12. Mukesh Ambani, 52
He is the richest man in India. As promoter,chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries,Indias largest private sector company in terms of revenue,net profit and market capitalisation,Mukesh Ambani holds immense influence. The groups mega-refinery complex has started operations. Its oil block in the Krishna-Godavari basin is ready to produce gas for commercial use.
He expanded the group vigorously and kept the lead after the split with his brother. He bought Mumbai Indians at the IPL last year.
Some of his new projects in the gas and refining sectors are getting commissioned in 2009. His proposed special economic zone near Mumbai is also expected to take shape in the next two years.
13. Nitish Kumar, 58
Bihar Chief Minister
He came into prominence during the JP movement in the 1970s. He put an end to Lalu Prasad Yadavs 15-year rule in Bihar,directly and by proxy,in the Assembly elections of November 2005. He also rubbished Yadavs claim that he would rule the state for at least 20 years.
In the three years of his rule,Kumar has begun to turn around a state that has long languished at the bottom of the heap in key development indicators. And despite heading a coalition government with the BJP,Kumar remains a favourite with the secular camp.
His first major challenge would be to substantially reduce the number of RJD MPs in the next Lok Sabha and to retain power when the state goes to polls in 2010. But his real challenge is to sustain the momentum of change.
14. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, 65
Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission
This economist-bureaucrat proved to be just the man the Government needed as the global recession started affecting India. Ahluwalia,who emerged as Indias chief firefighter in the financial crisis,may now be having his most significant moment. Seen as the closest confidante of the PM,he leaves his mark on almost all of the governments economic decisions.
As Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission,he designed the 11th Plan that gave the political term inclusive growth its economic due. From enhancing incomes to reducing poverty,to education,literacy,health,infant mortality and child development,the plan sets about 27 detailed national targets.
If the UPA retains power,he will get a bigger roleas economic adviser to the PM,or even finance minister.
15. Rakesh Mohan, 61
His resilience against fierce intellectual criticism of RBI’s conservatism was always noticeable but more so after his boss changed. With D Subbaro still finding his feet as RBI chief,Mohan is de facto the rock that represents RBI’s policy. And with government on pre-poll pause,any economic stimuli will be RBI’s doing now.
A key member of the RBI team that effectively intervened when,post-Lehman Brothers crash,Indian money markets froze up. And the first economist to call for rail reform,in a 2001 report,before reformed railways became the fashion.
When he leaves RBI he will carry the scars of an intellectual battle that should produce good stories. Academic positions are not unusual for policymakers with Princeton and Yale on their CV.