advocate after his interim budget, in particular the latter.

Palaniappan Chidambaram   World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2011 Why Not Chidambaram ?

Palaniappan Chidambaram

Thapar quotes many stalwarts including Swaminathan Aiyer, Ashok Gulati, Chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Cost and Prices, Satish Chandra, Director General of the Fertilizer Corporation of India, Abheek Barua, chief economist at HDFC to pick holes in the optimistic figures quoted by Chidambaram but he holds his ground doggedly.

In the interview with Barkha Dutt he pointedly tells her twice that the problem with journalists is that they do not do their home work before talking to him and Barkha can only look embarrassed in the camera.

Propping up Chidambaram to head a conglomerate where the Congress wins around 100 seats, provided he wins his seat and provided this combination is invited to form a government by the President make sense politically as well.

The Modi and Kejriwal impact as of now, appear to be a north India phenomenon and the Congress could hope to salvage its position somewhat only in the South. Secondly, the Congress has not had a Prime Minister from the South after Narsimha Rao and Chidambaram, with his clean and sophisticated image and an impressive track record in governance could just be the man to bring around a turn in its fortunes in the long term.

A K Antony was also a strong contender for the top post having been regarded as the Number Two in the cabinet of Mammohan Singh. But with Singh taking a VRS after these elections, whatever the results, the pecking order is likely to change drastically.

By Amitabh Srivastava

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