Karti's family of banking pioneers

Blood line strewn with wealth and kin at top

By Sathyamoorthy Govindarajan in Chennai
  • Published 1.03.18
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Police personnel escort Karti Chidambaram to the Patiala House Courts in New Delhi on Wednesday. (PTI)

Chennai: Former Union finance minister P. Chidambaram hails from a family of Nagarathar or Nattukottai Chettiars, known for their wealth, culture and charity.

He was born to Palaniappa Chettiar and Lakshmi Achi at Kandalur village in Tamil Nadu's Sivaganga district on September 16, 1945. He has a sister and two brothers.

His father was into trading, plantations and textiles. Chidambaram's grandfather and grand-uncles were co-founders of United India Insurance, Indian Bank, Annamalai University and Indian Overseas Bank.

Chidambaram's mother Lakshmi was the daughter of Sir Annamalai Chettiar, a banker and merchant. He was granted the title of Raja by the British.

Annamalai Chettiar was the founder of Annamalai University and United India Insurance Company Ltd. His brother Ramaswami Chettiar was the founder of Indian Bank and the co-founder of some other major banks.

Chidambaram's family is so well-connected that several of his kith and kin are among the top in several spheres, including education, industry, culture and above all banking.

Chidambaram studied at Presidency College, Chennai, and graduated with a BSc degree. He then received his Bachelor of Law degree from the Law College of University of Madras.

He later went to Harvard Business School, where he obtained an MBA degree. He also holds a post-graduate degree from Loyola College, Chennai.

During this time, Chidambaram's politics inclined to the Left and in 1969 he joined N. Ram, later the editor-in-chief of The Hindu, and activist Mythili Sivaraman in starting a journal called Radical Review.

Very few know that Chidambaram, the US-educated votary of free enterprise and unbridled economic reforms, used to be a hardcore Leftist arguing in favour of the command economy in the late 1960s.

Later he chose to concentrate on his legal practice and stayed away from the family business.

Popularly known as PC, he practises corporate law in high courts and the Supreme Court and started off his political career as a Congressman.

In 1968, Chidambaram married Nalini, a successful lawyer who practises in Madras High Court and the Supreme Court. Her father P.S. Kailasam is a retired Supreme Court judge and mother Soundra Kailasam is a famous Tamil author and poet.

Chidambaram's son Karti is a BBA from University of Texas, Austin. He has also done a Master's in Law from University of Cambridge.

As an All-India Congress Committee member, Karti's political activities are concentrated in Tamil Nadu. He married Srinidi Rangarajan, a doctor attached to Apollo Hospitals, Chennai. She is also a renowned Bharatanatyam dancer. They have a daughter, Aditi Nalini Chidambaram.

P. Chidambaram, who became an AICC member in 1972, was the Youth Congress president in Tamil Nadu from 1973 to 1976.

From 1976 to 1977, he was the Pradesh Congress Committee's general secretary in Tamil Nadu. In 1984, Chidambaram was first elected as a member of the 8th Lok Sabha from Tamil Nadu's Sivaganga. He was elected to the Lok Saba seven times from the same constituency - 1984, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1998, 2004 and 2009.

In 1985, Chidambaram was the All India Congress Committee (Indira's) joint secretary.

He held any number of ministerial positions in the central government, including three terms as finance minister and one as home minister.