The Most powerful Indians in 09

Mamata Banerjee,Omar Abdullah,Anil Ambani,Om Prakash Bhatt,Nandan Nilekani,Mirwaiz Umar Farooq

Written by Express News Service | Published: March 9, 2009 5:12 pm

36. Mamata Banerjee, 53
Trinamool Congress chief
Why
Though her power has never really been reflected in election mathematics,Mamata Banerjee enjoys popular support throughout Bengal. After Singur and Nandigram,she now wields the power to stall anything and everything in West Bengal.
Power punch
In November last year,she first forced the CPI(M) on the backfoot in Nandigram. Her face-off with the Tatas made the company pull out its factory from Singur to Sanand in Gujarat.
What next
Bolstered by her successes in CPI(M) strongholds in last year’s panchayat elections,Mamata Banerjee now plays a key role in state politics. She is close to forming a grand alliance with the Congress and can throw a formidable challenge to the Left in the ensuing polls.

37. Omar Abdullah, 38
J&K Chief Minister
Why
Apart from being the scion of Kashmir’s first family,he is the youngest-ever Chief Minister of the trouble-torn state. Despite his father Farooq Abdullah,the Congress decided to join the government only on the condition that Omar would be chief minister.
Power punch
His short,but powerful speech during the trust vote for the Manmohan Singh Government had the highest number of hits on YouTube for an Indian lawmaker’s speech in Parliament. His impassioned plea hit home the point that not all Muslims in India were opposed to the nuclear deal.
What next
Governing J&K,when regional distrust between the Jammu and Kashmir regions is at its most pronounced,would be difficult. But what could eventually work in Omar’s favour is his earnestness.

38.Anil Ambani, 48
ADAG Chairman
Why
The chairman of all listed Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG) companies—including Reliance Communications,Reliance Capital,Reliance Energy and Reliance Natural Resources Limited—Anil Ambani heads one of the biggest corporate empires in India. Forbes ranked him sixth on the world billionaires list 2008 and also as the world’s biggest wealth creator.
Power punch
Ambani has expanded his presence in the entertainment business and is financing several Hollywood films. His Reliance Mutual Fund is the largest fund house in the country.
What next
Most of his companies are expanding fast. RCom has entered the GSM segment and the court is expected to decide on his dispute with Mukesh Ambani on natural gas soon.

39. Om Prakash Bhatt, 57
SBI Chairman
Why
As chairman of the largest bank in India—in terms of profits,assets,deposits,branches and employees—Om Bhatt is the most powerful banker in the country. With a network of over 9,000 branches in India and 51 offices in 32 countries,the bank commands about one-fifth of the total deposits and loans in all scheduled commercial banks in India. Its deposits of Rs 6,92,921 crore (as on December 31,2008) and the huge customer base give Bhatt considerable influence in the banking sector.
Power punch
In 2006,when the SBI chairman’s post fell vacant,he pipped many leading contenders to bag the top slot for an unheard-of five-year term.
What next
SBI,under his leadership,is likely to extend its financial inclusion and bring new banking instruments to customers.

40. Nandan Nilekani, 53
Co-chairman of Infosys Board of Directors
Why
The former CEO and managing director of one of India’s most successful,value-driven IT companies has now emerged as one of India’s foremost thinkers.
Power punch
His remark to The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman about technology levelling the global playing field led to Friedman coining the title of his 2005 book,The World is Flat. Nilekani’s own first book,Imagining India: Ideas for the New Century,released in November 2008,revealed his ideas about future challenges and opportunities.
What next
He is expected to leverage the access he has to government and enterprise to push his ideas at the policy level. Politics has been ruled out though.

41. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, 36
Chairman,Hurriyat Conference’s moderate faction
Why
Despite his moderate image,he has acquired the aura of a powerful separatist leader of the Valley. But what gives the hereditary chief priest of Kashmir an edge is his pragmatic,accommodative outlook,which makes him acceptable across the political and ideological divide.
Power punch
He got Hurriyat to talk to the Centre in 2003 amidst fierce opposition from the hardline Hurriyat faction and rampant separatist militancy.
What next
Though separatists in Kashmir find themselves marginalised after the Assembly elections,Mirwaiz remains a powerful political leader. The challenge will be to be central to any ‘solution’ that the new regime in the state and the next government in Delhi might wish to propose.

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