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IE100: The list of most powerful Indians in 2021

IE100 - The List Of India's Most Powerful People: It is the absence of another kind that tells part of the story of the year gone by. As the government expands its ambit to that last remaining frontier of digital space, there are barely any voices outside ‘The Establishment’ seeking to be heard.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: March 30, 2021 7:03:31 am
IE100: The list of most powerful Indians

In a year when a virus locked down the nation and touched all aspects of its daily life, it was the process of recovery and fightback that tested how the levers of power moved. So The Indian Express Power List 2021 reflects this new old world: health experts, bureaucrats and pharmaceutical firms at the forefront of the Covid-19 battle; even as the BJP’s unstoppable election machine continued to sweep Opposition leaders out of its way.

Those among the Opposition’s ranks holding on saw their fortunes surge, especially Sharad Pawar and Uddhav Thackeray in Maharashtra; Bhupesh Baghel in Chhattisgarh; Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi, Pinarayi Vijayan in Kerala, Hemant Soren in Jharkhand, and a new crop of farm leaders. For precisely the same reason, the Gandhi family, the reluctant leaders of a dwindling Congress, are out of the top 20, ranking after their own chief ministers.

The change in the power balance is most acute in J&K, where, dealt with a body blow by the Centre, Mehbooba Mufti and Farooq Abdullah must fight to regain ground all over again.

If the growing Adani empire from airports to ports is reflected in his rise up the list, the most remarkable ascent, not surprisingly, is of Sanjay Kumar Mishra and Y C Modi — the heads respectively of the Enforcement Directorate and NIA, the two Central agencies now synonymous with the knock on the door, often bypassing state governments and reinforcing a message of who is in power.

VHP’s vice president Champat Rai and architect Bimal Patel enter the list courtesy the Ram temple project and the new Central Vista Patel is constructing, while Nitish Kumar has a great fall (despite a poll victory) as the JD(U) he built is reduced to an adjunct of the BJP.

However, it is absence of another kind that tells part of the story of the year gone by. As the government expands its ambit to that last remaining frontier of digital space, there are now barely any voices outside ‘The Establishment’ seeking to be heard. More than half of the 100 are linked to the ruling establishment at the Centre or the states, a testament to the fact that power continues to be concentrated in the political.

1. Narendra Modi, 70

Prime Minister of India (2019 Rank: 1)

Narendra Modi

Why

From getting a nation of 1.3 billion to follow harsh lockdown rules to setting India on the path to developing and distributing indigenous Covid-19 vaccines, Narendra Modi dominates India’s political landscape more than ever since he took charge seven years ago.

Power Punch

Amid the border stand-off, he pulled off a diplomatic coup over China by committing to send vaccines made in India to other countries — over 70 countries and counting. On February 10, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau, who had spoken out on the farmers’ protest, called up the PM seeking support for his country’s vaccination efforts, and was assured help.

What Next

With farm protests still on, Modi will need to tap into his formidable political capital as he unveils his reform agenda and pushes privatisation.

By the way

In his youth, Modi had a fascination for scooters. In a talk to school students on exam stress, he described how people “shake” a scooter when it runs out of fuel.

2. Amit Shah, 56 

Union Home Minister (2019 Rank: 2)

Amit Shah

Why

Despite stepping down as party president in 2019, Shah is the de facto chief of the BJP and plays a significant role in the organisation. Under him, the BJP’s ideological pot has been on a steady boil—from scrapping Article 370 in August 2019 to pushing ahead with the Citizenship (Amendment) Act despite protests to now leading the party’s Ram Mandir drive.

Power Punch

He managed to get former Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, along with almost two dozen MLAs, to walk out of the Congress, a move that toppled the Kamal Nath government and placed Shivraj Singh Chouhan back in the saddle.

What Next

As the face of the BJP’s campaign on CAA?and NRC, Shah has to ensure that the party retains power in Assam. But the big question is: will he be able to cause an upset in the most high-profile fight of them all —? West Bengal?

By the way

Shah loves to unwind by listening to old Hindi film songs.

3. Mohan Bhagwat, 70

RSS chief (2019 Rank: 4)

Mohan Bhagwat

Why

Bolstered by the Supreme Court’s Ram Temple judgment, the RSS, under Bhagwat, is pushing ideological projects with greater vigour. Several BJP states passing love jihad laws is said to be a result of a push from the RSS. Even as the Sangh has helped the BJP grow in strength in successive elections, it has also becom assertive in pushing the BJP on key national issues such as the ongoing farmers’ protests.

Power Punch

Despite no official position, Bhagwat was part of the Ram temple foundation laying ceremony in August 2020, imprinting the RSS mark on the project. Plus, despite the Ram Janm­a­bhoomi judgment, Bhagwat has restrained the Sangh’s longstanding demands of a similar nature in Kashi and Mathura.

What Next

Balancing Sangh’s ideological aspirations against an all-powerful BJP’s electoral compulsions will remain a challenge.

By the way

Bhagwat is a keen follower of Marathi music.

4. J P Nadda, 60

President, Bharatiya Janata Party (2019 Rank: 10)

J P Nadda

Why

In the BJP, where Narendra Modi and Amit Shah loom large, Nadda has effortlessly slipped into his role as party chief. Since he took charge in January 2020, Nadda has presided over an extensive outreach programme for the party during the lockdown. He also kicked off an awareness campaign on the new farm laws in poll-bound Bengal.

Power Punch

It was Nadda who took the lead in BJP’s campaign in Bihar, where the party not only managed to win the election for the coalition but also reduced its powerful ally, JD(U), to a junior partner.

What Next

With the BJP facing tough polls in four states and one Union Territory that vote in March-April, and with the party in power only in Assam, the scale of the party’s electoral gains will buttress his position.

By the way

Having studied in Patna, Nadda, who originally hails from Himachal, is fluent in different dialects of Bhojpuri.

5. Mukesh Ambani, 63

Chairman and MD, Reliance Industries (2019 Rank: 5)

Mukesh Ambani

Why

Mukesh Ambani is Chairman, MD and majority stakeholder of Reliance Industries, India’s largest company in terms of market capitalisation, and a leader in retail business and telecom. With assets worth around $80 billion, Ambani is also the richest person in Asia and the seventh richest in the world (in 2020).

Power Punch

Since April 2020, RIL led by Mukesh Ambani has raised around Rs 2.5 lakh crore ($34 billion) through a combination of stake sales in its retail and digital services segments and a rights issue offering.

What Next

All eyes are on Reliance’s planned acquisition of Future Group’s retail, logistics and warehousing businesses. Amazon had opposed the Future-RIL deal soon after it was announced last year, and the matter is now in courts.

By the way

Kruger National Park in South Africa is his favourite holiday destination.

6. Rajnath Singh, 69

Minister of Defence (2019 Rank: 6)

Why

Considered the softer face of the NDA government in Parliament, Singh, a former agriculture minister in the Vajpayee Cabinet, is expected to emerge as the key pointsperson for the government in defusing the protracted farmers’ protests.

Power Punch

In one of the worst military standoffs with China, which began in May 2020, it was Singh’s decision to cross the LAC and capture strategic heights in the Kailash Range that gave India the leverage to negotiate and get Finger 4 on Pangong Tso’s north bank vacated.

What Next

Despite the renewed commitment to ceasefire by India and Pakistan, and with the eventual de-escalation with China, a trust deficit with both neighbours remains. Military diplomacy will play an important role and Rajnath will need to tap into his political instincts.

By the way

Singh owns two weapons — a Webley Scott pistol and a double-barrel rifle.

7. Ajit Doval, 76

National Security Advisor (2019 Rank: 7)

Ajit Doval

Why

Almost seven years into the NSA role, Doval is still one of the most influential officials in the government. He enjoys the PM’s complete trust, and is considered one of the most influential NSAs since the office was created with Brajesh Mishra as its first occupant.

Power punch

His conversations with his Pakistan counterpart, Moeed Yusuf, in a third country, and communication with Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, in the last three months, led to the pact between the two militaries to adhere to the ceasefire agreement. Working closely with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, he helped navigate the crisis along the Line of Actual Control.

What next

Apart from ensuring that Pakistan adheres to the new pact, his approach to strengthening India’s peripheral security — land and maritime — will be key to meeting the Chinese challenge.

By the way

He loves to cook.

8. Nitin Gadkari, 63

Minister of Road Transport and Highways and MSME (2019 Rank: 9)

Nitin Gadkari

Why

Gadkari, who carries the image of being a doer, has won praise from both within his party and outside. He publicly attacks bureaucratic inertia, doesn’t shy away from taking on powerful lobbies if they come in the way of his reform agenda and is candid about shortcomings in his ministries. Being a former BJP party president close to the RSS, Gadkari continues to be a significant power centre within the ruling establishment.

Power Punch

Despite the pandemic, he got the highways sector back on track, ending the financial year with a record level of road construction. He has also galvanised the MSME sector to ride on the Atmanirbhar push.

What Next

The vehicle-scrapping policy, his pet project, got a green light in the Budget. In the MSME sector, he is expected to create a momentum for manufacturing and exports while reducing import dependency.

By the way

He loves Mumbai’s street food and knows the best places for food.

9. Nirmala Sitharaman, 61

Union Finance Minister (2019 Rank: 8)

Nirmala Sitharaman

Why

A key communicator, Sitharaman skilfully steered the economy during the pandemic, from a total shutdown and economic contraction to a subsequent exit from recession in October-December ’20.

Power Punch

Apart from targeted support to needy citizens and businesses last year, Sitharaman has been lauded for producing a Budget that puts the economy on a reset mode, with a clear roadmap of the government exiting various businesses through privatisation, focus on spending
to put the economy on a steady growth path and transparent budget accounting.

What Next

Sitharaman will now need to bring all the stakeholders together to ensure seamless implementation of these crucial proposals, many of which may face political resistance.

By the way

She listens to Carnatic music, especially by MS Subbulakshmi.

10. Gautam Adani, 58

Chairman, Adani Group (2019 Rank: 28)

Gautam Adani

Why

Considered close to the current dispensation, Adani has built the fastest growing conglomerate. While Adani Power is the largest private power company, Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone handles India’s largest commercial port.

Power Punch

The Adani group has acquired a controlling stake in the Mumbai International Airport, besides six others, making it the largest airport operator in the country. It also has a strategic partnership with global oil and gas major Total in the natural gas and renewables space.

What Next

Adani Total may soon enter the fuel retailing business in India. Adani green energy is also aiming to boost investments in renewable energy, taking installed capacity from 14.8 GW to 25 GW by 2025.

By the way

When he joined his father’s plastic film business after dropping out of college, one of his biggest clients was Dhirubhai Ambani.

11. Ravi Shankar Prasad, 66

Union Law and Justice, Communications, Electronics and Information Technology Minister (2019 Rank: 20)

Ravi Shankar Prasad

Why

As the head of three very important ministries, Ravi Shankar Prasad’s daily to-do list is heavier than that of most of his colleagues. In the last year, these ministries have put out more policy and executive changes than most other ministries combined.

Power Punch

Soon after taking charge in the second term, Prasad made ‘Make in India’ one of his focus areas. Even before the PM called for Big Tech, the Ministry of Electronics and IT had been working on schemes and incentives to attract and expand the presence of top global mobile manufacturers in India.

What Next

A major challenge for Prasad will be the negotiation with Big Tech over new rules for social-media intermediaries. The Personal Data Protection Bill 2019 is also likely to come to Parliament soon.

By the way

Prasad flies down from Delhi to Patna almost every weekend to meet people in his constituency.

12. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, 66

Union External Affairs Minister (2019 Rank: 22)

S Jaishankar

Why

He has spearheaded the government’s foreign policy agenda, which has increasingly intertwined with the domestic agenda. Be it in the aftermath of the Art. 370 abrogation or protests against CAA-NRC, or posturing towards China , or vaccine diplomacy, he is New Delhi’s voice at the global high table.

Power Punch

With a border standoff with China since May last year, he has been one of the key interlocutors with Beijing, due to his long experience as ambassador to China, and, later, as Foreign Secretary. In September in Moscow, he built on the conversations between Indian and Chinese defence ministers for moving towards a resolution of the border crisis, that led to the first round of disengagement.

What Next

While negotiations with Beijing will be protracted, he is likely to lead India’s moves towards the new Biden administration balancing both diplomatic and political imperatives.

By the way

He is fond of playing squash.

13. Yogi Adityanath, 48

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister (2019 Rank: 11)

Yogi Adityanath

Why
Ever since he became the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh in 2017, Yogi Adityanath has emerged as one of the BJP’s star campaigners, with candidates seeking his presence at public meetings across the country during elections.

Power Punch

Celebratory events around Ayodhya organised by him have enabled him to stake claim to the political capital being built around the Ram Temple construction.

What Next

His biggest challenge is next year’s Assembly polls. In 2017,  he had not been declared as the CM?candidate but this time it will be his performance that will determine the party’s fate in the state.

By the way

He celebrates Diwali with children of the Vantangiya community in Gorakhpur, who refer to him as “Toffeewale Baba” because of the gifts he gets for them.

14. Uddhav Thackeray, 60

Maharashtra Chief Minister and Shiv Sena chief (2019 Rank: 24)

Uddhav Thackeray

Why

Despite the initial uncertainty over its stability, the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government with Congress and NCP has completed one year under Thackeray’s leadership.

Power Punch

Thackeray has won praise for his government’s efficient response to the pandemic despite the high rate of infection in the state. He has also emerged as a strong opposition to the BJP, taking them on frequently on issues ranging from Hindutva to the economy to Centre-state relations. The MVA government also defeated the BJP in the state legislative council polls, in which the BJP lost the Nagpur seat, home to the RSS, after 55 years.

What Next

The revival of the state economy after the pandemic will be his top priority. The party has also begun work for the civic polls. How he handles the current Mumbai Police crisis may strain the coalition and test his leadership.

By the way

He loves listening to old Hindi film songs and ghazals.

15. Amarinder Singh, 79

Punjab Chief Minister (2019 Rank: 15)

Captain Amarinder Singh

Why

He steered the state deftly through the pandemic and the farmers’ agitation. With the three new farm laws driving a wedge between Akali Dal and the BJP, and AAP putting up a desultory performance, he has emerged as the undisputed leader of the state.

Power punch

Once known for his inaccessibility to even his party legislators, the CM made full use of technology to connect with the people of Punjab throughout the pandemic, calling up frontline warriors every day. He threw his weight behind the protesting farmers, but drew a line at any hint of lawlessness.

What next

With state elections in 2022, Singh will have to retain goodwill among the masses, without letting the agitation become fodder for the Opposition to attack his government. Rising unemployment may come back to bite the CM who sailed to victory on the promise of ghar ghar rozgaar.

By the way

A military historian, he is writing a book on the 1971 war.

16. B L Santhosh, 55

National General Secretary (Organisation), BJP (2019 Rank: 16)

BL Santhosh

Why

His elevation to the second most powerful post in the BJP surprised many, but he has emerged as a strong and vocal leader.

Power Punch

He was able to persuade the BJP’s central leadership to reject Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa’s nominees for the Rajya Sabha elections in June last year.

What Next

As he helms the party’s southern mission, he will have to prove that the leaders he has picked are delivering results in expanding the party’s reach in South India.

By the way

His colleagues swear by his ability to “read” faces. This skill leaves many amused and wary, too.

17. Piyush Goyal, 56

Union Minister for Railways, Commerce & Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution (2019 Rank: 13)

Piyush Goyal

Why

Besides handling the ministries of Commerce and Industry, and Railways, he was given the additional charge of the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, following the demise of former Lok Janshakti Party president Ram Vilas Paswan — a sign of the PM’s faith in his ability to step up despite his existing responsibilities.

Power Punch

Goyal has been at the helm of India’s tough stance on large trade pacts. Trade with China, too, has seen a potentially positive development as exports to the country have seen an uptick, while imports have continued to reduce in the last year. Under his leadership, India has also introduced modern semi-high speed trains with premium services.

What Next

He aims to restart negotiations with the Joe Biden administration in the US for a limited trade pact. His progress on trade talks with the EU and UK will also be closely watched.

By the way

Goyal took up yoga last year upon the advice of a senior political leader.

18. Sharad Pawar, 80

President, Nationalist Congress Party (2019 Rank: 77)

Sharad Pawar

Why 

Pawar is the architect-in-chief of the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government, consisting of the unlikely triumvirate of the Shiv Sena, Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

Power Punch

Inspite of large-scale defections from his Nationalist Congress Party in the run up to the State Assembly elections and failed revolt by his nephew Ajit Pawar, the 80-year-old founder of the NCP scripted the electoral revival of his party in the 2019 elections. As troubleshooter-in-chief, he holds the MVA together and is the driving force behind the Thackeray-led government.

What Next

He is the only one among Opposition leaders with the ability to act as a bridge between different anti-BJP parties.

By the way

A patron of classical music, Pawar spent the initial days of the lockdown listening to renditions of bhajans by Pt Bhimsen Joshi.

19. General MM Naravane, 61

Indian Army Chief (2019 Rank: New)

General MM Naravane

Why

Naravane leads the 15 lakh-strong Indian Army that saw action on both northern and western frontiers last year. While the border with Pakistan has remained volatile for long, it was the Line of Actual Control with China that has remained in focus. In a standoff at Galwan Valley that turned violent in June 2020, the Army, under Naravane’s leadership, gained tactical ground to dominate China’s Moldo Garrison and the strategically sensitive Spanggur Gap.

Power Punch

Unlike previous standoffs with China, this was the first time that senior military officers were involved in direct discussions. There is a feeling in the security establishment that the military leadership stood its ground, possibly setting a template for future talks.

What Next

The disengagement with China is still restricted to just the Pangong Tso region. Other friction points continue to be under discussion.

By the way

His sharp wit often comes in handy to dispel tensions during many a meeting.

20. PK Mishra, 72

Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister (2019 Rank: 19)

PK Mishra

Why

Considered one of the most powerful bureaucrats in the country, he wields influence from his proximity to PM Modi. He has been with him since his Gujarat days. In the second term of the Modi-led government, he was elevated to the position of Principal Secretary.

Power Punch

He is known to play a key role in placing bureaucrats in important positions in the government. He has been overseeing the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic. He chairs high-level review meetings that are attended by the Cabinet Secretary and all empowered committee members.

What Next

A quintessential backroom player, he will continue to work to ke­e­p the administrative machinery of the government humming.

By the way

When he was Agriculture Secretary, he worked all Sundays, but did not expect his juniors to be present. A Delhi School of Economics graduate, he keeps in touch with his classmates.

21. NV Ramana, 63

Judge, Supreme Court of India (2019 Rank: New)

NV Ramana

Why

Coming from a humble beginning in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh, he is set to become the 48th Chief Justice of India.

Power Punch

As the second senior-most judge, he presides over a number of politically sensitive cases — from the disqualification of MLAs in Karnataka to fast-tracking cases against legislators. He also led the bench that heard the challenge to the abrogation of J&K’s special status, suspension of Internet in the UT and the case questioning the legality of political detentions in the Valley.

What next

He was in the eye of a political storm in his home state when Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy made allegations of impropriety against him. He has, however, managed to remain unscathed. How he navigates the apex court in the face of a strong Executive will shape his legacy.

By the way

As a young advocate, he was an ardent follower of NT Rama Rao, founder of the Telugu Desam Party.

22. Mamata Banerjee, 66

West Bengal Chief Minister Chairperson, TMC (2019 Rank: 21)

Mamata Banerjee

Why

A two-time CM, she has previo­u­s­ly ser­ved as minister in both Cong­r­ess and BJP governments at the Centre. She ro­se to power opposing the land acquis­i­tion policies of the Left Front governm­e­nt in West Bengal, ending its 34-year rule.

Power Punch

A fighter and a mass leader, she was instrumental in stitching together an alliance of opposition parties against the BJP prior to the 2019 elections. She was among the first chief ministers in the country to criticise the Centre’s moves — from demonetisation to the nationwide Covid lockdown. Ahead of the Assembly polls, she is making the mighty electoral machinery of the BJP sweat.

What Next

Should she prevail against the BJP? in the polls, it will establish her as one of the tallest national Opposition figures. Given her control over the party, a defeat could dent it irreversibly.

By the way

Author of over 100 books, she has written on political and social issues.

23. Prakash Javadekar, 70

Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change; Information and Broadcasting (2019 Rank: 23)

Prakash Javadekar

Why

Apart from being the party’s most recognised spokesperson, as Environment Minister, he spearheads India’s climate change programme. Representing developing nations on international platforms, he was instrumental in getting developed countries to commit to providing financial and technical support to poorer countries.

Power Punch

As I&B minister, he has introduced the Information Technology (Guidelines for Intermediaries and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules 2021, the largest shake-up in the technology regulation space in nearly a decade.

What Next

Under Javadekar, India is the chair of the BRICS platform on climate change and environmental issues. Under him, the environment ministry has launched several ambitious wildlife conservation projects.

By the way

He listens to light classical music at the end of the day. Hariharan is one of his favourite artists.

24. Pinarayi Vijayan, 75

Kerala Chief Minister (2019 Rank: 75)

Pinarayi Vijayan

Why

Vijayan is heading the only Left government in India. He is the loudest voice of the state government as well as the party.

Power Punch

Despite several controversies involving his office, Vijayan’s supremacy in the party and the government remains unchallenged. He also survived the Sabarimala storm to win local body polls for the LDF.

What next

In the upcoming Assembly polls in Kerala, the onus is on Vijayan to ensure a victory for the CPI(M)-led LDF.

By the way

He loves to read, especially Malayalam fiction. He enjoys rice and fish curry.

25. Manoj Sinha, 61

Lt-Governor, J&K (2019 Rank: New)

Manoj Sinha

Why

Running Jammu and Kashmir has never been easy, and more so after the revocation of its special status and its downgrade to two Union territories. In the absence of an elected government, it is up to Sinha to give J&K an administration.

Power Punch

For decades, the Centre’s choice for Jammu and Kashmir Governor has been a retired bureaucrat or a former Army or intelligence officer. The Modi government trusted Sinha, a senior BJP leader from Uttar Pradesh, to deal with the situation in the Valley at this crucial juncture. He oversaw the smooth conduct of the District Development Council elections, the first political exercise in J&K after the abrogation of article 370.

What next

While J&K has been relatively calm despite the special status upheaval, things remain tense, especially due to fears of a demographic change. Sinha’s biggest challenge is to gain the trust of the people.

By the way

Of late, Sinha has gone on a weight control drive, losing over 10 kg in six months.

26. Bhupesh Baghel, 59

Chhattisgarh Chief Minister (2019 Rank: 54)

Bhupesh Baghel

Why

He is among the few remaining Congress Chief Ministers in the country, a leader with a support base of his own who led the party to a comfortable majority in Chhattisgarh.

Power Punch

The Congress is increasingly relying on Baghel to bolster the party in other states, and Baghel’s footprint is all over its Assam campaign. As CM, he has successfully focussed on rural economy with schemes such as Godhan Nyay Yojana and pushed for procuring produce from local tribes.

What Next

There was talk about a rotation CM in the state. Baghel will complete two-and-a-half years in June. Will there be a power shift in Chhattisgarh or will he emerge stronger?

By the way

Baghel has a sweet tooth. He is particularly fond of rasgullas and suggests adding a few drops of lemon to it.

27. Arvind Kejriwal, 52

Delhi Chief Minister (2019 Rank: 51)

Arvind Kejriwal

Why

The one-time anti-corruption activist, who railed against the political class, is now into his third term as the Chief Minister of Delhi. In 2020, the AAP nearly repeated its 2015 Assembly polls feat, winning 62 out of 70 seats in the Capital. Kejriwal’s mass appeal propelled the party to power, blunting BJP’s hyper-nationalistic onslaught.

Power Punch

Its success in Delhi has given the AAP’s plan to expand nationally an aggressive push. In local body polls in Gujarat, it finished second in Surat, reducing the Congress’s tally to zero. His “deshbhakti” curriculum blends his twin planks of education and politics. In Delhi, he aims to wrest power in the civic bodies, which will go to polls in 2022.

What next

Apart from Punjab, the party will contest polls in five BJP-ruled states in 2022, eager to fill the vacuum created by the Congress .

By the way

He likes to unwind by watching shows on Netflix with his family.

28. M K Stalin, 68

Chief of DMK; Tamil Nadu Opposition leader (2019 Rank: 30)

M K Stalin

Why

He is the Chief Minister candidate of the DMK, which believes it is well within reach of returning to power in Tamil Nadu. He carries over the image of an efficient administrator from his time as the mayor of Chennai Corporation and as deputy CM, and has firmly put behind all challenges from within the family to emerge as the true inheritor of M Karunanidhi’s legacy.

Power Punch

After losing the last Assembly elections by a narrow margin, the DMK has been gaining ground in the state. A slew of cases filed by his party against the ruling AIADMK’s senior members has kept them on their toes.

What Next

The upcoming elections are a crucial test for his party and his place in it.

By the way

Stalin is a familiar face for joggers on the campus of IIT-Madras. He is also a movie buff.

29. Shaktikanta Das, 64

Governor, Reserve Bank of India (2019 Rank: 29)

Shaktikanta Das

Why

As RBI governor, Das leads from the front in formulating and implementing the monetary policy of the country. He has deftly walked the tightrope as the regulator of the banking sector and the government’s money manager.

Power Punch

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country in March 2020, Das announced several measures to maintain stability on the financial front. Led by him, the RBI has adopted an accommodative stance and brought down interest rate and inflation to boost growth, pumping more liquidity in the system and announcing measures such as moratorium on loan for borrowers hit by the pandemic.

What Next

Das will have to ensure that inflation targeting is on track, besides maintaining stability in the financial sector.

By the way

He’s the first non-economist to become the RBI Governor after S Venkitaramanan in 1990.

30. Narendra Singh Tomar, 63

Union Cabinet Minister for Agriculture and Farmer Welfare, Rural Development and Panchayat Raj (2019 Rank: 31)

Narendra Singh Tomar

Why

Leading the government side in talks with representatives of the farmer unions protesting the three farm laws, Tomar has emerged as the negotiator-in-chief for the ruling dispensation. While talks have failed to break the deadlock, Tomar has ensured that the space is kept open for the next round. He also played a key role in the BJP’s return to power in Madhya Pradesh.

Power Punch

Among Union ministers, Tomar holds the highest number of portfolios. NREGA and PM Kisan Samman Nidhi, which come under his ministries, have been instrumental in the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

What Next

Tomar has been made in-charge of the Assam Assembly polls by his party. He is manoeuvering his party through the anti-incumbency headwinds.

By the way

A vegetarian, mirchi pakoras are one of his favourite snacks.

31. Ashok Gehlot, 69

Rajasthan Chief Minister (2019 Rank: 35)

Ashok Gehlot

Why

Chief Minister of one of the few remaining Congress-ruled states, despite attempts by party rebels and the BJP, he has a firm grip on the government. While the Congress continues to shrink elsewhere, Gehlot exudes confidence, repeatedly pushing back at detractors.

Power Punch

Fought off a rebellion led by his former deputy Sachin Pilot and outmanoeuvred his opponents. The state’s ‘Bhilwara model’ of Covid-19 management was replicated in many towns across the country.

What Next

After a close contest in panchayat polls late last year and a decent showing in urban local body polls, Gehlot has his task cut out in bypolls to four Assembly seats. He will also have to implement his promise of Right to Health with shortage of funds being a challenge.

By the way

Listens to songs from the ’60s and ’70s on his mobile phone to unwind and relax.

32. YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, 48

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister; President, YSRCP (2019 Rank: 26)

Jagan Mohan Reddy

Why

From spending 16 months in prison in a disproportionate assets case, and undertaking a 3,648-km-long padayatra, Reddy led his party, the YSRCP, to victory in the 2019 elections, winning 151 of the 175 Assembly seats. The state is launching dozens of welfare schemes aimed at all sections of society, and Reddy’s popularity is very high.

Power Punch

In recent panchayat elections, Reddy’s party defeated the principal opposition Telugu Desam Party; the TDP even lost in Kuppam, the constituency of party chief N Chandrababu Naidu.

What Next

Jagan is working towards decentralising governance through a controversial move to set up multiple capitals:?legislative capital in Amaravati, an executive capital at Visakhapatnam and the judicial capital at Kurnool.

By the way

After becoming CM, Reddy adopted a dress code: he only wears white full-sleeve shirts and cream-coloured trousers.

33. Sushil Chandra, 63

Election Commissioner (2019 Rank: New)

Sushil Chandra

Why

In a couple of months, Chandra will succeed Sunil Arora as Chief Election Commissioner. As CEC, he will oversee Assembly elections in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur next year, and Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat early in 2023. As member of the Delimitation Commission, Chandra will also play an important role in deciding the new or redrawn boundaries of Assembly and Lok Sabha seats in Jammu & Kashmir.

Power Punch

He is a strong votary of proper election affidavits, and had played an important role in the Commission?deciding to act on complaints about candidates filing false affidavits.

What Next

As CEC, Chandra’s first task would be to push the Commission’s proposal to give postal voting rights to NRI voters.

By the way

A tea enthusiast, he has a vast collection of teas from across the world.

34. Sonia Gandhi, 74

President, Indian National Congress (2019 Rank: 17)

Sonia Gandhi

Why

Interim president of the Congress, Gandhi is still the last word in India’s grand old party. She may have cut down her public appearances, but she remains the unchallenged leader of her party.

Power Punch

She weathered the crisis in the party after 23 dissidents wrote a letter asking for reforms. At the Congress Working Committee meeting where it was decided that she will remain interim president, she asked the dissidents — G23 — to move on.

What Next

In June this year, Gandhi is expected to make way for a new party president, which many believe will be her son Rahul again, and partially withdraw from active politics.

By the way

She is writing a book on events that shaped Indian politics and her own political career.

35. Rajesh Bhushan, 57

Health Secretary (2019 Rank: New)

Rajesh Bhushan (PTI)

Why

As Secretary at the Ministry of Health, Bhushan is the chief coordinator of the Union government’s administrative response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Power Punch

From ramping up testing and increasing dedicated beds for Covid-19 patients to the procurement of 50,000 ventilators under PM CARES, Bhushan and his team were tasked with augmenting public health infrastructure during the pandemic. Bhushan also chairs important meetings with state governments to communicate the Union government’s strategy on key issues related to containment, surveillance and surge in cases.

What Next

Bhushan is co-chair of the National Expert Group on Vaccine Admin­istration (NEGVAC) and his team is closely monitoring the surge in cases and the progress of vaccination.

By the way

Bhushan writes poetry in Hindi and enjoys cooking as a stress buster.

36. Dr Randeep Guleria, 61

Director, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (2019 Rank: New)

Dr Randeep Guleria

Why

The renowned pulmonologist and director of the country’s premier medical institution, AIIMS, is one of the architects of India’s strategies for prevention, containment and management of the Covid-19 pandemic in India.

Power Punch

Dr Guleria heads the clinical research group of the National Task Force for Covid-19. The team led by him also runs the National Teleconsultation Centre at AIIMS, connecting doctors across the country in real time for the treatment of Covid-19 patients.

What Next

As the country grapples with rising Covid numbers, virus mutants, and as it rolls out an ambitious vaccination programme, Dr Guleria will play a key role as the government’s chief communicator on the pandemic.

By the way

He loves reading mysteries and can stay awake all night to finish a book.

37. Dr Harsh Vardhan, 66

Union Minister for Health, Science and Technology (2019 Rank: New)

Dr Harsh Vardhan

Why

During the pandemic, the focus has been on the Health Ministry; however, the Department of Biotechnology headed by him has played a crucial role in vaccine development.

Power Punch

The Health Minister has been holding ‘Sunday Samvad’ on social media platforms, answering queries on the current situation of the pandemic and the government’s approach.

What next

His ministry has provided seed funding to promising vaccine developers, including Gennova, which is clinically testing India’s first mRNA vaccine.

By the way

Despite a hectic schedule, he never misses his walk at night.

38. Dattatreya Hosabale, 65

RSS General Secretary (2019 Rank: New)

Dattatreya Hosabale (PTI)

Why

Since 2009 onwards, both the sarsanghchalak (Mohan Bhagwat) and sarkaryawah (Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi) of the RSS have been from Maharashtra. The recent appointment of Hosabale, a Kannadiga, as No. 2 in the organisation is significant. Unlike his predecessors, Dattaji, as he is popularly called, has spent nearly half of his pracharak life with the ABVP. With several of his former colleagues occupying top positions in the BJP, he has the Prime Minister’s ear on policy issues.

Power Punch

He has a strong network among bureaucrats and played a key role in formulating the New Education Policy (NEP), a pet project of the RSS.

What next

To strike a balance between his political interventions and the RSS’s claims of being “non-political” will be his next big challenge.

By the way

A voracious reader, he is well-versed in Shakespeare and Kannada literature.

39. Rahul Gandhi, 50 

Congress leader (2019 Rank: 25)

Rahul Gandhi

Why

Although he does not hold any post in the Congress, the Lok Sabha MP from Wayanad is for all practical purposes the de facto head of his party. The pre-eminence of the Gandhis in the Congress is undeniable, and for the vast majority in the party, Rahul is the future; for many, however, he is the reason behind the Congress’s declining fortunes.

Power Punch

He is one leader in the down-and-out Opposition who still manages to rattle the ruling establishment. With party chief Sonia Gandhi confined to her home, Gandhi is leading the Congress campaign in the Assembly elections.

What Next

The big question is whether he will take over as the party chief in June. Going by available indications, he may.

By the way

From kurta-pyjamas to trendy half-sleeve shirts, the change in his dressing style follows suggestions from young party workers.

40. Sanjay Mishra, 60

Director, Enforcement Directorate (2019 Rank: 72)

Sanjay Mishra (PTI)

Why

Under Sanjay Mishra, an officer with a long career in the Income Tax Department, the Enforcement Directorate has earned the moniker of “the new CBI” due to its aggressive pursuit of high-profile cases against Opposition leaders. Apart from top politicians such as P Chidambaram, D K Shivakumar, Kamal Nath’s nephew Ratul Puri and Uttar Pradesh leaders Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati, the ED has gone after organisations such as the Popular Front of India.

Power Punch

The government recently gave him an extension of one year on the eve of his retirement, throwing its weight behind him.

What Next

For a small agency, the ED has taken up far too many cases. His challenge wi­ll be to take them to logical conclusions and avoid the charge of being its master’s voice.

By the way

Mishra avoids social media and is sceptical of those who don’t.

41. Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, 49

General Secretary, Indian National Congress (2019 Rank: 34)

Priyanka Gandhi

Why

Priyanka is steadily emerging as the Congress’s face in Uttar Pradesh, and is now coming out of the shadow of her mother. As AICC general secretary and member of the Congress Working Committee, she wields enormous influence in the organisation.

Power punch

To project herself as the face of the Congress in UP, Priyanka has been touring the state extensively, addressing kisan mahapanchayats. Her very visible presence on the campaign trail in Assam sends a message that she is looking beyond UP too.

What next

With the UP Assembly polls next year, Priyanka has her task cut out. Her focus will be on regaining lost ground while battling regional forces like the SP and the BSP and the ruling BJP.

By the way

She volunteered in a home for differently abled children for many years and also at a shelter for the infirm.

42. Shivraj Singh Chouhan, 62

Chief Minister, Madhya Pradesh (2019 Rank: 41)

Shivraj Singh Chouhan

Why

After 22 Congress MLAs defected to the BJP last year, toppling the Kamal Nath-led Congress government, Chouhan became the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh for a record fourth time.

Power Punch

He has managed to strike a balance between the defected MLAs aspiring for larger roles in the government and those from his own party who felt sidelined after their induction. He has ensured that the farmers’ protests have not spread to the state, despite it being an agricultural hub.

What Next

Getting the state’s fractured economy back on track will be a major challenge for Chouhan. The state has also committed to becoming atmanirbhar through effective fulfillment of various government schemes that give a boost to local production.

By the way

Every year on January 1 he pays a visit to Shirdi Saibaba temple. He also regularly visits Baad Wale Ganesh Ji temple in MP.

43. Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, 53

Jal Shakti Minister (2019 Rank: 32)

Gajendra Singh Shekhawat

Why

He has the responsibility of implementing the Centre’s three most ambitious schemes — Jal Jeevan Mission, Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin), and Namami Gange. Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, his Ministry has ensured tap water supply to 3.53 crore households.

Power Punch

The first meeting of the National Ganga Council was held under his tenure. He also wrote a strongly-worded letter to Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani over “inordinate delay” in river cleaning work.

What Next

He has the tough task of providing tap water connections to all rural households by 2024.

By the way

Along with his daughter Suhasini Shekhawat, he has participated in river rafting and kayaking expeditions in the Ganga and Brahmaputra.

44. Uday Kotak, 62

Managing director and CEO, Kotak Mahindra Bank (2019 Rank: 27)

Uday Kotak

Why

He has been the force behind the lender with market capitalisation of more than $50 billion. He has built his banking institution into a financial powerhouse following prudent lending practices and astute risk management.

Power Punch

At a time when the pandemic was expected to hit the banking industry hard, Kotak Mahindra Bank raised more than Rs 7,400 crore of equity capital to strengthen its balance sheet and negotiate the challenging times with minimum disruption. Most private and state-owned lenders followed suit and beefed up their capital buffers.

What Next

As growth returns, the market will keenly watch the lender’s move as it tries to capitalise on emerging opportunities in sunrise sectors. With the central government planning to privatise a couple of banks and an insurance company, any interest from Kotak Mahindra Bank will fire up the privatisation process.

By the way

An avid cricket fan, he’s a stickler for corporate governance norms.

45. Naveen Patnaik, 74

Odisha Chief Minister; Biju Janata Dal chief (2019 Rank: 39)

Naveen Patnaik

Why

Naveen Patnaik took over as Chief Minister of Odisha in March 2000. Since then, he has silenced his critics to become the longest-serving CM of the state. His programmes, combined with effective governance, have solidified his appeal. In polarised times, his and the BJD’s stand on key issues brings nuance to any political debate.

Power Punch

Patnaik oversaw the return of over 10 lakh migrants to the state during the lockdown. He launched schemes for creating jobs in rural areas as well as for the urban poor. He also received praise from several quarters for his efficient management of the aftermath of Cyclone Amphan.

What Next

With tourism reviving, Patnaik now aims to make Odisha a tourism hub with a focus on Puri and other temples across the state.

By the way

Patnaik believes in the mantra ‘early to bed, early to rise’. He goes to bed by 9.30 pm.

46. Mallikarjun Kharge, 78

Leader of opposition, Rajya Sabha (2019 Rank: New)

Mallikarjun Kharge

Why

Having been appointed Leader of Opp­o­­sition in Rajya Sabha, the veteran lea­d­er from Karnataka is back in the top de­c­­ision-making apparatus of the Co­­­ngress. Kharge will be the face of the Op­po­s­ition in the Upper House, and its voice when dealing with the governm­e­­nt. He is expected to play a key role in u­n­i­ting Opposition parties against the government.

Power punch

That the Gandhis have immense faith in him became clear when he was nominated Leader of the Opposition overlooking other senior leaders.

What next

Kharge’s challenge will be to keep the Opposition united in the Upper House, where the ruling BJP is no longer short of numbers. His task will be to amplify the voice of the depleted Congress, which has 36 members in the House.

By the way

Fond of home-cooked food, his staff carries jowar rotis for him while travelling from Bengaluru to Delhi.

47. B S Yediyurappa, 78

Karnataka Chief Minister (2019 Rank: 42)

BS Yediyurappa (ANI)

Why

Despite an unofficial cut-off age of 75 for BJP leaders to hold key posts, Yediyurappa has been CM since 2019, when he was 76. The veteran Lingayat leader has stayed in power amid constant rumours of the BJP central leadership considering a change of guard in Karnataka in the wake of reports of unhappiness in the state unit.

Power Punch

Despite resistance from the BJP leadership and party MLAs in Karnataka, he managed to accommodate as many as 12 of 17 Congress and JDS defectors who helped the BJP come to power in 2019, into his 34-member Cabinet.

What Next

He is keen on leading the party to a clear majority in 2022 if the BJP allows him to continue as Chief Minister.

By the way

The Mahabharat series is one of his favourite television shows.

48. Manohar Lal Khattar, 66

Haryana Chief Minister (2019 Rank: 47)

Manohar Lal Khattar

Why

In a state mostly ruled by Jat leaders, Khattar, a non-Jat, has successfully managed a second term as Chief Minister. Despite several attacks by the Opp­o­sition, his clean image has ensured he has stayed popular.

Power Punch

Despite the initial hiccups in the 2019 Assembly polls, where the BJP fell short of the majority mark and had to forge an alliance with Dushyant Chautala-led JJP, Khattar has managed to keep the government stable — even amid the ongoing farmers’ agitation and widespread protests by Opposition parties.

What Next

Although the Assembly polls in Haryana are due only in 2024, it is going to be an uphill task for Khattar to retain the BJP’s popularity, considering the simmering anger against his party.

By the way

He has keen interest in information technology and loves cooking.

49. Ajay Kumar Bhalla, 60

Home Secretary (2019 Rank: New)

Ajay Kumar Bhalla

Why

As the Secretary of the ministry headed by the No.2 in the government, Amit Shah, Bhalla is among the key officials formulating and implementing policies of the government on the security front. His tenure has been challenging, beginning from the passage of the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act and Delhi riots, to the Covid-19 lockdown and the violence in New Delhi on January 26 this year. A notable achievement of his tenure has been the significant gains made by security forces in Left Wing Extremism areas.

Power Punch

The MHA under him has successfully managed the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir in the aftermath of August 5, 2019, decisions.

What Next

Framing of CAA rules, hanging fire for over a year now, will be a challenge. So will be the enumeration of the National Population Register.

By The Way

Spends his free time reading fiction.

50. Yogesh Chander Modi, 59

Director General, National Investigation Agency (2019 Rank: 79)

Yogesh Chander Modi

Why

The NIA under Yogesh Chander Modi has been the key agency implementing the government’s security agenda in Kashmir. It has not only cracked down on the Hurriyat and other separatists, but has also gone after Kashmiri NGOs seen to be “anti-India” by the establishment. A majority of those arrested by NIA have not been able to secure bail.

Power Punch

Modi has expanded the NIA’s ambit by probing several cases of gold smuggling. The NIA recently also summoned some people associated with the ongoing farmers’ protests in a case of terror funding.

What Next

Due to retire in May this year, Modi is said to be among the top contenders for the post of Central Bureau of Investigation Director.

By the way

Modi is known to fast on days of religious significance.

51. Rajiv Gauba, 61

Cabinet Secretary (2019 Rank: 38)

Why

From being a joint secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Forests under the UPA government to becoming Home Secretary and then Cabinet Secretary in the Modi government, the 1982-batch IAS officer has come a long way. PM Modi’s top man in central bureaucracy, Gauba has steered the government’s response to the pandemic and coordinated the efforts of various Union Ministries and state governments to deal with the crisis.

Power Punch

After the exit of Nripendra Misra from the PMO, Gauba has emerged as an influential pole in the government. He is a go-getter and juniors describe him as a tough taskmaster.

What Next

Having kept a low profile despite top positions, he may well be in line for an extension beyond August this year, when his two-year term comes to an end.

By the way

A tennis regular many years ago, Gauba manages time for long walks these days.

52. Amit Khare, 59

Higher Education & I&B Secretary (2019 Rank: New)

Why

He is among the bureaucrats the PMO relies on for deciding the government’s communication strategy. His popularity among the political leadership can be gauged by the fact that he was called back to the I&B Ministry last year at a time when the government was concentrating on its communication strategy during the pandemic, and has maintained its additional charge since.

Power Punch

The Ministry of Education, un­­der Khare, launched the NDA government’s most ambitious policy document that will shape education in India in the coming years.

What next

Although he retires soon, he will be responsible for implementation of the new NEP.

By the way

He is fascinated with trains and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of Indian and foreign railways.

53. Azim Premji, 75

Founder chairman, Wipro (2019 Rank: 65)

Why

Known as the ‘czar’ of the Indian IT industry, he is equally well known for his philanthropy. In the 2019-2020 financial year, he donated around $3 million every day towards education, surpassing donations by any other Indian billionaire.

Power Punch

During the Covid-19 pandemic, he committed $132 million through his foundation towards the Prime Minister’s emergency fund.

What Next

He plans to set up four more universities in the next 10 years through the Azim Premji Foundation. His foundation also supports the scaling up of other organisations that work for the uplift of society’s most disadvantaged and marginalised.

By the way

His outlook towards philanthropy was shaped largely by his mother, Gulbanoo MH Hasham Premji, who spent her life helping at a children’s orthopaedic hospital.

54. Edappadi K Palaniswami, 66

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister (2019 Rank: 43)

Why

Following the death of AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa and a mutiny in the party, Palaniswami was VK Sasikala’s choice to take the reins in 2017 before she left for Bengaluru to serve her prison term. But since then, Palaniswami has joined hands with the rival camp in the party and grown to be a seasoned politician, flaunting his “son of the soil” image.

Power Punch

His conviction to keep Sasikala away from the party even after multiple proposals from the RSS and BJP leaderships shows his determination. He is no more a loyalist of anyone.

What next

The biggest challenge for Palaniswami is not only a poll victory but also cementing his position within the party.

By the way

One of Palaniswami’s favourite destinations is the temple of his family deity in Perundurai. He frequently visits the Tirupati Sri Venkateswara temple.

55. Farooq Abdullah, 83

Jammu & Kashmir National Conference Chairman (2019 Rank: 45)

Why

He unilaterally took an initiative — when Mehbooba Mufti was in jail — to cobble an alliance for the restoration of Jammu & Kashmir’s special status. The region’s mainstream parties, including the NC, the PDP and the People’s Conference, fought the District Development Council polls together under the banner of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD).

Power Punch

At an age when most people opt to retire from public life, Abdullah is not only active but has taken a lead after the revocation of Jammu Kashmir’s special status on August 5, 2019. He is president of the PAGD.

What next

The biggest challenge before Abdullah is to fulfill his promise of getting statehood back to J&K. With the People’s Conference breaking away from the PAGD, he has the unenviable task of keeping the other parties together.

By the Way

He plays golf every day.

56. Mehbooba Mufti, 61

President, Peoples Democratic Party (2019 Rank: 80)

Why

Unlike most other mainstream leaders in J&K, Mehbooba Mufti is among the few who have spoken out against the Centre and its policies in Kashmir. Her appointment as the vice president of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) has helped increase her stature.

Power Punch

At a politically fraught time, she has openly called for talks with Pakistan. Her stand has been vindicated by the recent talks between the armies of the two countries that culminated in a ceasefire on the Line of Control (LoC).

What Next

With PDP witnessing a vertical split last year and the space for mainstream political parties shrinking in J&K, it would be a challenge for Mufti to revive her party as a potent political force in the new UT.

By the way

The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby are her favourite films in the horror genre.

57. Ajay Tyagi, 62

SEBI Chairman (2019 Rank: 46)

Why

SEBI under Tyagi has taken on the powerful, cleared up pending cases and ensured markets worked smoothly during the pandemic lockdowns. It pushed through reforms in the Indian capital markets and mutual fund industry.

Power Punch

SEBI came down on the National Stock Exchange and also imposed penalties on Reliance Industries Ltd for alleged manipulative trading in the shares of erstwhile Reliance Petroleum Ltd (RPL). It barred auditor Price­wa­t­e­r­houseCoopers from accessing the markets for six months in the Satyam case and issued a notice to former ICICI Bank CEO and MD Chanda Kocchar for alleged violations.

What Next

SEBI has to follow up on the forensic audit report in the Franklin Templeton case and work on a mechanism to compensate investors for market glitches.

By the way

An enthusiastic walker, he is often seen strolling on Marine Drive.

58. Tushar Mehta, 57 

Solicitor General of India (2019 Rank: 50)

Why

A trusted legal aide of the PM and Amit Shah, Mehta is the troubleshooter in virtually every high-stakes legal battle for the government. As the second senior-most law officer, he manages the government’s turf in courts.

Power Punch

From being the outsider in the government’s legal team in 2014, when he was appointed Additional Solicitor General, to being indispensable as a law officer, Mehta executed the legal manoeuvres involved in the abrogation of Article 370 in J&K.

What Next

With age on his side and his proven track record, Mehta is seen as a contender for the post of Attorney General when the veteran KK Venugopal hangs his boots this year.

By the way

An Urdu poetry and ghazal enthusiast, Mehta’s library is full of collections of Mir Taqi Mir, Wali Dakni and Ghalib. He ends his day by sending a couplet to a few friends.

59. Jay Shah, 32

BCCI Secretary (2019 Rank: New) 

Why

The most powerful administrator of the world’s richest cricket board, Shah is also head of the Asian Cricket Council. While Kolkata-based Sourav Ganguly is the BCCI president and the Board’s headquarters has a Mumbai address, Shah, who is the secretary — technically second in the hierarchy — has ensured that Indian cricket’s power centre has moved to his home base in Ahmedabad. After the pink ball Test, the world’s biggest stadium is in line to host the IPL and World T20 final.

Power Punch

Being the son of Home Minister Amit Shah gives Jay political backup to fight Indian cricket’s boardroom battles. It also helps open doors for the Board in New Delhi.

What Next

With IPL looking to add two more teams and franchise cricket getting more powerful, it remains to be seen how BCCI under Shah negotiates cricket’s corporatisation.

By the way

An action-movie buff, his favourite film is Uri: The Surgical Strike.

60. Himanta Biswa Sarma, 52

Assam Cabinet minister; BJP leader (2019 Rank: 56)

Why

Sarma is BJP’s chief troubleshooter in the Northeast, where in six of the seven states the party is in government or a part of the ruling alliance. He is the convenor of NEDA (North-East Democratic Alliance), a BJP-led alliance of regional parties in the Northeast.

Power Punch

The face of the Assam government and of the BJP in the region, he has helped the party regain lost ground over opposition in the state following the implementation of the CAA in 2019. In the 2019 general election, Sarma played a crucial role in the BJP’s win in 17 of the 24 Lok Sabha seats in the seven northeastern states.

What Next

With the state going to polls, Sarma has his task cut out — ensuring the BJP’s win. Whether he is made Assam’s next chief minister or is given a Central berth remains to be seen.

By the way

Often referred to as ‘mama’, he has become the subject of viral memes and jingles in Assam.

61. K Chandrashekar Rao, 67

Telangana Chief Minister; Telangana Rashtra Samiti chief (2019 Rank: 62)

Why

In his second term, K Chandrashekar Rao continues to remain a leader without any opponent in Telangana. Under his leadership, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), has become a strong regional party. His populist schemes, including cash transfers to farmers, make him the most popular leader in the state.

Power Punch

Be it the new farm laws or cooperative federalism, KCR does not shy away from asking tough questions to the Centre.

What Next

The Telangana CM has plans to set up an alliance of regional and like-minded parties. The alliance will include non-Congress, non-BJP parties and KCR hopes to head it at the national level.

By the way

His plan to construct a grand, vastu-compliant secretariat is finally taking shape. Currently, he conducts official business from his newly constructed office-cum-residence, Pragathi Bhavan.

62. Devendra Fadnavis, 50

Leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Assembly (2019 Rank: 12)

Why

He remains powerful organisationally in the BJP and as Leader of the Opposition in the state. He has led campaigns against old ally-turned-foe Shiv Sena, keeping the political pot boiling in the state.

Power Punch

By claiming that he was in possession of the Call Detail Record (CDR) pertaining to the Ambani threat case, Fadnavis created a stir in the state and put the ruling Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA), on the backfoot.

What next

As Opposition leader, his biggest challenge is to retain and consolidate the party’s organisational base in Maharashtra, especially at a time when the BJP has to fight the Congress, NCP and Shiv Sena coalition government in the state. There has been speculation about the BJP shifting him to the Centre.

By the way

From online official meetings to movies, the smartphone is his best friend.

63. Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, 64

Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha (2019 Rank: 53)

Why

As leader of the main Opposition party, he is the Opposition’s representative on key government panels which pick the CBI Director, Central Vigilance Commissioner, Central Information Commissioner, Chairman and members of the NHRC and the Lokpal. He is also chairman of the Public Accounts Committee of Parliament.

Power punch

He strongly put across his opposition to the appointment of former Indian Foreign Service officer and Information Commissioner Yashvardhan Kumar Sinha as the new Chief Information Commissioner. He gave a dissent note.

What next

He also wears the hat of president of West Bengal Congress. With the Assembly elections turning into a high-octane battle between the Trinamool Congress and the BJP, his immediate task is to make the election a three-cornered contest and improve the Congress’s tally.

By the way

He does meditation and yoga.

64. Smriti Irani, 44

Union Minister for Women and Child Development; Textiles (2019 Rank: 55)

Why

After defeating Rahul Gandhi from Amethi in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Irani has emerged as one of BJP’s main campaigners. Fluent in several languages — Hindi, English, Gujarati, Bengali and Marathi — she is counted among the BJP’s most powerful orators, both inside and outside of Parliament.

Power Punch

Under her leadership, the Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry has amended the Juvenile Justice Act and brought in critical changes.

What Next

The WCD Ministry has integrated various nutritional and maternal schemes under Poshan Abhiyaan 2.0, which will streamline disbursement of funds and ensure a more robust nutritional prog­r­a­m­me in the country to fight rising malnutrition in children.

By the way

In her packed schedule, Irani occasionally finds time to paint.

65. Champat Rai, 74

VHP vice president and General Secretary of Shri Ram Janmabhoomi TeerthKshetra (2019 Rank: New)

Why

As a member of the RSS and the VHP, Rai has been associated with the Ram Temple movement since the 1980s. With the Supreme Court allotting the disputed land in Ayodhya to the Hindus, the VHP’s, and in turn Rai’s role, has gained significance again.

Power Punch

Rai has been a key player in raising funds for the construction of the Ram Temple, addressing gatherings and campaigning across the country. Through its 45-day campaign, the group has managed to collect over Rs 2,000 crore.

What Next

Ensuring the completion of the Ram Temple within the promised three years.

By the way

Used to doing his own work, he even washes his clothes himself.

66. RS Sharma, 65

CEO, national health authority (2019 Rank: New)

Why

The retired bureaucrat has been appointed by the government as CEO of the National Health Authority, the agency responsible for implementing Ayushman Bharat, the country’s flagship public health insurance scheme. Sharma was the director general of Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), and then chairman of the Telecom Authority of India (TRAI).

Power Punch

As India began rolling out its vaccination drive, the Central government appointed Sharma as head of the Empo­wered Panel on vaccine delivery. A team of experts working with him has developed the Co-win IT platform, the backb­one of the vaccine delivery programme.

What next

The NHA under Sharma will roll out the National Digital Health Mission, under which every citizen will be provided with a Health ID.

By the way

Committed to organic farming, he often spends week­ends in his village working in his amla orchard.

67. Anand Mahindra, 65

Chairman of Mahindra Group (2019 Rank: New)

Why

His company makes nearly $20 billion in annual revenues. What started out as a mission to bring the iconic Jeep to India is now a multi-industry conglomerate spanning sectors such as automobiles, software and financial services.

Power Punch

Mahindra was one of the first groups to pursue aggressive mergers and acquis­i­tions, and partnerships strategy, whe­­ther it be acquiring local firms or the Korean Ssang Yong Motor Co. It was possibly the first Indian group to set up its own PE/VC fund. During the pand­e­mic, it quickly reconfigured its manu­f­acturing facilities to make personal pro­tective equipment and hand sanitisers.

What Next

The group is looking to reinvent itself and has identified a set of unlisted businesses that show huge promise and could become value creators in the next few years.

By the way

Is known to tweet out to innovators, asking them to work with him.

68. Baba Ramdev, 55

Co-Founder, Patanjali Ayurved (2019 Rank: 67)

Why

Once a prominent BJP supporter, Baba Ramdev has since withdrawn himself from the political limelight, instead promoting his business. However, he still remains influential in politics due to his mass following and close ties to the ruling establishment.

Power Punch

Patanjali Ayurved, which contributes a sizeable amount to the Patanjali Group’s revenues, reported Rs 423 crore in net profits for the 2019-20 fiscal year.

What Next

Following the acquisition of edible oil firm Ruchi Soya, the Patanjali group aims to overtake Hindustan Unilever as the largest FMCG company in India and is targeting a turnover of Rs 50,000 crore to Rs 1 lakh crore in the next five years. Baba Ramdev has also been planning a foray into education.

By the way

According to Patanjali co-founder Acharya Balkrishna, he and Ramdev would travel to rural India in the ’90s to distribute ayurvedic medicines.

69. Fali S Nariman, 92

Senior Jurist (2019 Rank: 64)

Why

One of the country’s most respected jurists and distinguished constitutional lawyers, Nariman continues to inspire generations of lawyers and judges with his nuanced views on the most intricate legal issues.

Power Punch

He contested the majority decision of a five-judge Supreme Court bench to refer certain questions of law in the Sabarimala case to a nine-judge bench while the review petitions against its 2018 judgement were pending, contending that there was limited scope in law for doing this.

What Next

Nariman is representing the Jharkhand government in its case against the Centre over auction of commercial mining in the state.

By the way

Nariman grew up in Burma — a point he often brings up in conversations.

70. Akhilesh Yadav, 47

Samajwadi Party President (2019 Rank: 74)

Why

The former CM is a strong opposition voice in UP. Though his party’s performance in 2019 Lok Sabha polls wasn’t up to the mark, he managed to keep the BJP on its toes in the state.

Power Punch

He has vehemently opposed the new farm laws and backed the farmers’ protests. He has been critical of the Prime Minister and UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. He says the SP won’t ally with any major party for the elections in 2022.

What Next

With Assembly elections less than a year away, Akhilesh is the only leader in the state who can challenge the ruling BJP.

By the way

Likes to listen to American musician Billy Joel.

71. Mayawati, 65

National President, Bahujan Samaj Party (2019 Rank: 73)

Why

While the BSP managed to win just 19 of the 403 seats in the 2017 Assembly elections in UP and 10 of the 80 seats in the Lok Sabha polls, Mayawati remains the biggest force in the state to mobilise the Bahujan Samaj. That is why even after being spurned a number of times, Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad continues to make overtures to her.

Power Punch

By getting the BJP to pave a safe passage for her candidate, Mayawati got a member of her party elected to the Rajya Sabha last year.

What Next

The 2022 election may be her last chance to remain relevant in politics. She will not only have to fight the BJP but also her former ally Samajwadi Party.

By the way

Her favourite colour is pink. Her house is made of pink marble and she wears pink on important days.

72. Asaduddin Owaisi, 51

President, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (2019 Rank: 76)

Why

He remains unchallenged in the Hyderabad constituency. Under him, the AIMIM has grown in Telangana, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Bihar, and recently Gujarat.

Power Punch

The AIMIM has team­ed with Inde­pe­n­dents to form Godhra’s municipal board.

What Next

He needs to expand his party’s base across the country and contest more seats in the coming state elections.

By the way

He is often seen driving his motorcycle in Hyderabad.

73. Sunil Bharti Mittal, 63

Founder and chairman, Bharti Enterprises (2019 Rank: 66)

Why

For Sunil Bharti Mittal, son of Congress politician Sat Paul Mittal, the last few years as the chairperson of Bharti Enterprises have been tough because of the arrival of a rival telecom company backed by deep pockets. While many other players capitulated, Mittal and his companies have remained unfazed. With a diverse business that ranges from telecom, insurance, real estate to food and renewable energy, Mittal’s companies have established their presence around the world.

Power Punch

Despite initial losses, Bharti Airtel has now steadily gained more subscribers than rival businesses.

What Next

For Mittal and his biggest company Bharti Airtel, the next challenge would be a successful expansion of 4G services and an early launch of commercial 5G services across India.

By the way

Mittal loves flying and even took lessons when he was young.

74. Vijay Rupani, 65

Gujarat Chief Minister (2019 Rank: 70)

Why

After taking over the reins of the government from his predecessor Anandiben Patel in 2016, Vijay Rupani has consolidated the BJP’s position in Gujarat. He now seems poised to be the party’s CM face in the 2022 Assembly elections in the state.

Power Punch

In the recent elections to six municipal corporations, 31 district panchayats, 81 municipalities and 231 taluka panchayats, Rupani — along with new state party president CR Patil — led the BJP to an unprecedented landslide victory.

What Next

The next challenge for Rupani will be the Gujarat Assembly elections in December next year.

By the way

Rupani learned Russian while in prison during the Emergency and reads books in the language. His favourite food is puran poli.

75. S N Shrivastava, 59

Delhi Police Commissioner (2019 Rank: New)

Why

Shrivastava took charge as Special CP (law and order) in mid-February last year, when parts of northeast Delhi were witnessing riots. Under him, the Delhi Police began a probe into an alleged larger conspiracy behind the riots, which saw arrests of several student leaders and activists.

The pandemic-induced lockdown, ongoing farmers’ agitation and explosion near the Israel Embassy has kept the focus on Delhi Police and its chief. Most recently, his force invoked sedition charges against climate activist Disha Ravi over a toolkit document tweeted by Greta Thunberg. Ravi was eventually granted bail by a court which called the evidence against her “scant and sketchy”.

Power Punch

It was his image as a crisis manager that led to his sudden shift from the CRPF to Delhi Police during the February 2020 riots.

What Next

Set to retire in a few months, it remains to be seen if Shrivastava gets an extension or is given a new role.

By the way

A workaholic, he is known to work 12 hours a day. He often calls meetings on weekends, catching his team by surprise.

76. Tejashwi Yadav, 31

Leader of Opposition, Bihar Legislative Assembly (2019 Rank: 83)

Why During the 2020 Assembly elections, with his easy rapport with the masses and his slogans of aspirational politics, Yadav emerged out of his father Lalu Prasad’s shadow to come into his own and gave the Nitish Kumar-led NDA government a close fight.

Power Punch

An impressive orator like his father, Yadav’s speeches in the Assembly have made a great impression. RJD having emerged as the single largest party, with 75 seats, speaks volumes of his growing influence in state politics.

What Next

Yadav has to build on the momentum and keep playing up the issue of jobs and migration. He also needs to build himself as the sole alternative to Nitish Kumar since, by 2025, it is likely to be a battle between the BJP and the RJD.

By the way

Yadav likes to spend time with family and friends outside the state.

77. Tarun Bajaj, 58

Economic Affairs and Revenue Secretary, Ministry of Finance (2019 Rank: New)

Why

After working in the Prime Minister’s Office for five years, Bajaj was at the helm of decision making in the Finance Ministry last year, especially while formulating the Atmanirbhar Bharat package in the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Power Punch

Bajaj, who is serving his third stint in the Finance Ministry, has been behind pushing the idea of a Development Finance Institution for infrastructure financing and development.

What Next

Reviving investment and growth would be the key focus areas for him in the coming year, while encouraging scope for private investment and keeping a close track of inflation targeting and the glide path for fiscal deficit.

By the way

Bajaj is fond of travelling and is a voracious reader.

78. TV Somanathan, 55

Expenditure Secretary, Ministry of Finance (2019 Rank: New)

Why

Having served in the Prime Minister’s Office earlier, Somanathan is one of the most influential bureaucrats in the Finance Ministry, who has been behind the expenditure push in the government’s post-pandemic Budget.

Power Punch

A doctorate in economics from Calcutta University and a qualified chartered accountant, he was in charge of controlling undue expenditure and ensuring transfers of benefits to intended beneficiaries as the government’s revenues faltered in the aftermath of the pandemic.

What Next

As the government pushes for economic recovery, Somanathan would be in charge of welfare schemes that may require additional spending in the coming year.

By the way

Before being allocated his official residence in Delhi, he stayed in Tamil Nadu Bhawan for some time. But being a strict vegetarian, he relied on Gujarat Bhawan across the road for his meals.

79. DK Shivakumar, 58

President, Karnataka Pradesh Congress Committee (2019 Rank: New)

Why

Despite being incarcerated in an alleged money laundering case by the Directorate of Enforcement and investigated by the CBI for alleged corruption, he was rewarded for his loyalty to the Congress party leadership in Delhi with the post of KPCC chief.

Power Punch

He has managed to rally the old Congress guard in the state, that seemed to have slipped into lethargy while former CM Siddaramaiah controlled the KPCC.

What Next

If the Congress wins state polls in 2022, he will be in a position to stake claim to being the CM of Karnataka .

By the way

His daughter is married to the grandson of his political mentor, former Karnataka CM and union minister SM Krishna (who is now with the BJP).

80. Nitish Kumar, 70

Bihar Chief Minister (2019 Rank: 18)

Why

Despite the BJP having emerged as the senior partner in the NDA with 74 Assembly seats, much ahead of JD(U)’s 43, he continues to be the indispensable leadership choice for the alliance in Bihar. With the RJD-led Grand Alliance securing 110 seats, just 12 short of a simple majority, the BJP would not attempt anything that would throw it out of power in the state.

Power Punch

Nitish continues to be the development face of the NDA in the state. With the BJP’s tallest leader, Sushil Kumar Modi, having been sent to Rajya Sabha, Bihar BJP is yet to put up a leader who can match Nitish’s popularity. The BJP is also wary of Nitish switching sides again if forced to the wall.

What Next

Nitish is trying his best to prolong the longevity of his party despite knowing he can no longer be the CM face in the 2025 election. His next possible destination could be a position at the Centre if he agrees to settle to the idea of a peaceful retirement. He can also switch sides to show resistance to the BJP, but that seems to be the less likely option with RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav gaining popularity.

By the way

He is currently reading books on Gandhi and contemporary Indian and world politics.

81. Kumar Mangalam Birla, 53

Chairman, Aditya Birla Group (2019 Rank: 85)

Why

The fourth-generation scion of one of India’s oldest business empires, Kumar Mangalam Birla oversees a group that generates $46.3 billion revenue across 36 countries. With a personal net worth of $8.5 billion, Birla was ranked 14th in Forbes magazine’s India Rich List 2020.

Power Punch

The Aditya Birla group is the world’s largest recycler of aluminium and biggest producer of carbon black and viscose staple fibre. Its cement output is the third largest in the world, excluding China. It has integrated the cement assets of Jaypee Associates, Binani Cement and Century to become three times the size of its nearest Indian rival.

What Next

The Aditya Birla group is going big on the fashion retail segment. It has partnered with fashion designer Tarun Tahiliani and acquired 51 per cent stake in designer brand Sabyasachi.

By the way

Birla has taken up pistol shooting as a hobby and loves Bollywood films.

82. Prashant Bhushan, 64

Lawyer-Activist (2019 Rank: 86)

Why

He has continued to make his voice heard in court corridors. Last year saw him take up a range of issues, from migrant labour woes to the conduct of judges.

Power punch

The contempt case against him in connection with tweets concerning Chief Justice of India SA Bobde set off a huge public debate. Despite conviction, he was let off with a token Rs 1 fine.

What next?

His NGO Common Cause has filed a PIL in the Supreme Court seeking appointment of a full-time Director for the CBI. The outcome will be significant for the central probe agency.

By the way

He is an art aficionado and has a vast personal collection, including 18th-century paintings.

83. Virat Kohli, 32

Indian cricket captain (2019 Rank: 52)

Why

The most influential player in the game, Kohli is also the best all-format batsman in the world. He enjoys a pan-India cult following and has more than 40 million Twitter followers, higher than any political party in India.

Power Punch

Averaging over 50 in all three formats of the game, his intense drive and commitment to fitness make him one of the most consistent modern-day cricketers. He is the captain of a talented young team that has an intimidating bench strength and potential to dominate world cricket. Married to actor Anuskha Sharma, he is one-half of a power couple with lasting brand value.

What Next

As a batsman he is expected to race past most milestones but his captaincy record remains sketchy. Under him, India hasn’t won a World Cup nor has Royal Challengers Bangalore, his franchise team, ever lifted the IPL Trophy.

By the way

Among his 11 tattoos, one on his left bicep — the Samurai with a raised sword — is his favourite.

84. Byju Raveendran, 40

Founder & CEO, BYJU’s (2019 Rank: New)

Why

He runs the world’s second largest ed-tech platform. The company has revolutionalised India’s private education system by tackling product challenges. In the year that ended on March 31, 2020, the company reported revenues of Rs 2,800 crore — more than double from the previous year.

Power Punch

Byju’s acquired online coding platform WhiteHat Jr for $300 million in 2020, making it the biggest acquisition deal in the ed-tech sector.

What Next

Byju’s is shifting its focus to an all-inclusive ed-tech ecosystem and is now targeting the offline segment as well. The company is close to completing a $800 million deal with exam preparation firm Aakash Educational Services, which has a pan-India network of tutoring centres and records an annual turnover of Rs 1,200 crore.

By The Way

Son of teachers, Byju has represented Kerala at school and university level in various sports, including cricket, football, badminton and tennis.

85. Salil Parekh, 56

CEO and Managing Director, Infosys (2019 Rank: New)

Why

In 2018, when Parekh took over as the CEO of Infosys, he had more to do than just manage the day-to-day affairs of one of India’s oldest software companies. The IT major had recently landed in a controversy regarding corporate governance and its first non-founder CEO had resigned after a public spat with its co-founder NR Narayana Murthy.

Power Punch

Former member of the Group Executive Board at French firm Capgemini, Parekh made it clear he had no tolerance for “divisiveness”. He has managed to bring the focus back on the company’s core competencies of making software and providing services. Infosys recently won a $500 million deal from Google.

What Next

With the economy still recovering from the Covid-19 crisis, Parekh will need to clinch major deals for the company at a time when there may not be many readily coming.

By the way

Parekh loves cycling. He tries to cycle at least once a week.

86. Adar Poonawalla, 40

CEO, Serum Institute of India (2019 Rank: New)

Why

He has emerged as one of the most crucial figures in the effort to protect people against Covid-19, not just in India but globally. His vaccine manufacturing company, Serum Institute of India (SII), has the capacity to produce more than 100 million vaccine doses a month.

Power Punch

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and diplomats from several countries visited his vaccine manufacturing facilities in Pune.

What Next

SII has more Covid-19 vaccines coming up, other than the one developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University that it is currently producing and marketing. It is also developing its own Covid-19 vaccine in collaboration with others.

By the Way

He owns a fleet of luxury cars, including a Ferrari, Rolls-Royce and Hummer. He customised a Mercedes Benz to look like a Batmobile for his son.

87. Krishna Ella, 52

Chairman and Managing Director, Bharat Biotech (2019 Rank: New)

Why

He showed the world that India not only has the capacity to manufacture vaccines, but is equally good at developing them. His Hyderabad-based company, Bharat Biotech, has produced the first ‘Indian’ vaccine for Covid-19. The test results, released recently, show that it is as effective as any other Covid-19 vaccine currently in use. Bharat Biotech had already made a mark with its hugely successful rotavirus and one-of-a-kind typhoid vaccines. With Covaxin, Ella and his company signify the rise of India as a science and technology powerhouse.

Power Punch

Prime Minister Narendra Modi preferred to opt for Covaxin when he got himself immunised against Covid-19.

What Next

New manufacturing facilities are coming up in Mumbai and Bhubaneshwar to ramp up production.

By the Way

He had to sell his house in the US and his ancestral property to raise capital for his company in the ’90s.

88. Joginder Singh Ugrahan, 76

President, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ekta-Ugrahan) (2019 Rank: New)

Why

A former soldier, Ugrahan is now fighting a determined battle with an army of marginal farmers and labourers from Malwa and Majha belts of Punjab to ensure that the three farm laws enacted by the Centre are repealed. Not part of the 31-union Samyukta Kisan Morcha, he has set up a separate stage on Delhi’s Tikri border and was among the farmer union leaders whom Union Home Minister Amit Shah chose to dial in November.

Power Punch

The changing dynamics of the protest after the Red Fort violence on January 26 have left him unscathed. His recent rally at Barnala attracted over one lakh participants.

What Next

With no immediate offer of talks with the government in sight, Ugrahan will have to keep the movement strong.

By the way

He is inspired by Bhagat Singh, which explains the basanti colour of his union’s flag and yellow dupattas of the women members.

89. Rakesh Tikait, 51

Farmer and spokesperson of Bharatiya Kisan Union (2019 Rank: New)

Why

Rakesh Tikait, a former Delhi Police sub-inspector, has become the face of the ongoing farmers’ protest, presenting resilient opposition to the present regime. Moving beyond the confines of Western UP, Tikait’s name now resonates across the country.

Power Punch

Tikait’s Bhartiya Kisan Union became an important pillar of farmer representation during talks between the Centre and protesters at Singhu over the farm laws. His emotional appeal at the Ghazipur border protest site, a day after the Republic Day violence, triggered a mass revival of protests.

What Next

Having announced that the agitation against the farm legislation will continue, Tikait will be a crucial factor in determining the central government’s course of action. The politics in Western UP, following BKU’s rise, will also be impacted, given that the gram panchayat elections are coming up.

By the way

He enjoys driving, especially tractors.

90. Ratan Tata, 83

Chairman Emeritus, Tata Sons (2019 Rank: 58)

Why

Though he retired as the Chairman of the Tata group in 2012, he is still the guiding force behind the Tata group of companies, which command aggregate annual revenue of over US $110 billion and a market capitalisation of over $165 billion.

Power Punch

As the chairman of Tata Trusts, which control around 66 per cent stake in Tata Sons, the holding company of the Tata group, he wields considerable influence in the group and all major decisions are reportedly taken in consultation with him. The current Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran is backed by him.

What Next

His legal battle with Cyrus Mistry, who was ousted as Tata Sons Chairman, is being closely observed as Mistry has offered to sell his 18 per cent stake in Tata Sons.

By the way

Tata loves flying planes and driving sports cars.

91. General Bipin Rawat, 63

Chief of Defence Staff (2019 Rank: 36)

Why

As the first Chief of Defence Staff of the country, he is first among equals among the chiefs of the three forces. He is the chief military advisor to the government and has a say in all important strategies.

Power Punch

As the Secretary, Department of Military Affairs, he is also mandated with prioritisation of capital acquisition among the forces. With the Army, Navy and the Air Force in dire need of modernisation, and with the capital acquisition budget falling short annually, the CDS will help prioritise needs.

What Next

The first of the joint commands should be rolled out this year. Under him the future of the forces is being designed. While studies for what the air defence and maritime commands will look like are at an advanced stage, theatre commands are still being studied.

By the Way

Awarded the coveted Sword of Honour, he was adjudged best cadet during training at the Indian Military Academy in 1978.

92. Harish Salve, 65

Senior Advocate (2019 Rank: New)

Why

One of India’s busiest lawyers and leading international arbitration counsel, the former Solicitor General has contributed immensely to shaping the country’s legal landscape.

Power Punch

He successfully defended Future Group Limited in its ‘battle’ against e-commerce giant Amazon in the Delhi High Court over the Future-Reliance deal.

What Next

He is representing Facebook India head Ajit Mohan, summoned by the Peace and Harmony Committee of the Delhi Assembly to answer charges in connection with the northeast Delhi riots. He is also fighting the case of the wife of a deceased Delhi businessman who wants the 1975 Emergency to be declared “wholly unconstitutional”.

By the way

Mukesh Ambani of Reliance Industries raised a toast online for Salve when he married English artist Caroline Brossard at a ceremony in London recently.

93. Kailash Vijayvargiya, 64

BJP general secretary and West Bengal in-charge (2019 Rank: New)

Why

He has managed to retain his position in the party organisation following the recent reshuffle, despite being at the receiving end of the PM’s criticism of his son at a BJP parliamentary party meeting. One of Home Minister Amit Shah’s closest confidants, Vijayvargiya has been given the charge of ensuring the party’s success in the coming Assembly elections in West Bengal.

Power Punch

After ensuring the defection of West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee’s most trusted lieutenant, Mukul Roy, Vijayvargiya has played a key role in roping in several prominent leaders, including Trinamool’s Suvendu Adhikari and Rajib Banerjee, into the BJP.

What Next

Nursing the dream of returning to Madhya Pradesh politics, he has to ensure BJP win in West Bengal.

By the way

He gave up cereals and grains for 16 years in a vow to build a temple in his hometown with an eight-metal Hanuman statue. It was completed in January 2021.

94. Roshni Nadar Malhotra, 39

Chairperson, HCL Technologies (2019 Rank: New)

Why

She was appointed Chairperson of India’s third largest IT firm $10 billion HCL Technologies, last year. She is also arguably India’s richest woman, with a net worth of over Rs 36,800 crore.

Power Punch

With her appointment as Chairperson of HCL Technologies, she became the first woman in the country to hold that position for a listed IT services company.

What Next

As Chairperson of HCL Group’s flagship company, Nadar Malhotra will look to revive the slowing growth the company has been facing. This is expected with a deeper focus on the country’s digitalisation strategy.

By The Way

Prior to doing her MBA, after which she joined HCL, she worked as a news producer with Sky News UK and CNN America.

95. Dharmendra Pradhan, 51

Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister (2019 Rank: 14)

Why

The BJP’s face in Odisha, Pradhan continues to hold the powerful Petroleum and Natural Gas portfolio, which is a crucial part of the government’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat push.

Power Punch

He is central to the government’s push to increase share of natural gas in the country’s primary energy mix as well as the Petroleum Ministry’s efforts to boost domestic oil and gas production. He is also leading the government’s flagship PM Ujjwala Yojana.

What Next

He is set to lead efforts by his ministry to bring further reforms to boost private investment in the oil and gas sector.

By the way

An avid reader, Pradhan encouraged everyone to take up reading to beat isolation blues during the Covid-19 lockdown.

96. Vijay Shekhar Sharma, 42

Founder and CEO, Paytm (2019 Rank: 78)

Why

Sharma has transformed Paytm from a fin-tech startup into a full-stack financial services conglomerate with banking services, mutual fund and stock investment platforms, in addition to e-commerce and gaming offerings. At $16 billion, Paytm is India’s most valuable unicorn, and reportedly the ninth most valuable one in the world.

Power Punch

After Google removed Paytm from its Play Store and Sharma lashed out at the company, Paytm was back.

What Next

In February 2021, Paytm said it achieved 1.2 billion monthly transactions on its platform, which has around 150 million users. However, WhatsApp offering payment services will prove to be a moment of truth for Paytm.

By the way

Sharma is a fan of Elon Musk’s Tesla vehicles and hopes to own one.

97. Hemant Soren, 45

Jharkhand Chief Minister (2019 Rank: New)

Why

Soren had turned the tide on the BJP government, led by Raghubar Das, in the 2019 Assembly elections in Jharkhand. Un­like his contemporaries, he has ref­used to take the soft Hindutva approach.

Power Punch

Even though he inherited a legacy of dilapidated health infrastructure in the state, his government has handled the pandemic, including the migrant crisis, with efficiency. He is among the few Opp­osition chief ministers who takes on the Central government on policy issues.

What Next

Soren’s government passed an important legislation that will allow members of tribal communities in the state to identify themselves as Sarnas, a distinct religious category. He has also announced various measures to tackle poverty and malnutrition in the state.

By the way

He makes time to catch up with sch­o­ol friends and prefers ho­me-cooked food even during elections.

98. Prashant Kishor, 44

Political Strategist (2019 Rank: New)

Why

He has redefined political campaigning in India and helped steer to power many leaders across the political spectrum, from Narendra Modi in 2014 to Nitish Kumar in 2015, Amarinder Singh in 2016, YS Jagan Mohan Reddy in 2019 and Arvind Kejriwal in 2020. His success has encouraged many paid professionals to manage campaigns and add terms like political spin, craft and strategy to the political lexicon.

Power punch

Leaders across the political spectrum are on his speed dial. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh recently appointed him as his principal advisor.

What Next

He is managing the campaigns of Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal and DMK in Tamil Nadu. His future as a political strategist depends heavily on the West Bengal outcome.

By the way

He relishes South Indian and Italian food.

99. Bimal Patel, 59

Managing Director, HCP Design, Planning and Management (2019 Rank: New)

Why

With India’s most coveted public projects in his satchel, he is all set to leave his stamp on the Central Vista in New Delhi, which includes the new Parliament building, Central Secretariat offices, museums, and the overall landscape of the stretch from India Gate to Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Power Punch

Although three petitions in the Supreme Court challenged the Central Vista redevelopment last year, the ruling favoured the project.

What Next

He has several prominent projects, including the Kashi Vishwanath corridor, Varanasi; Mumbai Port Complex Masterplan; and Pune Riverfront Development project.

By the way

Besides an intense reading and exercise regime, Patel keeps to his life-long habit of a 20-minute afternoon nap.

100. Sachin Pilot, 43

Former Deputy Chief Minister of Rajasthan (2019 Rank: 82)

Why

Tasked with reviving the Congress in Rajasthan after the party was reduced to 21 following the 2013 Assembly elections, as state Congress president, Pilot led the party to several by-election victories before the Congress was voted to power in the 2018 state elections. Though he lost to Ashok Gehlot in the CM race, Pilot, who belongs to the Gujjar community, attracts supporters across different demographics, despite the fact that caste plays a large factor in Rajasthan politics.

Power Punch

During the month-long political crisis following his fallout with Gehlot, Pilot chose to maintain silence and let his loyalists do the talking, a move which paid off when he met with the Congress high command to strike a truce. Pilot has established himself as a separate power centre within the state Congress, despite not being part of the government.

What Next

It is crucial for Pilot to stay relevant in the state’s politics.

By the way

A Union minister during UPA II, he was also commissioned as an officer in the Territorial Army.

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