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IE100: The list of most powerful Indians in 2019

IE100 List: The BJP’s return to power with 303 seats not only refreshed and reinforced it, it has begun to reshape equations across institutions — in the government and outside it as well. The Indian Express power list 2019 tells that story.

Updated: September 30, 2019 9:07:54 pm
IE100: The List Of Most Powerful Indians

If there was one clear message from the 2019 mandate, it was the fortification of the power structure built over the previous five years.

The BJP’s return to power with 303 seats not only refreshed and reinforced it, it has begun to reshape equations across institutions — in the government and outside it as well. The Indian Express power list 2019 tells that story.

Among the 10 most powerful people in the list, the only ones outside the BJP-RSS constellation are outgoing Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Reliance Industries Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani. The only two opposition names in the top 20 are Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh and interim Congress president Sonia Gandhi — in that order.

The regional players have seen an even greater fall, with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee tumbling from a high 6th to 21st, BSP chief Mayawati and Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav crawling in only in the 70s, the Lalu Prasad clan faring even worse, and one-off headliners like Hardik Patel and Jignesh Mevani falling by the wayside.

If the list tells one more story, it is of the upheaval in Kashmir. NSA Ajit Doval, one of the lead scriptwriters of the Modi government’s audacious rewriting of Jammu and Kashmir’s history and geography with the abrogation of Article 370, is up there at No. 7, ahead of Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

The man on the ground putting that plan into action, Jammu & Kashmir Chief Secretary B V R Subrahmanyam, ranks ahead of the state’s once all-powerful political dynasties — the Abdullahs and Mufti.

However, Subrahmanyam is far from the only bureaucrat who holds the levers of influence in a government that banks heavily on them, and has appointed several to key ministries post-retirement (former foreign secretary S Jaishankar having catapulted straight to the high table with the External Affairs Ministry).

The exceptions among the predominantly political and business titans in top 40 on the list are PMO men P K Mishra and P K Sinha, and Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba.

With power accruing behind the throne, the space is shrinking for other voices in the list. The world of business, that has largely remained muted in the face of a financial squeeze, marks a meek presence.

While in sports, apart from the omnipresent Virat Kohli, undeterred by the cricket World Cup loss, only P Gopichand and P V Sindhu make it, on the strength of her badminton World Championship win.

Long dominated by the Khans, the world of entertainment is also showing a churn, wrought by the expanding OTT universe. Karan Johar, among Bollywood’s smartest when it comes to spotting straws in the wind, is riding this wave. Hits outside of box-office — in scoring an interview with Prime Minister Modi, and an invite to his swearing-in — have ushered Akshay Kumar and Kangana Ranaut in.

Then there are the eternal favourites. If Modi and company can now rightly lay claim to that honour, having dominated the top of the list comprehensively since 2014, the middle ground surely belongs to Amitabh Bachchan.

Up or down a few ranks, down and up a few controversies, the 76-year-old superstar, just crowned with the Dadasaheb Phalke Award, remains India’s man with the crorepati touch.

1. Narendra Modi, 69,
Prime Minister of India (2018 Rank: 1)

Mann Ki Baat LIVE Updates: PM to address nation at 11 am today Narendra Modi

Why

After being the principal architect of a record win with 303 seats in the general elections, Narendra Modi’s imprimatur, in his second term as Prime Minister, touches all aspects of his party and government. A fragmented Opposition and his formidable popularity have only served to amplify his command and control.

Power Punch

Got off to a flying start in his second term, appointing trusted deputy Amit Shah in the crucial Home Ministry, and pushing through pet legislation such as the triple talaq Bill and revocation of special status of J&K. The Prime Minister’s star turn at the Houston, US, event will settle any doubts regarding his surprise choice of ex-bureaucrat S Jaishankar as External Affairs Minister.

What Next

As welfare schemes of his first tenure played a significant role in the BJP’s 2019 victory, has to sustain the goodwill in face of the economic slump.

By the way

Compulsively follows tickers on TV news channels, several times a day.

2. Amit Shah, 54
Union Home Minister, BJP president (2018 Rank: 2)

Amit Shah

Why

Transforming the BJP into a successful election winning machine, Shah is now the most powerful minister in the Narendra Modi government. The decisions he has taken as minister have earned him the sobriquet of the new Iron Man in the internal circles of both the BJP and its ideological parent, the RSS.

Power Punch

In his first Parliament session as Home Minister, Shah moved Bills to abrogate Article 370, taking away the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, and bifurcating the state into two Union Territories. So far, he has managed to successfully steer the two moves.

What Next

With Shah delivering on the BJP’s long-time promise of abrogation of Article 370 — a core agenda close to the hearts of RSS and the BJP — Shah’s moves on other long-standing Sangh demands, including a Ram temple in Ayodhya and a Uniform Civil Code, will be watched.

By the way

For the past few months, he has been reading up extensively on Maratha history.

3. Justice Ranjan Gogoi, 64,
Chief Justice of India (2018 Rank: 45)

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Why

Son of former Assam chief minister the late Keshab Chandra Gogoi, Justice Gogoi was appointed Supreme Court judge in 2012. In January 2018, he was one of the four judges who held an unprecedented press conference raising questions on the allocation of cases to various benches in the apex court — which briefly cast a shadow on the chances of his elevation as CJI.

Power Punch

A bench headed by him remained firm on finalisation of the NRC for Assam. Another bench headed by him took high courts to task for not filling up vacancies in the lower judiciary, even as he himself got the government to increase SC strength from 31 to 34 judges.

What Next

A five-judge Constitution bench headed by him has put the proceedings in the Ayodhya land title case on fast track, and set a deadline for the two sides to wrap up their arguments. If all remains on course, the SC may deliver its judgment in the matter before Gogoi’s retirement as CJI on November 17.

By the way

He is fond of travel.

4. Mohan Bhagwat, 68,
RSS chief (2018 Rank: 4)

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Why

Under him, the RSS has helped the BJP grow in strength in successive elections. Bhagwat has also initiated steps to make the RSS re-invent itself, shifting its discourses from closed doors to open platforms. He had invited Congress veteran Pranab Mukherjee to the RSS headquarters to address its volunteers last year.

Power Punch

At a conference in the Capital, Bhagwat expressed displeasure over the BJP’s ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ slogan, saying nation building cannot be done by one person.

What Next

With the BJP all-powerful, Bhagwat must ensure the party does not stray much from its ideological parent.

By the way

Once said no to social media. While he now has a Twitter account, he has never tweeted.

5. Mukesh Ambani, 62,
CMD, Reliance Industries (2018 Rank: 10)

Moody's says Reliance stake sale to Aramco credit positive Mukesh Ambani

Why

The richest Indian’s oil-to-telecom conglomerate is the largest profit-making company, with a net profit of over Rs 35,000 crore in FY’19. His Reliance Jio is India’s largest telecom operator, with a subscriber base of 331 million.

Power Punch

Now largest retailer in the country, RIL Group recently acquired the world’s largest toy retailer, Hamleys.

What Next

Consolidation and debt reduction seem to be the way forward for Ambani. Reliance Industries has announced stake sale of around 20 per cent to Saudi Aramco, cutting its high debt levels.

By the way

Runs a bouquet of over 55 global brands in partnership in India, including Armani, Hugo Boss, Jimmy Choo and M&S.

6. Rajnath Singh, 68,
Defence Minister (2018 Rank: 7)

Rajnath Singh warns about 'big incident' in coastal areas by terrorists from Pakistan Rajnath Singh

Why

Technically No. 2 after PM Modi in the Union Cabinet’s pecking order, Singh has now spent over five years at Raisina Hill. First Home and now Defence Minister, Singh thus has the rare distinction of heading the two ministries dealing with all aspects of national security.

Power Punch

When the Modi-II government announced new Cabinet committees, Amit Shah was on all of them while Singh was on only two. But within 16 hours, the government amended its order, including Singh as a member of these committees.

What Next

Selecting the first Chief of Defence Staff of the country.

By the way

Singh was the only top BJP minister to not visit the US or UK during Modi-I government.

7. Ajit Doval, 74,
National Security Adviser (2018 Rank: 23)

Ajit Doval

Why

Among the select few said to have been in the know of the Centre’s August 5 Kashmir plan, Doval’s inputs played a crucial part in the decision to do away with special status for J&K.

Power Punch

With Valley under lockdown, Doval camped in Kashmir — among the first officials in the Modi government to do so — to gauge the situation on the ground. After his re-appointment in Modi-II, his position has been elevated to Cabinet rank.

What Next

With the government deciding to set up the office of the Chief of Defence Staff, the NSA can now come up with a more effective national security strategy.

By the way

Bollywood star Akshay Kumar is likely to play him in a movie that is in the pipeline.

8. Nirmala Sitharaman, 60
Finance Minister (2018 Rank: 22)

Corporate tax cuts, Corporate tax rate cuts, Corporate tax rates, Corporate taxes, Nirmala Sitharaman, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, GDP, India's GDP, GDP growth, Economic growth, Express Explained, Indian Express Nirmala Sitharaman

Why

In just over a decade, Sitharaman, who once was a part of the Free Thinkers group while studying in JNU and joined the BJP only in 2006, has risen from being a low-profile leader to a vociferous defender of the party in TV debates, to India’s first woman Defence Minister and now Finance Minister. Sitharaman is, in fact, the sole woman member in the elite Cabinet Committee on Security.

Power Punch

As Finance Minister, she announced the biggest corporate tax rate cut since the 1991-92 reforms.

What Next

With the Indian economy riding a roller-coaster, these are tough times for any Finance Minister.

By the way

Has huge collection of handloom saris, buys directly from weavers.

9. Nitin Gadkari, 62,
Road Transport & Highways; Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises Minister (2018 Rank: 12)

Nitin Gadkari, MSME sector, Gadkari on launching marketing portal, Gadkari on MSME sector development, marketing portal for MSMEs, business news, indian express Nitin Gadkari

Why

He was considered one of the most successful ministers in Modi’s first term, credited with re-energising the highways sector. The passage of the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill in the beginning of its second term is seen as largely the result of Gadkari’s persistence and his personal equations with Opposition leaders.

Power Punch

Despite several states, including BJP-ruled ones, opposing the steep fines under the Motor Vehicles Act, he has stuck to his guns.

What Next

Delivering on high-value projects like the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway, despite rising land costs, and fast-tracking a policy on vehicle scrapping are some of his priority areas.

By the way

He likes to sing Hindi songs.

10. J P Nadda, 58,
Working president of BJP (2018 Rank: New)

Jagat Prakash Nadda

Why

With Amit Shah joining the government, Nadda, who has been his right hand man in the BJP, is expected to take over the reins of the world’s largest political party once its internal election process is over. Nadda proved his mettle during the 2019 elections, as in-charge of the party in Uttar Pradesh, against the formidable SP-BSP alliance.

Power Punch

Under his leadership, the party’s membership drive added 7 crore new people.

What Next

Once he takes over as party president, Nadda will have the tough task of retaining the BJP’s winning touch that Shah perfected as party chief.

By The Way

A cleanliness freak, he keeps a duster on his table to regularly brush it.

11. Yogi Adityanath, 47,
Uttar Pradesh CM (2018 Rank: 9)

Yogi Adityanath

Why

Apart from heading the most politically crucial state, Adityanath has emerged as the star campaigner for the BJP across the country. Despite the Opposition targeting him over ‘lawlessness’, in the 2019 general elections, the BJP repeated its magnificent performance of 5 years ago.

Power Punch

Half-way into Adityanath’s term, BJP president Amit Shah endorsed his chief ministership in July 2019.

What Next

The coming bypolls to 12 Assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh, which will be closely watched to see if the BJP can continue to demolish all Opposition in the state, or if the latter can repeat their by-election wins of 2018.

BY THE WAY

Very conscious of his health, he takes a one-hour morning walk without a miss and avoids ghee.

12. Devendra Fadnavis, 49
Maharashtra Chief Minister (2018 Rank: 16)

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Why

As Maharashtra heads to polls, Fadnavis is the undisputed face of the BJP in the state. Only the second CM in the state to complete a full five-year term, Fadnavis has neutralised the discontent of ally Shiv Sena, and broken the back of the Opposition, wooing away Congress, NCP leaders.

Power Punch

The Centre recently appointed him as the convenor of a high-powered panel of CMs tasked with suggesting structural reforms in agriculture.

What Next

With the Shiv Sena hoping to have a shot at the chief minister’s post, Fadnavis has to fend off the challenge. One way would be finishing way ahead of the Sena in the hustings.

BY THE WAY

Loves Hindi film songs and has told friends he knows as many as 2,000 by heart.

13. Piyush Goyal, 55
Railways, Commerce Minister (2018 Rank: 33)

On Goyal table: Key challenges in foreign trade, disputes in WTO Piyush Goyal

Why

Towards the end of the Modi-I government, he was given the charge of Railways, and impressed by implementing several new ideas. In the second term, he holds, besides Railways, the high-profile portfolio of Commerce and Industry, affirming the PM’s faith in him.

Power Punch

Has been at as much ease at international trade negotiations as leading transformation in the Railways. Besides, as party treasurer, he enjoys a good rapport with Amit Shah.

What Next

Implementing private train operations and finishing critical high-value projects are high on his agenda. On the global trade front, he has his task cut out securing India’s interests, particularly amid US-China tensions.

By the way

He enjoys a meal of idlis and dosas.

14. Dharmendra Pradhan, 50
Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister (2018 Rank: 32)

Dharmendra Pradhan

Why

As the BJP’s face in Odisha, Pradhan played a crucial role in building the party organisation in the state. In the new Modi Cabinet, he continues to hold the powerful Petroleum and Natural Gas portfolio.

Power Punch

Pradhan’s move to announce a daal-salt-rice package in the PDS in Odisha, despite it not being projected in the party manifesto for the Odisha Assembly elections, is said to have helped the BJP emerge as a formidable opposition in the state.

What Next

Pradhan has to see to it that the BJP maintains its momentum in Odisha for the next big jump: try winning power in the state.

By the way

Red rice from Kerala is his preferred choice, even when he is travelling.

15. Amarinder Singh, 77
Punjab Chief Minister (2018 Rank: 31)

Amarinder Singh

Why

At a time when the Congress was being trounced in the rest of the country, he led the party to a thumping victory in the Assembly elections in 2017. Given his charisma and popularity, the Congress campaign was designed around Amarinder. Again, in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the party won eight of 13 seats in the state.

Power Punch

After Rahul quit as Congress chief, he was among the first to call for a young president. Also, forced the ouster of Navjot Singh Sidhu from his Cabinet.

What Next

The Congress will depend on Amarinder again to win the 2022 Assembly elections for the party.

By the way

Loves playing with his pets Dusty (a Labrador), Chinkichoo (a Pomeranian), and Rosy and Tyson (Mountain Mastiffs).

16. B L Santhosh, 53
General Secretary (Organisation), BJP (2018 Rank: New)

B L Santhosh

Why

A full-time pracharak and strong RSS ideologue, Santhosh is the Sangh man in the BJP and expected to play the role of a hardliner in the party. Earlier, ahead of the 2018 Assembly elections in Karnataka, he was a dark horse in the race for the Chief Minister’s post.

Power Punch

After B S Yediyurappa, his bete noire in the BJP, was appointed CM of Karnataka, Santhosh convinced the party to appoint three deputy CMs.

What Next

As the BJP seeks to make inroads in the South, the burden of that responsibility lies for a large part on Santhosh’s shoulders.

By the way

If he likes a certain movie, he can watch it multiple times — has seen Chak De! India 10 times and Taare Zameen Par six times.

17. Sonia Gandhi, 72
Interim Congress president (2018 Rank: 5)

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Why

After the Congress’s second consecutive defeat in the general elections this year, she was brought back as ‘interim’ Congress president, as Rahul Gandhi insisted on resigning. At the party’s helm for nearly two decades now, she continues to be its most admired and loved leader.

Power Punch

Within days of taking over, Sonia managed to avert a crisis in the Haryana Congress by placating veteran leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda.

What Next

She has the unenviable task of pulling the party out of its current morass. In the short-term, she has to stem the growing disenchantment within the Congress.

By the way

Likes to eat papaya and ginger for breakfast.

18. Nitish Kumar, 68
Bihar Chief Minister (2018 Rank: 49)

Bihar assembly elections, Nitish Kumar, 2020 assembly elections, nitish kumar on assembly elections, nitish kumar on nda, nda seaths, nda win, indian express news Nitish Kumar

Why

Though the rise of the BJP is seen to have come at a personal cost for Nitish, the JD(U)’s tally in the last Lok Sabha elections — 16 of the 17 Lok Sabha seats it contested — showed he remains crucial to Bihar’s politics. And that the development card is still a bankable issue for Nitish.

Power Punch

When even non-NDA parties voted with the Modi government in Parliament, the JD(U) charted a separate path on the triple talaq Bill.

What Next

Can he return as CM of Bihar for the fourth time — a feat unparalleled in the state — when elections are held in 2020? And given his track record, will he stay with the BJP?

By the way

He does yoga to the sound of devotional songs, particularly bhajans.

19. P K MISHRA, 71
Principal Secretary to PM Modi (2018 Rank: 44)

P K Mishra

Why

Considered one of Modi’s key aides, Pramod Kumar Mishra’s position has got stronger thanks to his elevation as Principal Secretary to the PM (Cabinet rank) following Nripendra Misra’s departure.

Power Punch

Having worked closely with Modi since Gujarat, Mishra enjoys the PM’s complete confidence and has been his chief emissary on all important bureaucratic and policy issues across ministries.

What Next

As the man who now runs the show in the PMO, it is up to Mishra to continue with the office’s strict and vigilant gaze on all departments, like his predecessor did.

By the way

Averse to personal limelight, Mishra does not accept too many requests for public appearances.

20. Ravi Shankar Prasad, 65
Law & Justice; Communications, Electronics & IT Minister (2018 Rank: 38)

Ravi Shankar Prasad

Why

Because he has been entrusted with two key ministries. As Minister of Law and Justice, he played a crucial role in passing key legislation such as the law criminalising triple talaq. As minister for Communications & Electronics and IT, he is spearheading the Digital India project.

Power Punch

The Centre might face criticism for delaying appointments to the higher judiciary, but taking over as Law Minister in NDA-II, he made it clear: “We will try to fast-track… appointments… but I won’t be a post office”.

What Next

The data protection Bill has to be taken to Parliament. His ministry is also working on ways to crack down on fake news.

By the way

Loves jalebis and rasgullas.

21. Mamata Banerjee, 64
West Bengal CM; Trinamool Cong chief (2018 Rank: 6)

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Why

Despite the BJP making inroads into Bengal, she is one of the fiercest voices against the BJP-led NDA government at the Centre. She recently launched a mass outreach programme called ‘Didi Ke Bolo’ to communicate with the masses.

Power Punch

She was a key force behind the stitching together of a grand alliance of opposition parties against the BJP and its allies before the Lok Sabha elections and is likely to continue with those efforts.

What Next

As the BJP snaps at her heels, the 2021 Assembly elections are a do-or-die battle for Mamata.

By the way

While she stays away from sweets while in Bengal, her biggest indulgence in Delhi is rasmalai from Nathu’s in Bengali Market.

22. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, 64
External Affairs Minister (2018 Rank: New)

S Jaishankar

Why 

The PM’s surprise choice for the Modi 2.0 Cabinet was the first truly lateral entry into the government. With a reputation for being a problem-solver, he brings to the job foreign policy expertise as well as the ability to navigate the diplomatic maze with political understanding, after three years as foreign secretary.

Power Punch

Has been the most effective advocate of the Centre’s move on Kashmir internationally. With curbs in the Valley continuing, he has been able to get foreign governments to support or to stay neutral.

What Next

Steering India’s foreign policy towards the big powers like the US, Russia and China.

By the way

Tries to keep physically active, and regularly plays squash.

23 Prakash Javadekar, 68
Environment, Forests, Climate Change; Information and Publicity Minister (2018 Rank: 56)

Prakash Javadekar Idea Exchange, Union Minister Prakash Javadekar BJP, Prakash Javadekar Kashmir article 370, Idea Exchange Indian Express Prakash Javadekar

Why

Among the party’s most recognised spokespersons, he is the man the BJP calls upon to steer it through tough situations. He is also in charge of some of the toughest states for the party, including Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Karnataka, Rajasthan and Delhi.

Power Punch

He led India as one of the main signatories at the UNFCCC’s Paris Agreement in 2015. Now India is set to host the 14th Conference of Parties for the first time, which will be happening next month.

What Next

Javadekar has set ambitious targets for his ministry, among them bringing down pollution by 20 per cent in 102 cities over the next few years.

By the way

Javadekar is very particular about how he has his tea.

24. Uddhav Thackeray, 59
Shiv Sena president (2018 Rank: 40)

Uddhav Thackeray

Why

He has finally managed to break away from his late father’s imposing shadow, leading the Sena to a win in 18 Lok Sabha seats. He is now the undisputed leader of the party.

Power Punch

Despite a tepid relationship with the BJP, he managed to ensure that the party agreed to an equal seat-sharing agreement with the Sena for the forthcoming Assembly elections.

What Next

His sights are set on the Maharashtra Assembly elections, particularly as, in spite of the alliance with the BJP, the ties between the parties remain edgy.

By the way

Uddhav is almost religious about his annual two-week summer break. His favourite destination is London, where he goes every May, accompanied by his wife and two sons.

25. Rahul Gandhi, 49
Senior Congress leader (2018 Rank: 11)

Rahul gandhi attacks nirmala sitharaman, nirmala sitharaman ola uber remark, nirmala sitharaman millenials remark, auto sales dip Rahul Gandhi

Why

His decision to resign as Congress president, taking moral responsibility for the Lok Sabha elections defeat, paralysed and divided the party for two months. Even after stepping down, he remains the power behind the throne, and a ray of hope for its young leadership. Many in the party back him for he has age on his side.

Power Punch

Despite fervent appeals, advice and pressure tactics, Rahul stuck by his decision to quit as Congress chief.

What Next

Now that he has freed himself from organisational responsibilities, all eyes within and outside the Congress are on Rahul’s next plan.

By the way

While campaigning in Wayanad, he had a long conversation with a farmer on the benefits of kanthari (bird’s eye) chilli.

26. Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy, 47
Andhra Pradesh CM; YSRCP chief (2018 Rank: 35)

Why

Because after being comprehensively defeated in the 2014 elections, with his party the YSRCP reduced to just 40 MLAs, he embarked on a padayatra which propelled him to a landslide victory in 2019. With 152 MLAs out of 175, he is the most powerful CM Andhra Pradesh has ever had.

Power Punch

Has scrapped most of the contracts and power purchase agreements signed by the previous TDP government over alleged irregularities.

What Next

Has to bring the Centre around to grant Special Category Status to Andhra — his main poll promise — as well as secure additional grants for the cash-strapped state.

By the way

Visits Jerusalem and Bethlehem to pray, like his late father Y S Rajasekhara Reddy.

27. Uday Kotak, 60
MD & CEO, Kotak Mahindra Bank (2018 Rank: New)

Why

One of India’s most powerful bankers, he has built a highly profitable financial sector entity, that is now the second largest, with market capitalisation of more than Rs 2.86 lakh crore, just after HDFC Bank.

Power Punch

Even as his bank stayed away from bad assets, Kotak had warned against vulnerabilities in the financial system early on — whether in NBFCs or corporate loans.

What Next

The government has tasked him with putting the IL&FS Group in order, naming him the non-executive chairman of its board. Effective resolution of the crisis is critical to the financial sector.

By the way

Fond of travelling, Kotak also loves playing cricket as well as the sitar.

28. Gautam Adani, 57
Chairman, Adani Group (2018 Rank: 29)

Why

He is among the businessmen considered close to the current dispensation. His company, Adani Ports and Special Economic Zone Ltd (APSEZ), operates the country’s largest commercial port, Mundra Port.

Power Punch

The Adani Group won bids to run six airports after making aggressive offers that elbowed out existing airport operators like GMR.

What Next

After several ups and downs, the Adani Group’s Rs 10,000-crore Carmichael coal mine project in Australia is set to take off. This will be essential to improving the company’s financial metrics as it looks to de-leverage its balance sheet.

By the way

A college dropout, Adani once worked as a diamond sorter at a Mahendra Brothers branch.

29. Shaktikanta Das, 62
Reserve Bank of India Governor (2018 Rank: New)

Why

Since taking over in December 2018, he has led the RBI from the front in bringing down interest rates, while managing to sustain price stability. Under him, the RBI has also mended its strained relationship with the Finance Ministry. The RBI Board, chaired by Das, worked out a formal method to share the central bank’s reserves with the government.

Power Punch

Recently, the RBI transferred a record Rs 1.76 lakh crore reserves to the government.

What Next

He will be under watch for transmission of rate cut benefits to customers, functioning of the fund-starved financial sector, inflation.

By the way

A student of history, he has handled economy and finance for most part of his career.

30. M K Stalin, 66
DMK president (2018 Rank: 24)

Why

As party chief following the death of his father and stalwart Karunanidhi, Stalin led the DMK, which had failed to win a single seat in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls, to spectacular success in 2019. With 23 seats, the DMK is the third largest party in the Lok Sabha.

Power Punch

The first to name Rahul Gandhi as the Opposition’s PM candidate, Stalin has emerged as the most powerful anti-BJP voice of South India. Recently, he took the lead in organising a protest over the Centre’s Kashmir move.

What Next

The DMK’s performance in the local body polls and 2021 Assembly elections will define Stalin’s future.

By the way

He loves travelling to Singapore or London, whenever he can manage a break.

31. Narendra Singh Tomar , 62
Minister of Agriculture & Farmer Welfare; Rural Development & Panchayati Raj (2018 Rank: New)

Why

From a councillor in Gwalior in the 1980s, the low-profile Tomar has come a long way to holding the key portfolios of Agriculture and Rural Development — the first time the two have been held by one minister.

Power Punch

Modi’s decision to repeat Tomar in Rural Development was unsurprising given the successful implementation of schemes like the PM Awas Yojana-Gramin and PM Gram Sadak Yojana in his first term, which contributed to the BJP’s spectacular showing in the 2019 polls.

What Next

To keep the Centre’s promise of doubling farm income by 2022-23.

By the way

He continues to live in his family house, which has not seen major alterations.

32. Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, 52
Jal Shakti Minister (2018 Rank: New)

Why

He spearheads what is seen as one of the most high-profile ministries of Modi’s second term. Apart from making India water-secure, he is in charge of ensuring the PM’s ambitious “Har ghar nal se jal” promise of piped water to 140 mn households.

Power Punch

A fortnight after scrapping of the special status to J&K, Shekhawat did some tough-talking, saying work had started on stopping excess river water from flowing into Pakistan.

What Next

If the burden of shouldering the PM’s pet project for his second term was not enough, Shekhawat is also in charge of the intractable Namami Gange project.

By the way

He has played basketball for Rajasthan and is a member of the Rajasthan Basketball Federation.

33. Kamal Nath, 72
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister (2018 Rank: New)

Why

Because he played a key role in ending the BJP’s 15-year rule in MP, despite being made the state Congress chief just months earlier. The old warhorse is believed to have played a crucial role in taking the Congress across the half-way mark by wooing over Independents, and BSP and SP legislators.

Power Punch

He signed the loan waiver file, a pre-poll promise, within a couple of hours of his swearing-in.

What Next

With the BJP gaining fresh wind from Karnataka, his government remains at razor’s edge. The BJP also has a handle against him with the ED case against his nephew, Ratul Puri.

By the way

An MP for nearly four decades, he entered the MP Assembly for the first time after becoming CM.

34. Priyanka Gandhi, 47
Congress general secretary (2018 Rank: New)

Why

Considered the emotional anchor of both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka took the political plunge ahead of the 2019 general elections, and is now a key member of the Congress’s decision-making apparatus. Though she failed to turn around the party’s fortunes in UP, her influence is only bound to grow.

Power Punch

Her debut in politics was as national general secretary of the Congress. Rahul had got the post three years after he entered politics.

What Next

Set to take up complete organisational control of UP, Priyanka has the onerous task of reviving the Congress in the Hindi heartland.

By the way

At least once a month, visits differently-abled children at an NGO she is associated with.

35. Ashok Gehlot, 68
Rajasthan Chief Minister (2018 Rank: New)

Why

The CM of one of the last surviving strongholds of the Congress, he remains popular for his social security schemes and laws against mob lynching and honour killing.

Power Punch

He edged out Sachin Pilot, who was credited with reviving the party in Rajasthan, to become CM and kept key portfolios such as Home and Personnel for himself.

What Next

The Congress suffered a 25-0 wipeout in Rajasthan in the Lok Sabha polls. In the Assembly elections too, the gap between the BJP, Congress vote share was a mere 0.5%. Gehlot also has the tough task of tackling factionalism in the state unit.

By the way

Does yoga every day; likes his food without any spices and chapattis without ghee.

36. General Bipin Rawat, 61
Chief of Army Staff (2018 Rank: 41)

Why

His three-year-long tenure, which is nearing its end, has been marked by several controversies, a border standoff with China and surgical strikes inside Pakistan. He is currently pushing to implement four comprehensive studies which have the potential to reform and reshape the Army. Has stuck to his guns despite being accused of being too close to the establishment at times.

Power Punch

After the Pulwama attack, Rawat said he was ready to carry out any form of military operation against Pakistan.

What Next

Could he be the first Chief of Defence Staff, and hence the joint head of the armed forces? Or is politics the way ahead for him?

By the way

Likes to spend time with his pets.

37. P K Sinha, 64
Principal Advisor to PM Modi (2018 Rank: New)

Why

A 1977-batch IAS officer who was Power Secretary when Modi took over as PM in 2014, Pradeep Kumar Sinha has grown to become one of the Modi government’s favourite bureaucrats. Sinha became Cabinet Secretary in 2015, and was given two extensions and some more time before he was absorbed into the PMO.

Power Punch

Principal Advisor to the PM is a post created in the PMO to accommodate him, signifying his value to Modi.

What Next

Since he has been at the top of the bureaucracy during almost the entire term of the Modi government so far, he is expected to provide continuity in overseeing policy matters and their implementation.

By the way

He is known for his attention to detail in paperwork.

38. Rajiv Gauba, 60
Cabinet Secretary (2018 Rank: New)

Why

From being a joint secretary in the Ministry of Environment and Forests under the UPA to Home Secretary and then Cabinet Secretary in the Modi government, the 1982-batch IAS officer has come a long way. He is one of the few top bureaucrats to have managed a low profile despite powerful postings — unofficially considered a useful trait in the NDA government. As the Cabinet Secretary, he is Modi’s top man in central bureaucracy.

Power Punch

As Home Secretary he is credited with readying the paperwork on the abrogation of Article 370.

What Next

He has to keep the momentum up while preventing inter-ministerial issues from becoming irritants.

By the way

Known for his good sense of humour.

39. Naveen Patnaik, 72
Odisha Chief Minister; BJD chief (2018 Rank: 30)

Why

Because he has never lost an election in his career, and returned to power in May for the fifth continuous time, overcoming 20 years of anti-incumbency and BJP might. His success is without match not just in Odisha politics but also in other states.

Power Punch

His government successfully organised the World Cup Hockey in Bhubaneswar in 2018 and he promises to make the city “the sports capital of the country”. The BJD government was also lauded internationally for effective evacuation ahead of cyclonic storm Fani.

What Next

Patnaik is working with the Centre to transform Odisha into the country’s steel hub.

By the way

His favourite show is Designated Survivor on Netflix.

40. Ahmed Patel, 70
Congress Treasurer; Rajya Sabha MP (2018 Rank: New)

Why

The most influential person in the Congress after members of the Nehru-Gandhi family for close to two decades, Patel’s position has got a boost with the return of Sonia Gandhi as interim Congress president. He has good rapport with leaders across party lines and is considered a link between the young and old guard in the Congress. His role is significant in raising funds for the cash-strapped party and forming alliances.

Power Punch

Has been an active, behind-the-scene force in ensuring that the Gandhis remain at the helm of the Congress.

What Next

Will play a key role in finding Sonia’s successor, either through internal polls or the consensus route.

By the way

Gives away the bouquets he gets on Eid to visitors.

41. Shivraj Singh Chouhan, 60
BJP vice-president (2018 Rank: 13)

Why

Seeking a fourth term in power, after remaining Madhya Pradesh’s longest-serving CM, Chouhan came very close to winning again. He took to the streets immediately after, even before the Lok Sabha polls were announced.

Power Punch

Unlike Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh and Vasundhara Raje in Rajasthan, the BJP brought Chouhan into national politics after his loss, making him vice-president in January and giving him the charge of the party’s nation-wide membership drive.

What Next

The last membership exercise powered the BJP to “world’s largest party”. That’s a tough act to follow.

By the way

Set a new tradition at Madhya Pradesh CM House, of installing Ganesh idols every year.

42. B S Yediyurappa, 76
Karnataka Chief Minister (2018 Rank: New)

Why

For fighting his way back to the CM’s chair — his fourth stint — by engineering defections and toppling the Congress-JS(S) government. He has managed to cement his credentials as the foremost leader of the Lingayat community in Karnataka.

Power Punch

After the Karnataka Assembly polls in 2018, he led the party to stake claim to form the government over-riding doubts within the BJP, given the party numbers.

What Next

With the BJP in power with only a fragile majority, his political acumen will be tested in the coming months. Protests over the recent arrest of Vokkaliga strongman D K Shivakumar are a headache.

By the way

Yediyurappa once worked as a clerk at a rice mill in Shimoga.

43. Edappadi K Palaniswami, 65
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister (2018 Rank: 64)

Why

His control on the post-Jayalalithaa AIADMK is now total, with EPS managing to end the influence of both V K Sasikala and her nephew T T V Dhinakaran as well as sidelining deputy O Panneerselvam. Recently, the CM sacked a minister for making public statements against the party and no one dared oppose him.

Power Punch

He is credited with the AIADMK winning nine out of the 22 Assembly bypolls held simultaneously with the Lok Sabha elections, which the DMK had swept.

What Next

Long-pending local body polls and the 2021 Assembly elections, the first since Jayalalithaa’s death.

By the way

EPS always attends functions of partymen, especially those who have left Dhinakaran for his side.

44. B V R Subrahmanyam, 56
J&K Chief Secretary (2018 Rank: New)

Why

The top bureaucrat of the state is also its most powerful, being among the few people in the know of the Centre’s decision to revoke J&K’s special status ahead of its announcement. Following the move, he planned the government’s response to any public outrage against it as the Centre’s point man in the state.

Power Punch

A complete clampdown in the state, especially in the Kashmir Valley, under his command has been able to prevent any massive protests so far.

What Next

How long to retain the information blackout in the Valley. And how to prepare for, prevent the expected protests when the curbs are lifted.

By the way

Given his style of functioning, his subordinates call him the ‘de facto governor’ of J&K.

45. Farooq Abdullah, 81
National Conference president

Omar Abdullah, 49
Former J&K chief minister (2018 Rank: 72)

Why

They are leaders of J&K’s oldest mainstream party. While that tag may hurt now in the Valley after abrogation of Article 370, Farooq could emerge as a rallying force after detention under PSA. Omar is the NC’s young, articulate face.

Power Punch

Farooq reportedly rejected a compromise with the Centre despite facing the threat of PSA.

What Next

The NC now has to take a call — reconcile with revocation of special status or launch a public movement.

By the way

In detention, Farooq has been reading Abdullah Yousuf Ali’s interpretation of Quran; Omar featured in film Mission Istanbul.

46. Ajay Tyagi, 60
SEBI Chairman (2018 Rank: 61)

Why

Since taking charge of the market watchdog in 2017, the IAS officer has tightened regulations, disciplined market intermediaries, and initiated reforms, while standing up to lobbies.

Power Punch

In the co-location case relating to some traders receiving “preferential treatment” at the NSE (National Stock Exchange), the SEBI ordered it to disgorge around Rs 624.89 crore, barred it from accessing the market for funds for six months, and took action against its former CEOs.

What Next

With recent measures like 35% minimum public shareholding in listed companies to boost the economy, his actions will be keenly watched.

By the way

You might bump into him taking an evening walk on Mumbai’s Marine Drive promenade.

47. Manohar Lal Khattar, 65
Haryana Chief Minister (2018 Rank: 57)

Why

A surprise choice for Haryana CM by the BJP, he has since consolidated his hold. The party’s wins in civic body polls, the Jind Assembly by-election and all the 10 Lok Sabha seats in the state mean he looks comfortably placed for the coming Assembly elections. The blunders of the past — such as during the 2016 Jat quota stir, the violence following Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim’s arrest in 2017 — are firmly behind him.

Power Punch

Has virtually wiped out the Chautalas-led INLD, taking in seven of its MLAs.

What Next

The October Assembly elections, for which Khattar has set a target for a thumping majority.

By the way

His Vidhan Sabha website profile lists IT as his favourite subject.

48. Justice S A Bobde, 63
Judge, Supreme Court of India (2018 Rank: New)

Why

Hailing from a family of legal luminaries, Justice Bobde was appointed to the Supreme Court in April 2013 and is its second-most senior judge.

Power Punch

Has many effective interventions to his credit, including a ruling in March 2015 by a Bench comprising him that cautioned that no person be denied any benefit for lacking an Aadhaar card. Justice Bobde is also part of the Bench hearing the Ayodhya case, as well as the Bench hearing petitions pertaining to J&K post reprobation of Article 370.

What Next

He is in line to be Chief Justice of India after retirement of Justice Ranjan Gogoi in November.

By the way

Suffered an accident while trying out a Harley Davidson motorcycle earlier this year.

49. Sunil Arora, 63
Chief Election Commissioner (2018 Rank: New)

Why

As CEC, Arora oversaw the successful conduct of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, though it wasn’t without controversy — on five occasions, colleague Ashok Lavasa opposed clean chits given by the EC to PM Modi and Amit Shah over alleged violations of the code of conduct. Arora also withstood relentless pressure from opposition parties that raised doubts over EVMs.

Power Punch

Under him, the EC deferred the release of the film PM Narendra Modi during the Lok Sabha elections.

What Next

The Assembly polls in Haryana and Maharashtra, the Modi government’s first poll test amidst an economic slump and after the decision to scrap the special status to J&K.

By the way

He taught English at DAV College in Jalandhar before joining IAS.

50. Tushar Mehta, 55
Solicitor General of India (2018 Rank: New)

Why

An alumnus of Sir L A Shah Law College, Ahmedabad, Mehta was appointed Additional Solicitor General in 2014 after Modi became PM for the first time and quickly rose to become its principal firefighter in courts. In October 2018, he was appointed Solicitor General of India, the country’s second-most senior legal officer.

Power Punch

As ASG and SG, he has been Special Prosecutor in 2G cases, as well as led the government charge in cases such as those against former home minister P Chidambaram. He also played a key role in charting the legal course over Article 370.

What Next

Having carried out the government brief well, his graph is set to rise.

By the way

Mehta is a connoisseur of fountain pens.

51. Arvind Kejriwal, 50
Delhi CM; AAP national convenor (2018 Rank: 73)

Why

The Delhi Assembly elections due soon are a do-or-die battle for Kejriwal-led AAP. Apart from mellowing down as a politician, he has announced a slew of people-oriented policies ahead of the polls such as free rides for women in buses and Delhi Metro, and power bill waivers for small consumers.

Power Punch

The Supreme Court judgment on allocation of powers in Delhi, which went largely in favour of the Kejriwal government.

What Next

The AAP government’s odd-even announcement to tackle Delhi pollution. Will it prove too costly a gambit, too close to the Assembly polls?

By the way

Kejriwal and Sisodia often watch comedy movies together, with Govinda-starrers their favourite.

52. Virat Kohli, 30
Indian cricket team captain (2018 Rank: 20)

Why

There has been rarely a cricketer in the Indian ecosystem like Kohli. Charismatic, ambitious, articulate, intelligent, a fitness freak, and a man with loads of talent — he has it all. But while he is the brand and the brand-builder, he realises that what cements this edifice are his great skills.

Power Punch

The historic Test series triumph in Australia, which silenced those who wondered whether he could do without the help of M S Dhoni, who guides him in the ODIs.

What Next

The new Test Championship will determine his leadership skills across different conditions.

By the way

Recent years have seen him turn increasingly spiritual. His three recent tattoos are of Om symbol, a monastery and Lord Shiva.

53. Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, 63
Leader of Congress, Lok Sabha (2018 Rank: New)

Why

The five-time MP is a new entrant to the Congress’s high table. As leader of the main Opposition party in the Lok Sabha, he is a member of key government panels, including one to pick the CBI chief, the Lokpal and chairman and members of the NHRC.

Power Punch

That the leadership has immense trust in Chowdhury became clear when he was nominated by the party to head the key Public Accounts Committee of Parliament.

What Next

Chowdhury has the tough task of ensuring that the Congress’s voice is heard and noticed in the Lok Sabha, where the ruling alliance has a huge numerical upper hand.

By the way

He loves poetry and has written a book of poems called Aguner Rong Neel (The colour of fire is blue).

54. Bhupesh Baghel, 57
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister (2018 Rank: New)

Why

Apart from Amarinder Singh, he is the only Congress Chief Minister enjoying a comfortable majority.

Power Punch

He was selected as CM despite there being many strong contenders in the Congress for the post.

What Next

Baghel has made the ‘Narwa (canals), gharwa (livestock), ghurwa (domestic waste), baari (fields)’ programme his flagship, looking for dividends from “recharging rural economy”. He will hope this reflects in the local body elections due soon, particularly after the Congress got a pasting in the Lok Sabha elections in the state.

By the way

Baghel is fond of yoga and exercise and tries his hand at cricket and carrom whenever he gets an opportunity.

55. Smriti Irani, 42
Women and Child Development; Textiles Minister (2018 Rank: 39)

Why

Although Irani suffered a setback when the HRD and Information and Broadcasting Ministries were taken away from her in the first term of the Modi government, she bounced back with an impressive win against Rahul Gandhi in the Lok Sabha polls.

Power Punch

Under her leadership, the Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry managed to get the POCSO Act amended in Parliament to introduce death penalty in cases of aggravated sexual assault on children.

What Next

The WCD Ministry will play a crucial role in ensuring the success of the National Nutrition Mission.

By the way

Irani was once active on Twitter. Now, it’s her Instagram stories that generate buzz.

56. Himanta Biswa Sarma, 50
Assam Finance Minister, NEDA chief (2018 Rank: 27)

Why

Arguably the most powerful politician in the Northeast, he is the BJP’s key man in the region, where the party is either ruling or in ruling alliance in six of the seven states. He is also chief of the NEDA (North-East Democratic Alliance), a BJP-led grouping of parties in the region.

Power Punch

When the BJP did not give Sarma a Lok Sabha ticket, party president Amit Shah in an unprecedented move released a statement saying he was critical to their plans in the NE. The BJP and its allies in the seven NE states went on to win 17 of the 24 Lok Sabha seats in this year’s general elections.

What Next

He is focusing on the 2021 Assam Assembly polls.

By the way

A workaholic, Sarma replies to WhatsApp messages personally.

57. Amitabh Bachchan, 76
Bollywood actor (2018 Rank: 77)

Why

Roles continue to be written for Bachchan and he has no less than 10 films coming out in 2019-2020.

Power Punch

Few actors work in as many Indian film industries as Bachchan. Next year, he will star in Nagraj Manjule’s Hindi film Jhund; Tamil and Hindi bilingual film Uyarndha Manithan/Tera Yaar Hoon Main; in addition to Butterfly, a Kannada film; and will make his Marathi film debut in AB Aani CD. Just received the Dadasaheb Phalke Award.

What Next

His Hindi film offerings in 2020 are Brahmastra by Ayan Mukerji, Chehre by Rumi Jafry, and Gulabo Sitabo by Shoojit Sircar.

By the way

German company Mont Blanc gifts him a special pen every year on his birthday.

58. Ratan Tata, 81
Chairman Emeritus, Tata Group (2018 Rank: 51)

Why

Despite stepping down as chairman of Tata Sons, Rata Tata — industrialist, philanthropist and a serial investor in start-ups — continues to be the guiding force of the company. Tata Trusts, which he heads, supports the Centre in the implementation of the National Nutrition Mission and is also working to improve screening of non-communicable diseases under the Ayushman Bharat programme.

Power Punch

In 2018-19, Tata Trusts spent around Rs 1,500 crore on philanthropic activities.

What Next

Tata aims to provide funding to a large project that will work on controlling a disease.

By the way

Abstractionist Laxman Shrestha is one of his favourite painters.

59. Ghulam Nabi Azad, 70
Leader of Opposition, Rajya Sabha (2018 Rank: New)

Why

Azad plays a key role in uniting opposition parties in the Upper House. With the Centre pushing through contentious legislation such as the triple talaq Bill and the abrogation of special status to J&K, Azad’s role has become more challenging.

Power Punch

He brought together a group of Opposition leaders to visit Srinagar after the abrogation of Article 370.

What Next

While the 70-year-old will continue to focus his attention on Kashmir, as in-charge of Haryana, his immediate challenge is to ensure that the Congress puts up a credible performance in the coming Assembly polls.

By the way

A photography enthusiast, Azad takes pictures of apple trees and mountains every time he visits Kashmir.

60. Harivansh Narayan Singh, 63
Deputy Chairman, Rajya Sabha (2018 Rank: New)

Why

A journalist-turned-politician, Singh first got catapulted to the Rajya Sabha as a Janata Dal (United) member, and is now the Deputy Chairman of the Upper House. Conducting proceedings in the absence of the Chairman, he plays a key role in the disposal of business in a House where the NDA lacks a majority.

Power Punch

During the Fourth South Asian Speakers’ Summit in the Maldives early September, Harivansh thwarted all attempts by Pakistan Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri to raise the Kashmir issue.

What Next

With his tenure ending next year, he will hope to return to the Rajya Sabha.

By the way

Harivansh was media advisor to Chandra Shekhar when the latter was Prime Minister.

61. Om Birla, 57
Lok Sabha Speaker (2018 Rank: New)

Why

Birla has displayed remarkable decisiveness in conducting proceedings in the Lok Sabha, which paved the way for passage of controversial legislation like abrogation of Article 370 and triple talaq Bill.

Power Punch

He facilitated the passage of 36 Bills during the first session of the 17th Lok Sabha, making it the most productive session since 1952. On a single day, 161 members, most of them first-timers, raised issues during Zero Hour.

What Next

While becoming the Speaker from a backbencher in the Lok Sabha is a huge leap, he would ideally want to become CM of Rajasthan.

By the way

Birla is believed to have developed the concept of booth management, which the BJP adopted at the national level.

62. K Chandrashekar Rao, 65
Telangana Chief Minister; TRS chief (2018 Rank: 52)

Why

The TRS fought the 2014 and 2019 elections and all civic polls in between in his name and won each by a landslide. He literally faces no Opposition in the state, and has further tightened his grip with son K T Rama Rao being made TRS working president.

Power Punch

Chose the winning horse in throwing his might behind Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy in the 2019 elections in Andhra.

What Next

KCR wanted to play a bigger role in national politics post-2019 but the BJP’s strong comeback put paid to his efforts. He now has to tackle the BJP’s march in Telangana, as well as meet the promises of his 100 welfare schemes by arranging enough funds.

By the way

He takes off to his farmhouse in Erravalli often, and spends his time there farming.

63. Justice Arun Mishra, 64
Judge, Supreme Court of India (2018 Rank: New)

Why

Justice Mishra, currently the fourth senior-most judge of the Supreme Court, is hearing some of the country’s most significant political, constitutional and environmental cases.

Power Punch

He presided over the benches that looked into allegations of sexual harassment against CJI Ranjan Gogoi, the criminal appeal in the Haren Pandya murder case, and the review of the apex court’s 2018 order on the SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

What Next

As a senior judge of the Supreme Court, Justice Mishra will continue to be a collegium member till next year, signing off on key appointments to the higher judiciary.

By the way

At 43, Justice Mishra was the youngest chairperson of the Bar Council of India.

64. Fali Nariman, 90
Senior jurist (2018 Rank: 55)

Why

The conscience keeper of the judiciary, Nariman is among the country’s most distinguished constitutional lawyers, having appeared in cases that have shaped judicial precedents.

Power Punch

When the Central government returned the file relating to the collegium’s decision to elevate Justice Akil Kureshi as Chief Justice of the Madhya Pradesh High Court, Nariman argued the case before the Bench headed by CJI Ranjan Gogoi.

What Next

At 90, Nariman is representing the debt-laden real-estate group Jaypee, which has moved the SC challenging amendments to the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code.

By the way

He browses issues of The New York Review of Books to keep up with the best in literature.

65. Azim Premji , 74
Founder chairman, Wipro (2018 Rank: 75)

Why

Known informally as the Czar of the Indian IT industry, Premji is renowned for his philanthropic activities, at a time when big-ticket donations by India Inc have declined.

Power Punch

Wipro won a landmark 10-year contract from Alight Solutions in the US for $1.6 billion last year. Earlier this year, Premji donated $21 billion to the Azim Premji Foundation, which works in rural regions, one of the world’s largest private endowments.

What Next

After handing over the reins of Wipro to his son Rishad earlier this year, Premji has decided to devote more time to his philanthropic activities.

By the way

His philanthropy is guided by Mahatma Gandhi’s dictum that we must remain ‘trustees’ of our wealth for society, not its owners.

66. Sunil Mittal, 61
Founder & Chairman, Bharti Enterprises (2018 Rank: 96)

Why

Mittal continues to be at the helm of the third-largest telecom company in India — Bharti Airtel. His bet on the African telecom market has paid off at a time when Airtel’s India operations have suffered an onslaught of low tariffs from rival Reliance Jio.

Power Punch

Earlier this year, Mittal was felicitated by the GSM Association, a trade body representing 750 mobile operators, for his contributions to the global mobile industry.

What Next

Even as his firm focuses on raising funds that are key to Airtel’s next phase of growth, the parent entity, Bharti Enterprises, is aiming for growth in other verticals including real estate, financial services etc.

By the way

Avoids non-vegetarian food on days he is set to sign deals.

67. Baba Ramdev, 53
Co-Founder, Patanjali Ayurved (2018 Rank: 28)

Why

While the once prominent BJP supporter has withdrawn himself from political limelight, his importance as a spiritual leader and businessman continues. Patanjali remains one of the biggest homegrown FMCG brands with a turnover of $1 billion.

Power Punch

This year, Patanjali got ownership of edible oil firm Ruchi Soya for over $600 million— a move expected to help improve its sales and profit.

What Next

To make Patanjali the “biggest” FMCG brand by 2025. The firm has diversified into businesses such as denim and plans to expand into food chains and solar power.

By the way

Believes unmarried citizens should be honoured, and those with more than two children should not have voting rights.

68. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, 62
Founder, Art of Living Foundation (2018 Rank: New)

Why

Because, apart from India, he is involved in conflict resolution efforts in various countries, including Venezuala, Iraq and Syria.

Power Punch

He was chosen by the Supreme Court to be part of a three-member mediation panel to resolve the Ayodhya dispute.

What Next

With the Supreme Court allowing the Ayodhya mediation committee to continue talks, Sri Sri is expected to remain a central figure in the resolution of the Ayodhya dispute even as the Supreme Court attempts to settle the matter in the coming months.

By the way

Organised ‘America Meditates’ across 120 cities in the US in July 2019. People from 106 countries watched the event’s web cast.

69. P C Mody, 60
Chairman, Central Board of Direct Taxes (2018 Rank: New)

Why

He heads CBDT, which has emerged as one of the most powerful government agencies in recent times, proactively going after cases of alleged tax evasion.

Power Punch

Days before his superannuation on August 31, his term was extended by a year. Consequently, Akhilesh Ranjan, who was overlooked for the post, wrote to the government seeking voluntary retirement.

What Next

He will spearhead the government’s taxpayer-friendly measures such as e-assessment, for faceless and electronic assessment of income tax.

By the way

As Mumbai’s principal chief commissioner, income tax, he played a key role in record revenue collections in his zone after demonetisation.

70. Vijay Rupani, 63
Gujarat Chief Minister (2018 Rank: 76)

Why 

Since assuming office in 2016, he has consolidated his position in Gujarat. The BJP’s performance of 26 on 26 seats in the Lok Sabha polls in the state closest to the top leadership’s heart should hold him in good stead.

Power Punch

Has whittled away at the Congress ranks since the 2017 Assembly polls, taking away eight MLAs, including big OBC leaders.

What Next

Rupani’s leadership will be put to test in the municipal corporation elections due in Ahmedabad, Bhavnagar, Jamnagar, Rajkot, Surat and Vadodara in December 2020.

By the way

Even after becoming Chief Minister, makes it a point to spend Uttarayan with family and friends on the terrace of his
home in Rajkot.

71. Uday Shankar, 57
Chairman, Star and Disney India (2018 Rank: 69)

Why

As head of Star India, one of the largest television network companies in the country, Shankar’s is the most powerful voice in the broadcast industry. Has left rivals far behind in the viewership race, especially with addition of numbers from Star’s OTT platform Hotstar.

Power Punch

Last year, Star won the rights for all BCCI games in India and abroad for Rs 6,138 crore, which included TV and digital rights for the World Cup held earlier this year.

What Next

He has taken a step back from the daily operations of Star India and is now focusing more on the international market as the Asia Pacific chief of Walt Disney.

By the way

Credits his experience as a reporter earlier for his ‘risk-taking’ abilities.

72. Sanjay Mishra, 59
Director, Enforcement Directorate (2018 Rank: New)

Why

An IRS officer with a long career in the Income Tax Department, Mishra is heading the ED at a time when it has earned itself the moniker of “the new CBI” with its aggressive and belligerent perusal of high-profile cases. He is currently probing top politicians such as P Chidambaram, D K Shivakumar, Ahmed Patel, Kamal Nath’s nephew Ratul Puri and cases of Uttar Pradesh leaders Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati.

Power Punch

The Centre recently amended the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, giving more powers to the ED.

What Next

Has the arduous task of quickening the pace of ED investigations and improving the agency’s conviction rates.

By the way

Hates attention, avoids social media and dislikes those using it.

73. Mayawati, 63
BSP chief (2018 Rank: 14)

Why

Even though the performance of the Mahagathbandhan was not as expected in UP, the BSP was the biggest gainer among the allies, with its seats jumping from 0 in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls to 10 this time, showing that Mayawati held on to a loyal vote base in the face of the Modi wave.

Power Punch

SP president Akhilesh Yadav made the first overtures towards her and, in several gestures on stage and off it, indicated that he accepted her primacy in the Mahagathbandhan.

What Next

With the Congress and SP diminishing in UP, only Mayawati can stand against the BJP in the 2022 Assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh.

By the way

Has serious dust allergy. All visitors have to remove their shoes before meeting her.

74. Akhilesh Yadav, 46
Samajwadi Party President (2018 Rank: 15)

Why

Despite the failure of the Mahagathbandhan in the Lok Sabha polls, the coming together of the SP and BSP forced the BJP to go back to the drawing board. Akhilesh is still a formidable Opposition leader in what’s the biggest and the most crucial state electorally in the country.

Power Punch

Akhilesh has taken a different stand from BSP chief Mayawati on the triple talaq Bill and withdrawal of special status to J&K, and has been combative in his opposition to the ruling party on them, unlike her.

What Next

The 2022 Assembly polls. With the alliance with the BSP off, all eyes will be on how he rejuvenates his cadre.

By the way

He has watched Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity several times.

75. Pinarayi Vijayan, 75
Kerala Chief Minister (2018 Rank: 42)

Why

He is the only CPM Chief Minister in the country, and one of the most vocal critics of the Sangh Parivar. Vijayan exerts complete control over his government as well as the state unit of the CPM. Despite the LDF’s rout in the recent Lok Sabha elections, Vijayan’s authority remains virtually unchallenged.

Power Punch

Late last year, he stuck to his guns on the Sabarimala issue in the face of vehement protests across the state.

What Next

Rebuilding Kerala after floods in the state for two consecutive years, and winning back voters who had drifted away from the Left after the Sabarimala row.

By the way

He loves action films.

76. Asaduddin Owaisi, 50
AIMIM president (2018 Rank: 70)

Why

He has single-handedly expanded the AIMIM to Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and remains invincible in Hyderabad, the Lok Sabha seat he won for the fourth time this year.

Power Punch

In the face of competition from the BJP and Congress-TDP alliance, Owaisi threw his might behind the TRS’s K Chandrashekar Rao, helping the party win a major chunk of the Muslim vote across Telangana, and a landslide win.

What Next

To expand his party’s base in Maharashtra and contest more seats in the coming state elections.

By the way

A motorcycle enthusiast, he sometimes rides it to the Chief Minister’s office too.

77. Sharad Pawar, 79
Nationalist Congress Party president (2018 Rank: 25)

Why

Despite the NCP’s dwindling fortunes, Pawar is the tallest man standing against the BJP-Shiv Sena in Maharashtra. He is also among the few leaders who can act as a bridge between anti-BJP parties.

Power Punch

Ahead of the Lok Sabha polls, the BJP chose to focus on Pawar’s home turf of Baramati. His daughter Supriya Sule, however, retained the seat.

What Next

His party has seen defections by senior leaders. Pawar also goes into the polls now under the shadow of the Enforcement Directorate money-laundering case against him and his nephew Ajit Pawar.

By the way

Worked as a cub reporter with Sakal, a publication that was later bought by his family.

78. Vijay Shekhar Sharma, 40
Founder and CEO, Paytm (2018 Rank: 88)

Why

India’s largest online payments company, Paytm sees 400 million transactions every month — nearly five times higher than the next biggest player. Sharma’s company, which has now gone global, saw its valuation jump to $15 billion in the latest round of funding.

Power Punch

In 2018, Sharma’s net worth grew to $2.6 billion, placing him on Number 877 on Forbes’s global list of 2,153 billionaires.

What Next

While Paytm continues to expand, the road to profitability under Sharma’s leadership will be key to the company’s next stage of growth.

By the way

In 2016, he pledged $10 million for startups working to tackle air pollution.

79. Yogesh Chander Modi, 58
Director General, NIA (2018 Rank: New)

Why

The NIA is among the key agencies implementing the government’s security agenda in Kashmir. Before the government announced abrogation of Article 370 and incarcerated key political leaders and separatists, the NIA had been investigating them on terror funding cases. Under Y C Modi, the NIA has also generated valuable intelligence on the recent Sri Lanka bombings.

Power Punch

With amendments to the NIA Act, UAPA, the NIA can now probe attacks abroad and recommend designation of individuals as terrorists.

What Next

The government’s hopes are pinned on the NIA cases against Kashmiri separatists. Y C Modi’s chargesheets will have to stand scrutiny of courts.

By the way

Very religious, fasts on key days.

80. Mehbooba Mufti, 60
PDP president (2018 Rank: 26)

Why

Filling the large shoes of her late father Mufti Mohd Sayeed, she held out for a long time before endorsing his decision to ally with the BJP. While she is paying a heavy price for that, her unpredictability and gumption in taking risks are seen as her biggest political strengths.

Power Punch

In one of her last tweets before the clampdown in Kashmir ahead of Article 370 decision, she criticised the government action. Earlier, despite the public anger against her, she visited militant families after her government with the BJP collapsed.

What Next

As she fights her detention, the path her party takes going ahead will have to be her call.

By the way

While she wears green in public, blue is her favourite colour.

81. Ram Madhav, 55
BJP general secretary (2018 Rank: 47)

Why

One of the most vocal BJP faces, Madhav continues to be in charge of two of the most sensitive and politically significant regions for the party — Jammu & Kashmir and the Northeast. After the demise of Arun Jaitley, Madhav’s is the voice everyone looks up to sense the BJP’s political stand on various issues.

Power Punch

At the national conclave of the RSS in Pushkar, he addressed the concerns of Sangh leaders over the exclusion of a large number of Hindus from the NRC list in Assam.

What Next

Madhav has to now ensure that the BJP gets the benefit of its move on revoking Article 370, and on the NRC in Assam.

By the way

He has been on a millet diet for the past 18 months.

82. Sachin Pilot, 42
Rajasthan Deputy Chief Minister (2018 Rank: 71)

Why

Following the Congress’s defeat in the 2013 Assembly elections, Pilot built up the party for the next five years, and is seen to have played a big role in the party winning bypolls and the Assembly polls last year.

Power Punch

Having lost out in the CM race, Pilot is believed to have been behind the high command’s rap to Ashok Gehlot for focusing on son Vaibhav’s constituency, at the cost of others. Recently, Pilot agreed with the Opposition over the “deteriorating” law and order in the state.

What Next

As he doesn’t let any chance to take a swipe at Gehlot pass, Pilot has to ensure that the ties are not strained so much that the party snaps.

By the way

After graduation, Pilot worked with the Delhi bureau of the BBC.

83. Lalu Prasad , 71
RJD chief (2018 Rank: 17)

Tejashwi Prasad Yadav , 29
Leader of Opposition, Bihar Assembly (2018 Rank: 18)

Why

Despite a poor show in the Lok Sabha polls, Lalu and his son Tejashwi are at the centre of Opposition politics in Bihar, with the RJD retaining Muslim support. As a jailed Lalu continues to have a say in all party matters, Tejashwi is now his unquestioned political heir.

Power Punch

Despite disgruntled voices from within, Tejashwi is adamant on no alliance with Nitish Kumar-led JD(U).

What Next

To stop Nitish Kumar in the 2020 polls. Tejashwi has hinted at roping in Left parties to challenge the NDA.

By the way

Lalu gets his staff to read out from his autobiography, Gopalganj to Raisina; Tejashwi often ditches security and catches film shows.

84. Siddaramaiah , 70
Former Karnataka chief minister (2018 Rank: 19)

Why

Despite the Congress letting ally JD(S) take the CM’s post last year, ignoring his protests, Siddaramiah remains the party’s tallest leader in Karnataka. Among the MLAs who rebelled causing the fall of the Congress-JD(S) government in Karnataka were several of Siddaramaiah’s supporters.

Power Punch

Policies framed during his tenure as CM were continued by both H D Kumaraswamy of the JD(S) and now B S Yediyurappa of the BJP.

What Next

With the BJP government in Karnataka delicately poised, Siddaramaiah surely hopes for another shot at power banking on his good record as CM last time.

By the way

Has presented 13 state budgets as finance minister, the most for a politician in Karnataka.

85. Kumar Mangalam Birla, 52
Chairman, Aditya Birla Group (2018 Rank: 63)

Why

With interests ranging from telecom to financial services, Birla’s $48.3 billion multinational conglomerate is in the league of Fortune 500 companies.

Power Punch

He has been among the most active dealmakers in the country, completing a $23 billion merger with Vodafone India and acquiring US aluminum firm Aleris for around $2.6 billion, propelling his firm Hindalco to the position of the world’s second-largest aluminum company last year.

What Next

He is raising the Group’s stake in Vodafone, intends to complete the merger of Ultratech and Century Cement soon and plans to invest $5 billion over the next three years across his businesses in India and abroad.

By the way

Passionate about working out.

86. Prashant Bhushan, 62
Lawyer-Activist (2018 Rank: 50)

Why

India’s PIL man, Prashant Bhushan is one of the loudest voices in the country across courtrooms on cases related to human rights, environmental issues and accountability of public servants.

Power Punch

He was one of the three lawyers to have spearheaded the sexual harassment case filed by a former Supreme Court staffer against Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.

What Next

The Supreme Court has appointed Bhushan as amicus curiae in the PIL seeking release of ‘foreigners’ who have been detained indefinitely in Assam.

By the way

He is an art collector, especially realistic art. His collection includes paintings from the 18th Century.

87. Rajiv Kumar, 68
Vice Chairman, NITI Aayog (2018 Rank: 60)

Why

Kumar is second-in-command at NITI Aayog, which is chaired by PM Modi. The powerful think-tank is the government’s starting point for generation and execution of new ideas that shape the economy.

Power Punch

His recent comments calling the economic slowdown “unprecedented” pushed the government to announce a series of growth-promoting measures, including large-scale tax cuts for corporate India .

What Next

As Vice Chairman, Kumar is driving many new proposals, including the electric mobility push, implementation of the national health insurance scheme, and increasing farmers’ incomes.

By the way

Kumar likes listening to old Hindi songs.

88. Naushad Forbes , 69
Co-chairman, Forbes Marshall (2018 Rank: New)

Why

From terming the government’s decision on jail term for non-compliance on CSR as “retrograde” to voicing concerns over job creation, he has been among the few corporate voices to have openly spoken out on government policies.

Power Punch

As CII president in 2016-17, Forbes worked closely with the government to put in place the GST and Bankruptcy Code.

What Next

While flat industrial investment over the last 5-7 years has hurt his company and others in the engineering space, the government’s latest decision to cut corporate tax may see the cycle turn soon for his business.

By the way

He was a professor at Stanford University and is a voracious reader.

89. P Gopichand , 46
National Badminton Coach (2018 Rank: 91)

Why

He has got India medals for a decade now. These include two Olympic medals, five of P V Sindhu’s World Championship medals, as well as the first Indian medal in men’s World Championship since 1983, in the form of Sai Praneeth.

Power Punch

Almost all top singles shuttlers at the senior level hail from his academy.

What Next

Bringing Kidambi Srikanth’s career back on track for the 2020 Olympics. Sindhu’s quest for gold at the Games and maxing out the final phase of Saina Nehwal’s career will also be on his checklist.

By the way

Gopichand once gave a journalist a phone interview slot for 6 am, since that was the only window available to him in a busy day that usually starts at 4 am.

90. P V Sindhu, 24
Badminton World Champion (2018 Rank: New)

Why

Since her 2016 Rio Olympics silver medal, Sindhu has appeared in all notable badminton finals. Becoming a world champion at Basel this year was the culmination of this breathtakingly consistent period.

Power Punch

Sindhu’s World Championship title and joint ownership of a record 5 Worlds medals — 1 gold, 2 silver, 2 bronze — with China’s Zhang Ning put her in a league different from her contemporary shuttlers.

What Next

2020 Tokyo Olympics. And the gold medal is her target.

By the way

Sindhu’s sister Divya remembers growing up without watching much television in her teenage years as the family didn’t want the shuttler to feel deprived owing to badminton practice.

91. Karan Johar , 47
Filmmaker, producer, talk show host (2018 Rank: 98)
Why

He is one of the most business-savvy producers in the industry. In 2018-19, his brand and money were associated with 10 films, out of which five were commercial hits.

Power Punch

His super-hero trilogy, Brahmastra, which was scheduled to be released in December this year, might be delayed by a few months, but Johar released the logo of the film on Maha Shivaratri at the Kumbh Mela in March. 150 drones were used to light up the sky to form the logo.

What Next

His highly anticipated Mughal-era period drama Takht goes on the floor soon.

By the way

He dislikes replying to emails and gets his secretary to respond. If he receives a personal email, he prefers to pick up the phone and call.

92. Mahendra Mohan Gupta, 77
CMD, Jagran Prakashan Limited (2018 Rank: New)

Sanjay gupta, 55
CEO, Jagran Prakashan Limited (2018 Rank: New)

Why

Dainik Jagran has been at the top of readership surveys for close to a decade. The total readership of the group’s 10 titles across 13 states is close to 70 million. Members of the Gupta family have been Rajya Sabha members representing different political parties in the past, but the group has been considered close to the BJP.

Power Punch

Dainik Jagran holds considerable influence in the Hindi hinterland.

What Next

The company has been quick to catch up on the digital trend and has over 85 million viewers — with 35 million users for the Jagran website alone.

By the way

M M Gupta plays cards with his friends to unwind after a long day.

93. Akshay Kumar, 51
Actor, Producer at Hari Om Entertainment (2018 Rank: New)

Why

Having had a successful Bollywood career for nearly three decades despite being an outsider, Kumar is now the go-to A-list actor for films exploring the theme of patriotism. After Airlift and Rustom (which won him the National Award) in 2016, he delivered hits with Toilet: Ek Prem Katha and Mission Mangal.

Power Punch

In the midst of the general elections earlier this year, PM Modi gave him a ‘non-political’ interview.

What Next

The fourth instalment of the superhit comedy caper Housefull is in its final stages of production. Kumar is also shooting for Sooryavanshi, a part of the successful Singham franchise.

By the way

Kumar has one of the finest collections of cars in Bollywood.

94. Samir Jain, 65
Vice Chairman, Bennett Coleman Group (2018 Rank: 94)

Vineet Jain, 52
Managing Director, Bennett Coleman Group (2018 Rank: 94)

Why

The brothers run the largest media conglomerate in the country. Their English, Hindi and tabloid newspapers continue to remain undisputed market leaders, and their English news channel also remains close to the top.

Power Punch

Times Group has built a formidable presence online under the Times Internet banner.

What Next

With the decision of the Union Cabinet to allow FDI in digital news media, the company may look to raise money internationally.

By the way

Samir Jain is extremely media shy and is rarely spotted at events hosted by the group.

95. T M Krishna , 43
Carnatic musician (2018 Rank: 100)

Why

Krishna not just pushes boundaries in music but also uses his voice to express dissent. Apart from speaking about concepts of democratic art, he has emerged as a significant voice commenting extensively on identities, beliefs and the political climate.

Power Punch

He called the abrogation of Article 370 a “democratic emergency” and released a Twitter video reading out Kashmiri author Agha Shahid Ali’s poem Postcard from Kashmir.

What Next

In his search for “democratic spaces for art”, Krishna will continue to perform at venues not meant for concerts and rope in artistes of every caste, creed and gender outside the traditional, conservative “classical” system.

By the way

Apart from music, he has a passion for mountaineering.

96. Salman Khan, 53
Actor, producer (2018 Rank: 81)

Why

He continues to be one of Bollywood’s most bankable stars with his last release Bharat earning over Rs 300 crore. He is one of the richest actors-producers with several movies in the Rs 100-crore club.

Power Punch

According to reports, Khan has hiked his fees for hosting 26 episodes of the 10th season of reality show Bigg Boss. He would be taking home Rs 10-15 crore per episode.

What Next

Dabangg 3. Khan will be returning as Chulbul Pandey, one of his most hit screen avatars, on December 20. Also lined up are sequels of Salman’s movies Kick and No Entry and another in the Tiger series.

By the way

He never reads movie reviews and painted the poster of his film Jai Ho himself.

97. Aamir khan , 54
Actor, filmmaker (2018 Rank: 80)

Why

His dedication to his craft is well known. Given that he releases only one film a year, Khan undergoes intense training for any role he takes on, garnering a lot of respect from his co-workers and the industry at large.

Power Punch

His last release, Thugs of Hindostan (2018), might have been panned by all and sundry, but that doesn’t change the fact that it had the highest first-day collection for any Hindi film — Rs 52.25 crore. In China, where he is very popular and where a special edition of the film was released, it netted Rs 12 crore within the first five hours on opening day.

What Next

He will be seen in Lal Singh Chadda, an adaptation of Forrest Gump.

By the way

Enjoys playing chess on film sets.

98. Shah Rukh Khan, 53
Actor, producer; IPL team owner (2018 Rank: 82)

Why

Although his last few films have underperformed at the box office, he continues to be a darling of the masses. His last film, Zero, when released on home video, became the top-selling film on Google, beating Bohemian Rhapsody and A Star is Born.

Power Punch

Although his IPL team Kolkata Knight Riders finished poorly this year, the brand value of the team is estimated at Rs 630 crore, the second-highest among the franchises, after Mumbai Indians (Rs 809 crore).

What Next

His production firm, Red Chillies Entertainment, along with Netflix, recently produced Bard of Blood, an original spy-thriller series.

By the way

He likes to read scripts in his bathroom.

99. Kangana Ranaut, 32
Actor, director (2018 Rank: 97)

Why

She continues to make news and to speak her mind. She is also known to get into the skin of her characters — whether playing a warrior queen in Manikarnika or a dubbing artiste with mental illness in Judgementall Hai Kya. One of the few actors in the Hindi film industry to headline female-centric projects, she is also known for her cool fashion sense.

Power Punch

She was among the guests invited for PM Modi’s oath-taking ceremony in May this year.

What Next

She will be seen as a kabaddi player in Panga next year. She is also preparing for Thailavi, the biopic on former Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa.

By the way

Her family and close friends call her ‘Arshad’.

100. Deepika Padukone, 33
Actor, producer (2018 Rank: 79)

Why

The highest-paid female actor in Bollywood, Padukone is loved by the critics and masses in equal measure. Advertisers love her as well — her brand value stands at $86 million, coming in third after Shah Rukh Khan and Virat Kohli.

Power Punch

Padukone formed her own production company, KA Entertainment, this year. She is producing and starring in Chhapaak, a drama by Meghna Gulzar, based on the life of acid-attack survivor Laxmi Aggarwal. She is also producing and starring in 83, a film about India’s first cricket World Cup win.

What Next

Padukone will reprise the role of Serena Unger in the fourth instalment of the XXX film series with Vin Diesel.

By the way

For her role in Chandni Chowk to China (2009), Padukone learned Jujutsu and performed most of the stunts herself.