The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Official car' Not when minister is at home

Chennai, July 28: Why use official cars when you have your own'

At least, that’s what central ministers from Tamil Nadu do when they come down to their home state.

Palaniappan Chidambaram tops the list. When the Union finance minister comes to Chennai en route to his home district of Sivaganga, his personal car invariably reaches the airport well in advance.

Chidambaram uses an Opel Corsa these days. “I do not need a car (official car) when I have a car,” Chidambaram reportedly quipped today soon after he landed in Chennai this morning.

He later called on DMK chief M. Karunanidhi and discussed budgetary schemes related to the state before leaving for Kumbakonam where he would meet parents of children who died in the recent school fire there.

The toll in the tragedy climbed to 94 with one more child, Selvan Vignesh, succumbing to burns at the Thanjavur Medical College hospital.

But why does the finance minister prefer his personal car when he comes down to Chennai' “For the last nearly 20 years, PC (as he is fondly called) has been using his personal car, ever since he first became a minister in the central government,” a close aide said.

Chidambaram “does not use state guesthouses either when he tours Tamil Nadu”, he added.

“PC has set certain norms for himself, which he will not compromise on,” he explained. But it does not mean the minister is “refusing the official car”.

Two other top notch ministers from the state — Union communications minister Dayanidhi Maran and surface transport and shipping minister T.R. Baalu, both from the DMK — also use their personal cars when they come down to Chennai.

While Dayanidhi drives around in an Opel Astra, Baalu uses his Tata Safari. Dayanidhi’s father, the late Murasoli Maran, who too was a Union minister, used his personal Mercedes Benz.

Of course, the comfort factor does play a role, too, sources said.

A DMK source said as per protocol, central ministers are “state guests” when they come to Tamil Nadu. But with their rival, the ADMK, in power in Tamil Nadu, “they mostly send lousy (official) cars” when the central ministers from the DMK come down. That is also a reason why the DMK ministers prefer their own vehicles.

Junior ministers from the DMK at the Centre, however, use the official Ambassadors while in Chennai. “As their houses are in the faraway districts, they cannot have easy access to their personal cars,” the DMK source said.

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