While focusing on the shortcomings of political parties, people should also acknowledge their achievements, observed Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram while addressing a public meeting in Coonoor on Monday.

Pointing out that the United Progressive Alliance government was pro-poor, he said that over the last six years a number of welfare schemes had been implemented.

Listing some of them, he said that the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which was being implemented at a cost of Rs.40,000 crore, was battling hunger. Wondering why the Bharatiya Janata Party regime had not thought of such a measure to help the needy, he said that the education loan scheme was helping many students from the weaker sections of society.

While last year 16 lakh students had benefited, during the current fiscal the number is expected to go up to 20 lakh. One out of every four beneficiaries hailed from Tamil Nadu. Stating that there were complaints against some of the bank officials he described them as black sheep.

Pointing out that the ‘education for all' scheme was progressing well, Mr. Chidambaram said that a ‘food for all' scheme was on the anvil. Contending that schemes for the poor could not be implemented without giving due importance to development, he said that a nine per cent growth was helping the government extend a helping hand to the underprivileged sections of society. In Tamil Nadu also, a number of welfare schemes were being implemented.

Adverting to the status of the Congress in Tamil Nadu, he said that owing to various factors it had not regained power for several decades. Stating that it was second to none, he said that with self-confidence it can regain people's confidence.

The Congress produced leaders who were suitable for various generations, he said, and added that it was now projecting Rahul Gandhi as the leader of the future.

In Tamil Nadu, a membership drive had led to 13 lakh persons joining the Youth Congress. Later, when asked by reporters for his views on BJP leader L.K. Advani demanding the ouster of Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah for a statement reportedly made by the latter on the status of Kashmir vis-à-vis India, Mr. Chidambaram opined that Mr. Advani should react only after reading the entire statement and not say anything which was out of context.

When asked about the alliance in Tamil Nadu, he quipped that it was not the forum to reply to such questions. Earlier, Mr. Chidambaram addressed the student-officers of the Defence Services Staff College at Wellington.