The most powerful Indians in 2012: No. 1-10https://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others-do-not-use/the-most-powerful-indians-in-2012-no-110/

The most powerful Indians in 2012: No. 1-10

He has emerged as the Congress party's most important leader.

1. Rahul Gandhi,41

Congress General Secretary

Rank ’11: 12

WHY

He has emerged as the Congress party’s most important leader,the one they are counting on for a healthy showing in the Assembly elections in states,including Uttar Pradesh. His rise has been propelled by mother Sonia Gandhi’s illness which forced her to scale down political activities.

POWER PUNCH

He set the tone for the bitter run-up to polls in Uttar Pradesh when he angered the Mayawati government by taking up the cause of farmers seeking a bigger compensation for land acquired in the villages of Bhatta and Parsaul. He led a delegation to the PM and complained about alleged police atrocities in the villages.

WHAT NEXT

With the government weak and his mother unable to give the party the time she would want to,the Congress will look to Rahul to lead from the front,all the way to 2014. Any gains in Uttar Pradesh could be his coming-out party,restore some stability at the Centre,and magnify his leverage when both the government and the party are on the defensive.

BY THE WAY

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When he went to JNU to address students,a girl in one of the hostels asked him to pick up his dishes and put them in the mess sink. He willingly obliged.


2. Sonia Gandhi,65

Congress President

Rank ’11: 2

WHY

With problems mounting for the Congress-led government at the Centre and the Prime Minister under constant attack,she has been countering the offensive. She took a five-week break from work to undergo surgery for an undisclosed ailment. She pushed the National Food Security Bill which,after being cleared by the Cabinet,was tabled in the Lok Sabha in December 2011.

POWER PUNCH

She took on Team Anna on the issue of corruption when most partymen were wondering what to say in public. Declaring she would fight for a Lokpal,she dismissed what she called the “deliberate and malicious misinformation” that her party was not serious about tackling corruption.

WHAT NEXT

Her party’s immediate future remains a big concern. She will look to Rahul for a greater role and say in party matters. She is key to managing the transition. Before going abroad for surgery,she asked him and three senior leaders to run “day-to-day party affairs”.

BY THE WAY

She communicates with senior party leaders through SMSes.


3. Manmohan Singh,79

Prime Minister

Rank ’11: 4

WHY

The Prime Minister has looked weak and tired but he successfully steered his government through the innumerable crises that it faced. At a time when economies globally are struggling to stay afloat,Singh has ensured that India continues to grow at a fast rate,though not as fast as he would have liked.

POWER PUNCH

In a lacklustre year,the Prime Minister sent a strong signal through his Cabinet reshuffle. He shifted the constant rebel,Jairam Ramesh,to Rural Development. Singh resisted all attempts,even from strong quarters such as the NAC,to derail economic reforms in the name of increased social spending.

WHAT NEXT

Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections could be the key to the rest of his tenure. A good showing by the Congress will strengthen Rahul Gandhi and can erode his authority. It could also bring stability to the Centre and provide Singh with the political space he so badly needs to push the next wave of reforms in economy and governance. And,in the process,finally assert himself.

BY THE WAY

He relishes prawns.


4. Mohan Bhagwat,61

Head of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh

Rank ’11: 42

WHY

The RSS sarsanghchalak maintains a low profile but given the personality clashes in the BJP,he is very busy,very influential. He has lessened the disquiet in the party over a succession debate and restored the special bond the party has with the Parivar fountainhead. He wants the BJP to put its house in order. L K Advani,Sushma Swaraj,Arun Jaitley,Nitin Gadkari met Bhagwat and the Sangh brass in Ujjain in August 2011.

POWER PUNCH

When Advani met him in Nagpur to seek support for his anti-corruption yatra,Bhagwat was said to have extracted an assurance that Advani would no longer position himself as a prime ministerial candidate. Advani said he had got more from his party and the nation than being prime minister could possibly bring.

WHAT NEXT

Will have greater say in BJP matters,especially if the party doesn’t do too well in the Assembly elections in states. Gadkari is very close to him,so RSS-BJP synergy levels could rise.

BY THE WAY

Loves to hum old Bollywood songs and watch movies.

5. Sushma Swaraj,60

Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha

Rank ’11: 3

WHY

As Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha,she has put the government on the mat,especially on the 2G spectrum scandal,Lokpal Bill and price rise. Her party’s most prominent face,she is the government’s most vocal critic. She was on the defensive when Gali Janardhana Reddy,one of the Bellary brothers considered close to her,was arrested for his alleged involvement in a mining scandal.

POWER PUNCH

In the times of televised debates,she has emerged as a powerful leader due to her impressive speeches in the House. In a clear indication of who her party considers its main opponent in the future,she targeted Rahul Gandhi for his views on the Lokpal. Later,when the Lokpal Bill failed to get constitutional status and the Congress blamed the BJP,she said if this was Rahul’s dream,it was not the BJP’s job to fulfill it.

WHAT NEXT

With the government’s problems multiplying and the Prime Minister appearing ineffective,she will continue playing an important role in the House by taking on the government and boosting her image in the process.

BY THE WAY

She has a large collection of artefacts/paintings of Lord Krishna.


6. Arun Jaitley, 59

Leader of Oppn. in Rajya Sabha

Rank ’11: 13

WHY

As leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha,he plays a crucial role in crafting the party’s strategy in Parliament and on keeping pressure on the UPA government on a number of issues. He has also been crucial in convincing Left parties to join hands with the BJP for a coordinated floor strategy against the government in Parliament. His status as a prominent lawyer—with his counsel being sought on virtually all legal matters—makes him indispensable for the party.

POWER PUNCH

He has gained stature as a national leader through his oratorical skills in the House. He dealt a body blow to the UPA when he strategised the offensive against it on the FDI and Lokpal Bills. He tied up with the Trinamool Congress,especially on the Lokpal Bill,and even drafted some of their amendments,which ultimately forced the government to concede defeat and defer voting on the Bill in the upper House.

WHAT NEXT

Considered one of the prime-ministerial candidates

from the BJP,he is also expected to contest the next Lok Sabha elections.

BY THE WAY

He loves dining out. His favourite dish is Amritsari kulche and chhole.


7. Mamata Banerjee,52

CM of West Bengal

Rank ’11: 7

WHY

She has used her decisive 19-MP strength in the Lok Sabha to dictate what the Central government can or cannot do. Even the Prime Minister could do nothing when she chose to block an important diplomatic initiative with Bangladesh or opposed the Centre to stall key economic reform initiatives. Her clout has grown and currently all policy decisions have to await approval from Writers’ Buildings in Kolkata.

POWER PUNCH

She refused to go with the Prime Minister to Bangladesh and blocked the Teesta water agreement. A Cabinet-cleared move to allow multi-brand retail FDI had to be put off because she did not approve of it. And towards the end of the year,her angry opposition to the manner in which the Lokpal Bill had been drafted ensured that its fate was doomed.

WHAT NEXT

She has fielded candidates for the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections and is in talks with Janata Dal (United),underlining her growing political confidence and ambition.

BY THE WAY

She refuses gifts of all kinds,but not

chocolates. She often carries them with her during long travel.


8. Pranab Mukherjee,76

Finance Minister

Rank ’11: 14

WHY

One of the most experienced politicians,he is the UPA’s troubleshooter-in-chief. Be it tackling the Ramdev crisis or putting his foot down on Team Anna or taking charge of a fractious Parliamentary debate,Mukherjee is an indispensable member of the party and government.

POWER PUNCH

He is respected by most of his colleagues across party lines. This has served him well in drumming up support for key legislation such as PFRDA Bill or bringing states on board for introduction of the Goods and Services Tax. He also managed to pacify UPA’s key ally Mamata Banerjee by providing a special economic package for West Bengal.

WHAT NEXT

With growth slowing down,all eyes are now on his Budget 2012-13. The schemes and policies,along with targets that Mukherjee and his men serve,would be crucial for growth. He is also considered one of the key candidates for the post of the President of India.

BY THE WAY

He is working out on a treadmill at his Delhi home these days. He also takes out some time in the morning every day to listen to Rabindra Sangeet.

9. AK Antony, 71

Defence Minister

Rank ’11: 10

WHY

Apart from the row over the Army chief’s birth date,Antony has managed to keep the Defence Ministry clear of controversies. He also enjoys the complete trust of 10 Janpath,and found a place,ahead of Pranab Mukherjee,in the four-member Core Committee tasked with looking after party affairs in the absence of Sonia Gandhi when she was undergoing medical treatment. He is still a key figure in the Congress hierarchy,mainly because of his clean image.

POWER PUNCH

His ministry’s decision to reject US warplanes for India’s $11 billion fighter aircraft deal,and instead go with the French Rafale,came despite strong pressure from Washington.

WHAT NEXT

He has to do a tricky balancing act between the bureaucracy and the armed forces over a range of issues,including procuring key weapons systems facing political hurdles.

BY THE WAY

He never misses the memorial mass and

prayer service for his mother,Aleykutty Kurian,on November


10. P Chidambaram,66

Home Minister

Rank ’11: 15

WHY

Despite being under considerable political pressure,he is in total control of one of the most crucial ministries and calls the shots on all matters related to internal security. He plays an important role in the Cabinet Committee on Security and the Congress party core group. He has thwarted attempts to challenge his authority. Finally,he has managed,by and large,to keep a lid on Naxal violence and terrorism as well as militancy in J&K.

POWER PUNCH

He ensured that Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee issued a public ‘clarification’ on a note issued by the Finance Ministry on the 2G spectrum allocation which suggested that the ministry didn’t do enough to ensure an auction.

WHAT NEXT

Activating the NCTC and ensuring procurement of weapons and equipment for security forces.

BY THE WAY

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He follows cricket and tennis very keenly. Wimbledon is his favourite. Visitors often find the television in his office tuned in to a cricket or a tennis match.

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