Palaniappan Chidambaram is in many ways a fish out of water. Indian politicians are warm and fuzzy, chronically late and terribly imprecise. Chidambaram is detail-oriented, works from 8 to 8 and has a reputation for getting a lot done, but with an arrogance that rubs many the wrong way, perhaps too many to unite the weak coalition government likely to emerge from next year’s election.
A trusted counselor to the ruling Congress Party’s Gandhi family, Chidambaram’s experience is unsurpassed. He was Commerce Minister in the early ’90s, playing an important role as India opened its economy, and as Finance Minister, he presented a pathbreaking budget in 1997. Since then his reform record has been spotty. He was also Finance Minister last decade when emerging markets were booming. Now they are slowing. To land India’s top job, he needs to revive his country’s economic fortunes. He may also need to adopt a more Indian style.
Sharma is head of emerging markets at Morgan Stanley
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