RANK 11: RAJNATH SINGH, 62
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Rank (2013): 18
As president of the principal Opposition party which is projecting itself as the alternative to incumbent Congress, Rajnath Singh presides over the organisational preparations of the BJP for the Lok Sabha elections.
Overcoming challenges within the BJP, he settled the leadership issue for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and projected Narendra Modi as his party’s prime ministerial candidate. Backing Modi, he did not stop the JD(U), an alliance partner for 17 years, from walking away.
While the party has set itself on a mission for a majority on its own, he will have to play a crucial role in stitching up a post-election coalition and returning the BJP to power after 10 years in Opposition.
BY THE WAY
An M.Sc in physics, he taught the subject at K B Post-Graduate College, Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh.
RANK 12: SHARAD PAWAR, 73
NCP chief and Union Agriculture Minister
Rank (2013): 20
The veteran politician punches more weight than the numerical strength of his NCP in Lok Sabha. His friendship with leaders across the political divide keeps the Maharashtra leader relevant in national politics.
As the Congress tried to make sense of the BJP’s lead in election preparedness, Pawar came out in the open to publicly declare that the regional parties will have a say in the next government formation. Has blown hot and cold against Narendra Modi.
Having decided not to contest Lok Sabha elections, Pawar will have time and energy on his side to leverage in the eventuality of a fractured mandate in the Lok Sabha elections. Regional players will play a crucial role.
BY TH WAY
Apart from Pranab Mukherjee, Pawar has been the other UPA minister to be received as state guest in Narendra Modi-ruled Gujarat.
RANK 13: SUSHMA SWARAJ, 62
Leader of Opposition, Lok Sabha
Rank (2013): 6
As the BJP seeks to ride on anti-Congress sentiments, the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha has a crucial role in pinning down the UPA government on a host of issues with her oratory, inside and outside the House.
She backed the Food Security Bill and passage of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill after differences within the UPA ranks held back these legislation for years.
Her oratory will be on full volume during the Lok Sabha elections. If Modi comes to power, how she fits in in the new regime will be something to watch for.
BY THE WAY
As leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, she did not sit on the seat allotted to her out of respect for her predecessor, LK Advani.
RANK 14: ARUN JAITLEY, 61
Leader of Opposition, Rajya Sabha
Rank (2013): 7
Among the few who can claim proximity to BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. He also remains at the core of shaping BJP’s position on key political issues.
He was instrumental in shaping the Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill as member of the select committee of Rajya Sabha which passed the legislation last year to end decades of political cold feet on the issue.
He is busy shaping the party’s election strategy. If the BJP and allies fail to get seats needed for government formation, Jaitley can be expected to play a key role in rustling up numbers.
BY THE WAY
He has decided to devote at least 10 minutes of his time everyday to draft messages for his social media audience, at least till the elections get over.
RANK 15: L K ADVANI, 86
Rank (2013): 34
The BJP patriarch’s political experience remains a key asset for the BJP to guide it through various political issues.
While he failed to scuttle Narendra Modi’s projection as the BJP prime ministerial candidate, he ensured that the government did not have its way on FDI in insurance despite a section of the party keen to let the financial reforms go through.
Though the party has virtually sidelined him from the 2014 election strategy, the veteran leader’s role will be crucial if the BJP fails to rustle up numbers for government formation. He refuses to hang his boots from politics.
BY THE WAY
He was a film critic for Organiser and is still an avid movie-watcher.
RANK 16: RAGHURAM RAJAN, 51
Governor, Reserve Bank of India
Rank (2013): 55
He has taken a host of measures to stabilise the rupee which has been plunging against the US dollar, build up forex reserves, reduce current account deficit and bring down inflation. He has announced several plans to improve financial inclusion and monetary policy. He has so far refused to reverse the monetary policy stance of his predecessor D Subbarao.
He became RBI Governor in September 2013, the second youngest to head India’s central bank after C D Deshmukh.
He will have to kickstart growth and continue his battle against inflation. To achieve higher growth, he may have to bring down interest rates and tame prices. He will have to issue new banking licences in the coming months. His problem area is high fiscal deficit.
BY THE WAY
Rajan is a fitness freak just like his predecessor.
RANK 17: P CHIDAMBARAM, 68
Union Finance Minister
Rank (2013): 5
The few economic initiatives that the government has taken this year largely flow from his office. These include projects cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Investments, clearing of conditions for telecom auction, and his joint fight with RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan to tame inflation, which has started to show results after stubbornly staying up seven years.
He has convinced global rating agencies that the fiscal deficit of India will remain under control for two successive years. With plummeting growth and demands for freebies all round, just this one step will ensure that investment flows will not dip.
Will he try to retain his Sivaganga seat in Tamil Nadu or give it up for a Rajya Sabha nomination? The answer should be out in a few days.
BY THE WAY
Has a spartan lifestyle, can surprise you by landing up at a private dinner driving his own car even as home or finance minister.
RANK 18: AMIT SHAH, 50
BJP General Secretary
(New on the list)
A close political confidant of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, he is involved in the party’s election management strategy for his prime ministerial bid.
While his political activities have been confined to Gujarat, his move to the national scene was signalled when BJP president Rajnath Singh appointed him as one of party’s national general secretaries and entrusted him with the responsibility of politically crucial Uttar Pradesh last summer.
Politically focussed on Uttar Pradesh, he has been touring the state to strengthen the party organisation ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. Delivering the largest contingent of Lok Sabha MPs from the state in BJP’s kitty remains his prime challenge.
BY THE WAY
When he was 18, he began trading in PVC pipes and later started manufacturing them.
RANK 19: MUKESH AMBANI, 56
Chairman, Reliance Industries
Rank (2013): 12
With a net worth of $21 billion, Mukesh Ambani retained his title as India’s wealthiest man for the sixth year in a row, bucking the broader slowdown in the economy that saw the collective wealth of India’s 100 richest persons soar by 3 per cent.
Spearheaded a mega infrastructure sharing deal between Reliance Jio Infocomm and then telecom rival Bharti Airtel in December 2013, taking everyone in the industry by surprise. The deal came on the heels of another mega telecom pact with Reliance Communications, the ADAG group company with which Reliance Jio had signed a tower-sharing pact.
RIL is betting big on its big telecom foray with fourth-generation (4G) services to be offered by Reliance Jio, the only operator in India with a nationwide licence.
BY THE WAY
Mumbai Indians player Dwayne Bravo calls him “Madam boss’s (Nita Ambani’s) husband”.
RANK 20: NAVEEN PATNAIK, 67
Chief Minister, Orissa
Rank (2013): 31
Because as chief of Biju Janata Dal, he may hold the key to government formation in 2014. Patnaik is perhaps at the peak of his political career, wooed assiduously by BJP as well as the Third Front. Despite lording over the state for 14 years, his popularity has not waned as he is all set to win a record fourth consecutive assembly poll this year.
His reckoning as an able administrator went up when he successfully led his team of officials and ministers to lead India’s biggest evacuation programme just before cyclone Phailin hit the Orissa coast in October last year.
With opposition Congress and BJP almost pulverised by the BJD in successive urban and rural polls in the last few years, Patnaik is set for a brute majority in the 147-member Assembly. The party’s internal assessment is 110 plus seats. But his eye is firmly set on Delhi where he expects to play kingmaker with his BJD MPs.
BY THE WAY
He does not carry a mobile phone.