28. Digvijay Singh, 62
AICC General Secretary
Ever since his partys defeat in the 2003 Assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh,Singh has been in self-imposed political exile. But the two-time chief minister has redefined exile. He has consistently attracted the spotlight,most recently in his job of putting the Congress organisation in shape in Uttar Pradesh and negotiating an alliance with the SP in UP.
In 1994,Madhya Pradesh became the first state to introduce the Panchayati Raj system,Singh,as chief minister,confessed that resource crunch had made the devolution of power necessary. But it was a pioneering move and Singhs political image still benefits from it.
In 2009,he must improve the partys showing on its own or through an alliance with the SP in a crucial state.
29. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, 64
West Bengal Chief Minister
Eleven years after he took over West Bengal,he remains the capitalist communist who can deliver on the promise of a new Bengaldespite the setbacks of Nandigram and the Nano pullout. He is also one of the few comrades who can be at odds with the party line and get away with it.
In the 2006 state elections,the Buddha-led Left Front stormed the 294-member Assembly,grabbing absolute majority with 235 seats. And he got the Politburo to agree to the new reform agendathe transition from agriculture to industry.
Bengals future depends on how Buddha tackles Nandigram and the post-Nano-pullout scenario. He would facilitate implementation of projects,which are valued at about Rs 1 lakh crore.
30. Priyanka Gandhi, 37
Scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family,Priyanka manages the Congress poll strategies during elections while Sonia tours the entire country.
She took everybody by surprise in March last year when she met Nalini Sriharan,who is convicted for involvement in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and is serving life-sentence,at Vellore prison. Its completely personal,I dont want to say anything about it. I needed to make peace with all the violence in my life, she said when the meeting became public.
Priyanka has been helping her mother and Congress President Sonia Gandhi in nursing her Rae Bareli constituency,where she is known as didi. There is speculation on her entry into formal politics even though the Congress denies it.
31. Sheila Dikshit,70
Delhi Chief Minister
Winning the third consecutive Assembly election in Delhi,Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has infused life into the Congress at the Centre,which believes it can beat the anti-incumbency factor in the next general election. There are few in the state unit to challenge her leadership now.
Her emphatic victory in the Assembly elections last year has silenced her detractors in the partyat least for now.
To the Congress,she is the face of developmentan educated,outspoken woman with mass appeal. She will surely be showcased in the Lok Sabha elections,but the party leadership is yet to decide whether she will serve out the entire tenure or assume some responsibility in party affairs.