‘Expect wonders from Cong’

Congress leader Karti Chidambaram won the 2024 Lok Sabha polls from Sivaganga in Tamil Nadu, the seat from where his father P Chidambaram had been the parliamentarian a record seven times.

‘Expect wonders from Cong’

Congress leader Karti Chidambaram (photo:SNS)

Congress leader Karti Chidambaram won the 2024 Lok Sabha polls from Sivaganga in Tamil Nadu, the seat from where his father P Chidambaram had been the parliamentarian a record seven times.

In an interview with The Statesman, Karti shares how he entered politics, from being part of his father’s election campaigns to later helping him out during crucial political developments in the country. He also highlighted the importance of the Bharat Jodo Yatra and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s efforts that helped in reviving the grand old party in the recent general election.

The businessman-politician also advises young entrepreneurs and start-ups to be very careful about taking money from the right investor, and claims that venture capitalists only look for good valuation and not good service delivery.


Q. You were a successful businessman. Why did you decide to enter politics?

A: I grew up in a political environment, where one sees politics up and close. It had an impact on me, so I always wanted to be a politician, and it was not some late realization. I have worked with my father very closely and particularly during his elections since I came back from England in 1995-96. The year 1996 was very exciting as we broke away in Tamil Nadu to form a regional outfit of the Congress. When my father contested the assembly election after that, he lost and we learnt our lesson. As a kid I was part of the campaign and had recited a poem written by my maternal grandmother, who was a poet. So I have always been around politics, and I am not surprised that I got into electoral politics. I have myself contested three elections.

Q. How would you define your political ambition?

A: I really want to be in state politics, I personally feel that state governments are closer to people, and delivery of services is easier. They are also answerable. For a long time, people in Tamil Nadu have not seen a Congress government. My personal political ambition is to see the Congress party govern the state or be at the helm of affairs as part of a coalition.

Q: You have been re-elected from Sivaganga. The BJP has increased its vote share in Tamil Nadu considerably. Is it not a cause of concern for the Congress?

A: It is a misreading of the data because firstly, the BJP contested very few seats in 2019, compared to 2024, as in 2019, they were part of the AIADMK alliance, and now they have contested more seats. Secondly, this time they had alliances with many community and caste outfits, and these outfits have contested on their symbols, so these candidates are not pure BJP candidates. It is a complete misreading of the data. The BJP’s vote share would have gone up, but not as much as it is being portrayed by the media.

Q: The BJP has opened its account in another southern state, Kerala. Don’t you think the BJP could be a strong challenger for all other parties in Tamil Nadu and Kerala in the next Lok Sabha polls?

A: I must give it to them (BJP) that they have tried very hard, using men, material and all kinds of means. In Kerala, the man who has won is Suresh Gopi who is a popular film actor. He was a losing candidate earlier, but he sort of camped there (Thrissur) for five years and there were personality votes for him. I am sure the vote share for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has gone up, I am not denying that, it has possibly gone up in Tamil Nadu, but not to the extent that is being talked about.

Q: The Congress may be on the revival path but is still far away from becoming the force it used to be. Are you satisfied with the party’s performance?

A: I think we are close to 100 right now, and in 2014 and in 2019, collectively we did not even win the kind of numbers we have now. So it is a huge improvement. It is not enough, but it is giving us something to share about. Punjab was a singularly stellar performance. I must admit that there are concerns in Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha. It is in the northeast, not noticed very much, but we had success in the region as well.

Q: What is your reading of Rahul Gandhi’s performance?

A: I think his effort of doing two Bharat Jodo Yatras is commendable. It takes tremendous physical energy to do it, and also great will to set aside six months of your life. Doing this is not easy. I think it has earned him a lot more respect and those who are not necessarily his fans had to respect him for the effort that he made. The entire route he took was also a big morale booster for the organization. I always believed that the leadership needs to go to the doorstep and not be at the mountain, and the Bharat Jodo yatra was taking the leadership to the doorstep. And this role of taking the leadership to the doorstep had a big role in our electoral success.

Q: Your comments on Rahul Gandhi becoming the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament.

A: He should be the LoP, whatever may be the chatter in the social media and circles outside. Within the Congress party, the Gandhi family has a very special place, they bind it together. I personally feel, especially after the performance in the LS polls, Rahul Gandhi should take the role of the Leader of Opposition. Q: Where do you see the Congress in the next five years? Do you think the party will become a strong challenger to the BJP? A: The fact is that the Congress was able to revive itself after a huge crisis. We need to have sharper campaigns and relations, and I feel that the upcoming state elections, like in Jharkhand, Haryana and Maharashtra, will be good for us. We need to have a middle class urban push as well.

Q: Apart from being a politician, you are also a successful businessman. Do you invest in start-ups? What is your advice to young entrepreneurs?

A:When we are celebrating entrepreneurship in India, my only advice to young entrepreneurs and start-ups is that be very wary of these venture capitalists, they will not stand with you when there is a crisis. When things are going good, they will be with you, otherwise they will abandon you, as they are obsessed with valuation and not with quality of delivery. Be very careful from whom you take money. I do invest in start-ups and have had a fair share of successes.