The Indian Express Power List, which ranks the 100 most powerful Indians, for the year 2016 is out.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who led his party the BJP to a landslide victory in the 2014 national elections, remains the most powerful Indian. Despite a slew of controversies around him, his popularity is unchallenged.
“…Despite the storm around him — the intolerance debate, the defeat in Bihar, the Rohith Vemula suicide, the JNU crisis — he remains the unchallenged No 1. Under Modi, the PMO has become the epicentre of all important, and some not-so-important, decisions, with the ministries often being bypassed,” the list says.
The impromptu decision the Prime Minister took to stop-over in Lahore on his way home from Afghanistan to meet Nawaz Sharif was considered a clever diplomatic move and surprised geopolitical scientists. The visit also opened a new channel of communication between the two countries.
Mohan Bhagwat, the chief of the RSS (the ideological fountainhead of the BJP), holds the second spot, very much an indicator of the influence of his organization on the present government.
“While Narendra Modi is seen to have complete Sangh backing, Bhagwat has ensured that the RSS maintains its distinct and larger identity as a flagbearer of Hindu pride,” the poll says.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi is at a distant ninth, although he has climbed up two spots. Although the Congress was washed out in Delhi by the Aam Aadmi Party in March, come October, the party successfully piggy-backed on the popularity of Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad Yadav to reap dividends in the state. In 2015, the Congress vice president was also seen to be much more active than previous years, leading agitations and protest marches and launching attacks against the government.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who has not lost a single opportunity to attack the Centre, is at 8th spot and Mehbooba Mufti, the PDP chairperson who could go on to become Jammu and Kashmir’s first woman chief minister, has made it into the list.
Among sportspersons, Virat Kohli, the vice captain of the Indian cricket team, is at 42nd spot. Badminton player Saina Nehwal is at 84th spot and tennis star Sania Mirza is at 85th spot.
Among Bollywood actors, Salman Khan, who has had a troubled 2015 with the hearings in the 2002 hit-and-run case, is ranked 83rd. Actor Deepika Padukone is at 93rd spot and Priyanka Chopra at 98th spot.