After a gap of over a month, the main corridor of the finance ministry was abuzz with activity. The last time it saw such activity was on June 26, when officials came to bid farewell to Pranab Mukherjee. The corridors of North Block came alive again on Wednesday as officials flocked to welcome their new finance minister, P Chidambaram.
After taking charge at 11.30 am, Chidambaram, back in charge at the ministry after four years, met officials to get an update. There had been some restructuring in the work allocation during Mukherjee’s tenure and the new minister was apprised on who was doing what, said an official who’d worked with Mukherjee and with Chidambaram during his earlier stint. It is learnt he enquired about the appointment of heads of the two revenue boards, CBEC and CBDT, which became headless after their respective chairmen retired on July 31. The minister might have to wait for a few weeks, as the appointment orders of the new heads would be issued after taking clearance from the Central Vigilance Commission. He is also expected to discuss the issue of appointing a new Chief Economic Advisor with the Prime Minister.
After meeting the officials, it was time to meet the media, eagerly waiting to hear how he’d go about fixing the economy. Chidambaram me the journalists but nothing came from his side during the day that could give ‘breaking news’ to television channels or make headlines for newspapers.
The Harvard-educated lawyer once again showed his eye for detail when he not only asked the names of all journalists present but also made sure he got the correct spelling and meaning of the names.
He has taken charge at a time when economic growth is slowing and inflation is high. The country is facing a problem on the current account and fiscal deficits. All eyes are on Chidambaram, known for taking tough decisions. In his third stint as finance minister, there are expectations of his addressing investors’ concerns and bringing back the economy on a high-growth path.
The minister left for a meeting with President Mukherjee at 1.45 pm. Later in the day, he met Vice President Hamid Ansari and was also scheduled to meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Earlier in the day, he also spoke to UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi on telephone. In the morning, he also went to the home ministry, the charge he’s just relinquished, for a short while before taking charge of the new portfolio.