Why Chidambaram issues catchy statements every November

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Former Union minister P Chidambaram, otherwise a discreet individual, starts speaking openly in the month of November. Is there any reason for the leader's ‘year-end behaviour' pattern?

"Obnoxious" AFSPA, 2G, Sonia-Rahul...

P Chidambaram

In November 2014, six months after his party, the Indian National Congress, was drubbed in the Lok Sabha election, Chidambaram described the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act as "obnoxious" and asked the NDA government to bring a bill in Parliament to amend the act.

He also said as the home minister, he had made efforts to amend the law but the defence ministry and the armed forces did not agree to his ideas.

A few days earlier in the same month, he also said that former prime minister Manmohan Singh could have handled the 2G issue differently and should have taken a strong stand instead of waiting for the Supreme Court's order.

He again stayed clear, saying that he had advised the former UPA government to cancel the licences but it didn't work out.

Speaking on his own party, Chidambaram, who had said prior to the Lok Sabha election (which he didn't contest) that he is a state leader with a limited domain, felt that president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi needed to speak more and that a non-Gandhi could head the Congress someday (this was in late October last year though).

The man, of course, had also said that he was too old to aspire for big roles. A disclaimer there again.

Rajiv Gandhi govt had mistaken...

This November, the veteran leader said it was a mistake by the former Rajiv Gandhi government to ban ‘The Satanic Verses', the controversial book of Salman Rushdie, in the late 1980s. His clarification came: I would have told the same if anybody had asked me about it 20 years ago.

There is a method in Chidambaram's year-ending remarks. They come with a disclaimer and not without a reason.

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The former finance minister might be frustrated and he mixes it with a tinge of politics at crucial times to extract some mileage for himself.

Elangovan factor

The appointment of EVKS Elangovan as the president of the Tamil Nadu Pradesh Congress Committee in October last year had not gone down well with Chidambaram, who might have thought the post would go to his son Karthi, who lost badly from his father's past constituency, Sivaganga, in the general election.

The Chidambarams have had their share of problems with the TNCC chief that at times even saw the high-command intervening to settle.

Rajya Sabha ticket

According to sources in the Congress, the veteran leader was also upset at being denied a chance to become a Rajya Sabha MP, not even from other states.

These two issues might still have their effects on Chidambaram's mind and when one adds to it his humble remark made before the Lok Sabha election that he knows his limits and the Congress had warmed up to one or the other Gandhi for the prime minister's job, one can certainly reach a conclusion about his thoughts.

The statements on AFSPA, Manmohan Singh's handling of 2G or that a non-Gandhi could head the Congress are hence organised parts of Chidambaram's train of free thoughts that doesn't bend before a leadership which has been discredited following a series of electoral debacles.

Rajiv Gandhi govt ban remark was a two-faced move

Chidambaram's latest addition that Rajiv Gandhi government had erred in banning Rushdie's book is again a well-calculated remark.

It is being made at a time when the liberal-minded Indians are feeling disgusted with words like ‘ban' and ‘intolerance' in the country and by disapproving a Congress government's ban imposed almost three decades ago, Chidambaram killed two birds with one stone.

He appeals to the unsettled nerves of the anti-ban liberals and also expresses an opinion against the First Family (he even said that Indira Gandhi had acknowledged that imposing Emergency was not right).

A revival effort ahead of TN polls?

With a few months ahead of the Assembly polls in Tamil Nadu where the Congress is in a disarray, donning a liberal hat could help Chidambaram's stature as an individual leader if not a party member. But Chidambaram's 27-year-wait might have widened the trust deficit far too much to bridge.

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