Rahul Gandhi, 42
Rank ’12: 1
As vice-president,he is set to lead his party in the general elections. His incremental role in decision-making in the party is likely to coincide with a gradual withdrawal of president Sonia Gandhi from day-to-day party affairs.
At the AICC session in Jaipur in January,his invocation of the sacrifices made by the Nehru-Gandhi family drove party office-bearers to tears. He asserted his authority as No. 2 in the party with a series of meetings with senior party leaders.
His electoral appeal and political acumen will be tested once again as several states go to the polls.
“If I get married and have children,then I will become a status quoist…” For now,its status quo.
By The Way
Of late,he has turned vegetarian.
Narendra Modi, 62
Rank ’12: 14
The year before the big election,he is the Challenger. He has made himself out to be the undeclared prime ministerial candidate of the BJP,without waiting for the central leadership to name him. As the Congress-led government battles inertia and indecisiveness,he has packaged himself as the doer with his development pitch,though his critics dispute his claims and the ghosts of 2002 will continue to haunt him.
Won his third Gujarat elections. Was made a member of the partys highest decision-making bodies,the parliamentary board and central election committee. The decision by Britain to engage with him just before the Assembly elections suggests he might have managed to acquire wider acceptance.
The frontrunner among BJP prime-ministerial candidates,he has one year to win over party and alliance partners. He will try to soften his anti-minority image to project himself as a national leader.
In a WSJ interview,he said Gujarati women are malnourished as they are more beauty conscious than health conscious.
BY THE WAY
Conscious of his hair,he often carries a comb at public events.
Sonia Gandhi, 66
Rank ’12: 2
Even as she is in the process of handing over the baton to Rahul Gandhi,she continues to play a decisive role in the Congress and the government in her capacity as party president and UPA chairperson.
Her public support for economic reforms,especially for the decision to allow FDI in multi-brand retail,changed the partys usually diffident approach to economic reforms. Despite tremendous pressure from party leaders in New Delhi and Ranchi,she stalled all attempts to form a coalition government in Jharkhand.
She will ensure a smooth transition of power to the younger generation in the party while taking a backseat gradually. She will,however,continue to play an active role until the general elections.
By The Way
Besides Italian,English and Hindi,she is well-versed in Portuguese too.
Manmohan Singh, 80
Prime Minister of India
Rank ’12: 3
After months of dithering,he sent out a strong message that reforms were back on track. He brought P Chidambaram back to the Finance Ministry,removed Jaipal Reddy from the Petroleum Ministry,cleared FDI in multi-brand retail,and went ahead with the cash-transfer scheme. He has not been as assertive as this since he signed the civil nuclear deal with the US.
Moved Chidambaram to Finance Ministry despite several political and legal attacks on the minister,triggering a number of long-pending economic decisions.
A third term as PM not ruled out.
His Theek hai? remark at the end of a televised address after the Delhi gang rape prompted a volley of criticism.
By The Way
Breakfast hour is when he is most relaxed. That is when he meets most of his non-political guests.
P Chidambaram, 67
Minister of Finance
Rank ’12: 10
He pulled back the economy from the prospect of being rated junk by financial markets in just six months. Though Budget 2013-14 was far from the dream budget of 1996-97,it can prove to be a more significant watershed for the Indian economy.
India is still growing at just above 5 per cent. The oil subsidy bill has gone down only just,and the target of fiscal consolidation still looks challenging. Yet,since January this year,foreign investors have pumped in $10 billion into the stock markets. A large part of their faith is built on the occupant of the corner room in North Block.
Several high-profile appointments,including the next RBI Governor and CAG. The first of the new bank licences is also due this year.
BY THE WAY
After his eighth Budget in 2013,he became the top Budget maker in India after Morarji Desai,who presented 10 Budgets.
Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha
Rank ’12: 5
Her consent is crucial for the government to get important legislation on economic reforms,Lokpal and land acquisition through the House.
While every one else stood in deference to Narendra Modi at the party’s national conclave in March,she said she would begin where Modi left in his speech.
She is in the race for the BJPs prime ministerial candidature. She already has the public support of NDA partner Shiv Sena and might get support from more allies.
When she said she would raise an important issue in Parliament: Why is it that attack in films is only on Hindu beliefs and on names like Sita,Radha and Kaushalya?
By The Way
She is an ardent follower of Lord Krishna.
Arun Jaitley, 60
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha
Rank 12: 6
With the UPA government short of a majority in the Rajya Sabha,he holds importance for his stance on important legislative agenda of the government. He is the BCCI vice-president and a member of the IPL governing council.
Breaking from practice,he decided to be part of the Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha to shape the Lokpal Bill. His contribution in cleaning the governments version to make it more acceptable is widely acknowledged.
He is in the reckoning for the BJP’s prime ministerial nomination. His friendship across parties is used by the BJP to avoid disintegration of the NDA,and will come in handy in roping in new allies for the general elections. He is all set to take over as the BCCI president next year.
By The Way
He is the only meat-eater among the top six leaders of the BJP. His all-time favourite,however,is Amritsari chana-kulcha.
Pranab Mukherjee, 77
President of India
Rank ’12: 8
Even though he is no longer in active politics,he remains in the limelight. By shedding colonial honorifics,breaking protocol norms in Rashtrapati Bhavan and rejecting mercy petitions,he has ensured that his relevance in public sphere does not diminish.
His decision to reject a number of mercy petitions in the last few months,beginning with that of Ajmal Kasab,has instantly put the focus on Rashtrapati Bhavan. Other clemency pleas that he turned down were those of Afzal Guru and four gang members of sandalwood smuggler Veerappan.
His role becomes critical as soon as general elections are called. Known as the leader who could not become the prime minister,he can find himself in a role to decide who can be the next prime minister.
By The Way
He has been writing a diary for the last three decades.
Nitish Kumar, 61
Rank ’12: 13
Nitish Kumar is one leader both the Congress and BJP will seek in case of a fractured mandate in 2014. He has made it clear that he is not bound to the NDA. His opposition to Narendra Modi and the impressive growth numbers of Bihar give him a national stature.
After he put up a massive show of strength at his first solo rally in Delhi where he demanded special status for Bihar,the Centre is moving to grant that status.
If the government is formed by an alliance supported by either the BJP or the Congress after the general elections,Nitish is one of the leaders who can end up as prime minister. Even otherwise,his party,the JD(U),is likely to be a significant member of any ruling alliance.
BY THE WAY
He gets a head massage before he starts his day.
Chief of Samajwadi Party
Rank ’12: 19
While his son is the CM of Uttar Pradesh,he is the Super CM who chides his son publicly. With his support to the UPA crucial after the DMKs pull-out,he has kept the Congress on tenterhooks. Also,a potential magnet for a possible third front.
Though he indicated he would not upset the UPA applecart after his UP victory,he aligned with the mercurial Mamata Banerjee to make the Congress reconsider its presidential candidate and to nominate Pranab Mukherjee.
With the BJP hoping to make gains at the expense of the Congress in the next general elections,he wishes to leverage his advantage in UP to make one last bid for prime ministership by forging a secular alliance.
By The Way
He regrets missing his appointment with socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia at Agra just before his death.