32. Lalu Prasad, 60
Lalu Prasads RJD not just has the most number of MPs (25) among the UPAs allies,he is also one of the most reliable. He often acts as an intermediary for the Congress with its partners.
He played a crucial role in securing the support of Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav,which enabled the UPA Government to sail through the trust vote. And for someone who has a controversial record as chief minister,he has effected a turnaround of the Railways,generating Rs 90,000 crore cash surplus during the five years of his tenure.
In a poll year,he is expected to play power politics in Delhi in a bid to regain his position of powerthe railways portfolio,if not the Home Ministry.
33. A.K. Antony, 68
At a time when the Congress was hounded by corruption scandals,this three-time Kerala CM was,and still is,known as a symbol of incorruptibility. Not known for oratory skills,Antonys squeaky clean image endeared him to Indira Gandhi,and he is now said to have Sonias ear and more importantly,her trust.
He opted out of the states factional politics and came to the Centre,leaving Oommen Chandy to be the face of the state Congress. When Manmohan Singh was hospitalised,he was told to stand in on January 26at the Amar Jawan Jyoti function at India Gate and for receiving the chief guest at the Republic Day parade.
Antony needs to ensure that the partyon a good wicket this timewins the maximum possible seats.
34. T.K.A.Nair, 70
Principal Secretary to PM
He is the second-most important man in the government. T.K.A. Nair is the man in charge of the PMO when Manmohan Singh travels abroad. The IAS officer isnt too different from his boss: low-profile,mild-mannered and rarely assertive in public.
When Manmohan Singh recovered from his bypass surgery,the principal secretary was the first official he called for. Nair has also been by the PMs side during key foreign visits,like the 2005 Washington summit with former US President George Bush,and has done his share of behind-the-scenes diplomacy on behalf of the Prime Minister.
Nair will again head the PMO if Manmohan Singh gets a second term. Would he settle down to write his memoirs? Hes not telling,yet.
35. K.G. Balakrishnan,63
Chief Justice,Supreme Court
His journey from the family of a landless Dalit to the highest post in the highest court in the country has become a powerful metaphor for the place law and the Constitution have in a changing India.
In 2007,he took over as Chief Justice when the Supreme Court was at the centre of a potentially bruising battle with the Government over jurisdiction of powers. His quiet assertiveness has set about restoring the balance. His decision to let the CBI question sitting judges in the Ghaziabad PF scam has again focused on judicial accountability.
He will be watched for how he and his institutionwhich enjoys unprecedented public respectgo about ensuring judicial accountability without compromising on independence.