ie100: From PM Narendra Modi to Virat Kohli — the list of most powerful Indians

New Delhi: In the year leading up to 2019, the Modi-Shah combine hasn’t seemed like the election behemoth it once was. If there were the Northeast wins, there were also the bypoll losses. If the BJP’s expanse now seems total, its bastions, from Uttar Pradesh to Gujarat, showed cracks. If new alliances were forged, old partners pulled away. It was nowhere enough though to threaten Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his BJP president Amit Shah’s prime positions in the power list of 2017-2018 — now No. 1 and No. 2 for two years running.
What the election shake-ups have done though is give a new lease of life to the Opposition, leaving it looking for a new anchor to rally around. Consequently, three such faces, Sonia Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee and Mayawati, find themselves in the top 10 — the BSP chief zooming all the way up to No. 9 from No. 50 on the strength of the surprise she pulled off in the Uttar Pradesh bypolls. The way Mayawati goes could decide the fate of the 2019 results, as the Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav (No. 14 from No. 64) would happily vouch.
The weight of the coming general election, in fact, hangs heavy over this list, with YSR Congress Party leader Jagan Mohan Reddy sneaking in at the last minute on the strength of his demand shaking up Andhra Pradesh politics, and upsetting the BJP plans. Tejashwi Yadav is that other new face, having shown the will to fight as father Lalu Prasad gets caught up in court cases, while Jignesh Mevani joins Hardik Patel in the list for exposing the BJP’s weak links in Gujarat.
As the Dalit vote becomes crucial in the run-up to the coming elections and the farmers’ long march in Maharashtra reflects a brewing anger, expect voices like Mevani’s to get a more national profile.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley maintains his position in a year that saw the rolling out of the Goods & Services Tax, the No. 6 to No.7 change telling as much a story about the “revolutionary tax” that wasn’t much of a “revolution”.
External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has had a busy year, with the Doklam standoff and the rollercoaster ties with Pakistan. However, not much of the blame was seen as resting on her shoulders, as reflected in her steadfast, if lower, position on the list. The Chief Minister who faced the most heat, Mehbooba Mufti, however, climbs up on account of it.
On the other end though, Assam CM Sarbananda Sonowal drops out, as the BJP’s Northeast campaign is seen to bear one increasingly dominant face: Himanta Biswa Sarma, who climbs up 10 places. Nirmala Sitharaman enters on the strength of her surprise selection as Defence Minister, but Ram Nath Kovind finds no place in his first year as President, in a reflection of the diminishing role of his post in the face of the BJP’s brute majority.
Arvind Kejriwal has a great fall, from No. 33 to No. 73, buffeted by successive setbacks and his abject apologies. But as his victory in the Delhi High Court over the disqualification of 20 MLAs showed, the Delhi Chief Minister is not ready to be written off yet. However, the marginalization of the Aam Aadmi Party means there is space for only one in this list, and Manish Sisodia has been edged out.
Almost as great a fall has been that of Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who drops from No. 13 to No. 49. The capitulation of the JD(U) to the BJP is near total and the ‘P’ on the mind of the man once seen as possible PM now is ‘Prohibition’.
There are only two non-political faces in the top 10. And Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra comes in at No. 3, pushing past RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, who has ceded space to the Modi-Shah might. The CJI has weathered many storms and an unprecedented dissent from within the ranks this year to hold on, and is headed for some more upheavals as the government and judiciary lock horns over appointments.
The other non-political name is Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani, whose rise and rise is as noticeable as the eclipse of brother Anil Ambani, who drops out of top 100. The other Ambani on the list now, in fact, is Nita Ambani, who with a say in cricket, football, basketball and the International Olympic Committee, is now one of the most influential people in Indian sport.
Courtesy the soft power it wields, the film industry brings in the bottom of the list, though Rajinikanth stepped out of the shadows to claim his position by entering politics. As the #MeToo movement swept the world, one of its largest entertainment industries kept its secrets locked up tight — a sign that the toothless tiger, seen but not heard, won’t break away from that slot, somewhere between No. 75 and No.100, anytime soon.

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