A few days before Tamil Nadu is due to vote, as this correspondent was touring the temple city of Madurai to check the prospects of candidates put forward by political parties in the four constituencies around Madurai, a name popped up everywhere . Not by posters or banners, but by word of mouth among the townspeople. A man who bet on his legacy in 2016 was betting on his work as an MP in the 2021 election. ‘I want people to judge me on the basis of my work,’ he told THE WEEK at the time during the campaign .
For the people of Madurai Central, Dr. P. Thiaga Rajan is no newcomer. A data-driven person, PTR as he is popularly known in political circles in Tamil Nadu, has carved out a place for himself over the past five years and then rose through the party ranks to become one of the performers intellectuals from the team of party leader MK Stalin. With a Masters in Operations Research and a PhD in Applied Computer Science, Thiaga Rajan has used all his knowledge through education abroad to implement various social welfare programs in and around Madurai Central. With constituency development funds, Thiaga Rajan has set up 150 social projects in Madurai Central, including those dealing with water scarcity issues.
Coming from a wealthy family and high-level politicians, Thiaga Rajan is a man passionate about public policy and the well-being of people and has considerable experience in the fields of finance and economics. After graduating as an engineer from the NIT in Trichy in 1985, Thiaga Rajan moved to New York where he completed his master’s degree in operational research. And then he did his MBA in finance at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, where he was taught by Nobel laureate and renowned economist Franc Modigliani. After working as an investment banker at Lehmann Brothers and then for a stint at Standard Chartered in Singapore, Thiaga Rajan is renowned for having the experience of deciphering the complex monetary markets of more than 55 countries. Thiaga Rajan has hands-on experience cracking the balance sheets of many top companies.
With his qualifications, Thiaga Rajan is one of the few well-educated people in Stalin’s cabinet. Although he is supposed to look after the fiscal health of the state, his job as finance minister could be very difficult at a time when the state is trapped in deep debt. This matters given the deep pockets needed to carry out the social welfare programs and cash stipends promised by Stalin in his manifesto.
Thiaga Rajan will also have to manage the fiscal impact of the promises made by Stalin to reduce the prices of petrol and diesel, which are increased from time to time by the central government, as well as the Rs 100 subsidy promised by Stalin for the gas bottles or gas cylinder. Next comes the most important question of all: the allocation of pandemic spending. Incidentally, since the DMK left office in May 2011, the state debt which stood at Rs 1.30 lakh crore has risen to Rs.2.85 lakh crore in 2021.
Thiaga Rajan will also have to fight with a hostile central government over pending state TPS revenue. But with his knowledge and experience, Thiaga Rajan is best placed in Stalin’s first cabinet.