300 billion rupees by selling shares in state companies this fiscal year, which ends in March. Excluding the latest sale, it has managed just 1.25 billion rupees so far.
The government is staring at an overall shortfall of nearly 500 billion rupees in revenues this year, the government official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. This may require additional borrowing from the market.
Chidambaram's battle to tame the deficit takes place against the backdrop of a continued economic slowdown, and a fractious parliament where the government has lost its majority after its biggest coalition ally withdrew support to oppose its reforms.
Manufacturing is contracting and exports are falling. India's October trade deficit of nearly $21 billion was its worst on record.
And a second round of reforms aimed at liberalising the pension and insurance sectors has fallen victim to gridlock in parliament. It is not clear if the measures, long sought by investors, will be passed in the current winter session.
But Chidambaram, who began his second stint as finance minister in August, gives no appearance of being disheartened and as recently as Saturday was confidently predicting he would be able to contain the deficit to 5.3 percent of GDP.
Inside his ministry, officials said the target looks daunting but they have had no word of a revision from the minister. Instead, he has intensified pressure on them to find ways of meeting the target, they said.
Chidambaram's credibility is not yet on the line, said analysts. In fact, perhaps the opposite. His credentials as an economic reformer during two previous stints as finance minister are buying him time to pull India back from the fiscal precipice.