An emotional P Chidambaram on Thursday bid adieu to the Finance Ministry, which he had served thrice, with a promise that he would continue to remain active in public life.
Chidambaram, 68, who holds the distinction of presenting nine Unions Budgets -- short of the record 10 delivered by Morarji Desai -- listed out the challenges before the economy in his parting address to the secretaries and senior officials of his ministry.
"Since 1966 I have been working for 16 hours a day and I will continue to work so...You will now see me more in public life than you saw me till now," said Chidambaram, who did not contest the just-concluded Lok Sabha elections.
Exit polls show the BJP-led NDA is set to form the government after votes are counted tomorrow.
An official who worked closely with Chidambaram for years and was present at the farewell meeting organised at the North Block office said: "FM was as emotional to the extent he could be. It is unbecoming of him to be emotional." Returning to the Finance Ministry in August 2012 after a stint as Home Minister, Chidambaram did his best to put the economy back on the rails. He narrowed the fiscal and current account deficits, lowered gold imports and held meetings in India and abroad to boost investor confidence.
"It was at a tough time when he held the reins at the ministry. He was hard taskmaster and ensured that deficit red lines were not crossed," another official said.
Draped in his characteristic white shirt and veshti, Chidambaram reached his office at 8.15 am, cleared pending files and met senior officials on his last day as Finance Minister of the UPA-II government.
Chidambaram had earlier promised he would "keep a firm hand on the wheel until the last day" and hoped to "hand over the wheel to another firm hand."
Though he was Finance Minister in the first United Progressive Alliance government, Chidambaram became Home Minister, replacing Shivraj Patil, days after the November 2008 terror attack.
The architect of the "dream budget" in 1997-98 who was known for taking bold decisions, Chidambaram returned to the Finance Ministry for the third time in August 2012 in UPA-II after Pranab Mukherjee quit on June 26, 2012, to contest the Presidential elections.
A Harvard-educated lawyer, Chidambaram became the face of India's economic reforms when he took over as Finance Minister for the first time in the United Front government in 1996 under HD Deve Gowda.