"I know my limitations. And I live and conduct myself according to my limitations," the seasoned politician said in what he called his "serious answer". If, however, he said, reporters expected a light-hearted comment, then "I tell you this: I know that some of you think I am foolish. But I am not so foolish as you think."
The Finance Minister wore a smile as he said this at a press conference in New Delhi today. In Chennai yesterday, Mr Chidambaram sat in the front row among the audience as Mr Karunanidhi released a book on him titled "Chidambaram: Oru Paarvai," a compilation of opinion pieces about him. He did not speak at the function.
Mr Karunanidhi said Mr Chidambaram was one of few people who had a place in his heart. Then he quipped, "What next? You (the audience) have expressed your aspirations through your applause and cheers. Some speakers spoke about a dhoti-clad Tamilian becoming Prime Minister. So, that also answers the question regarding a saree-wearing Tamil becoming Prime Minister." That was a dig at Mr Karunanidhi's bete noir and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and her reported ambition for a bigger role on the national stage.
The DMK is an important ally of the Congress, Mr Chidambaram's party, in the United Progressive Alliance government.
Actors Rajinikanth and Kamal Hassan too attended the book release. Kamal Hassan said he believed Mr Chidambaram would "get to play a bigger role." The tone for the evening was set by the Editor of the book 'Ilakiya' Natarajan when he said in his welcome address that Mr Chidambaram was capable of becoming Prime Minister.