It is believed to be one of the most sought after portfolios in the union cabinet. Some have believed they are guiding the country’s destiny as they handled the enormous responsibilities that came with it. No wonder then, while the churn in other portfolios including the prime minister’s has been immense, post-liberalisation India has had only four finance ministers.
Now P. Chidambaram and Jaswant Singh suggest there is a reason for it. Simply put, “ Nobody wants the job of a FM.” And that’s not us saying it. It is the honourable finance minister who says it.
Jaswant Singh, finance minister in the previous National Democratic Alliance government, seems to echo that sentiment. “We both, myself and P Chidambaram belong to a community that is currently derided in every form. Perhaps deservedly or not entirely correctly. But do believe me the finance minister goes through a very rigorous examination on a daily basis.”
What occasioned these remarks? The launch of Swaminathan Anklesaria Aiyar’s book “Escape from the Benevolent Zookeepers- The Best of Swaminomics”.
The Times of India columnist, Swami as he is better known, relates through his book, India’s freedom from well-meaning idealists and how finance ministers, 1991, onwards, have progressively unshackled India’s economy and made it competitive.
But Chidambaram and Singh seem to suggest that it has not been easy. At one point, the finance minister wistfully recalls an older picture of his in a newspaper when he had a fuller head of hair.
The pulls and pressures of coalition politics can never be easy. The Left is off the United Progressive Alliance’s back but new allies will likely pose new problems. If that’s not enough soaring inflation, rising crude prices and slowing growth are adding to the finance minister’s headache.
No wonder there is a trace of envy when P. Chidambaram takes a dig at Singh. “A number of reforms were accomplished that followed Jaswant Singh whom I rate as the luckiest finance minister. He was finance ministerfor only one year. That makes him a very lucky man.”