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IE100: The most powerful Indians in 2023

Most Powerful People in India 2023: Year 2022 was bookended by elections to two states which have defined Indian politics for 30 years: Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. The BJP retained both, comprehensively, as the juggernaut of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah showed no sign of tiring, or retiring from their top perch on the power list.

But, for once, this juggernaut contended for some space with a march. Having finally paved the way for a non-family Congress president, Rahul Gandhi hit the road from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, walking 4,000-plus km over five months, seeking “Bharat Jodo”, and fighting the image of being a “non-serious entitled politician”. The initial yatra energy evaporated by poll losses in the Northeast and a deep slide in Gujarat but his disqualification from the House and his stomach for a fight takes him from No. 51 to 15.

Along with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and her Bihar counterpart Nitish Kumar, Rahul is the only non-ruling establishment name in the top 15 (barring Mukesh Ambani, that is). The fact that both outrank Gandhi is a reflection of the flux in the shrinking and challenged Opposition space, with regional parties refusing to cede primacy to the Congress. The Punjab win means Arvind Kejriwal remains in contention, but with corruption charges clouding his moral high ground and his No. 2 in custody, he is down seven ranks.

Within the top ranks composed interchangeably of government and Sangh Parivar bosses, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has surged to No. 3, ahead of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and BJP president JP Nadda. With G20 presidency and India’s foreign ties central to the Modi government’s 2024 campaign, Jaishankar is the muscular brain that fits the BJP bill just right.

The other BJP face with a sharp rise is Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma, who zooms from No. 32 to 17, riding on both shrill Hindutva and skilled electioneering, powering the party in the Northeast. Union minister Ashwini Vaishnaw, an unknown till Modi picked him in 2021, has settled comfortably into his prominent portfolios, thus climbing 30 places to No. 19.

Festive offer

Most new entrants are either players in the coming election-packed year, or those, like Mallikarjun Kharge and Eknath Shinde to Delhi L-G Vinai Kumar Saxena, who have seen a change in fortunes. On the other side of this spectrum is Gautam Adani, left poorer by several billion dollars and 26 ranks, to No. 33, by a report from a little-known short-selling firm.

Bollywood, the much-vaunted soft power, much-maligned for being too soft, comes in only at No. 50. Not surprisingly, it is in the form of Shah Rukh Khan, the Pathaan who did not crawl. The 57-year-old superstar is right back at the top, a year after his son’s arrest on drug charges that fell in court, having given the Indian film industry one of its biggest hits. That would be Rs 1,046 crore, and climbing. Yet, politics remains the grist to the power mill — especially as the countdown begins to Elections 2024.

Here are the top 100 most powerful people in India 

10) Ajit Doval, National Security Advisor Rank last year: 8

Most Powerful Indian No. 10 Ajit Doval India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval (Photo: Reuters)

Why

On matters of security and diplomacy, Ajit Doval remains the key figure in the government whose judgement is relied upon by PM Narendra Modi. He is also consulted on all key appointments in the security establishment and is said to be the go-to person for the government on its Kashmir strategy. He continues to influence government policy on Pakistan and China and has had a key role in formulating India’s position vis-a-vis the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Power Punch

His recent visit to Russia, where he held a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, was one of the rare occasions when foreign officials were granted a meeting with the embattled President. It has been seen as Doval’s unique position as a valuable interlocutor in the Indian government and an acknowledgement of his vast experience in regional security issues, especially in matters related to Afghanistan.

What Next

With China continuing to flex its muscle on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and no progress in military-level talks on friction points at Depsang Plains and Charding Nala in eastern Ladakh, Doval’s role in defusing the situation and ensuring an eventual de-escalation at the border will remain crucial.

By the way

He enjoys cooking a good meal for friends.

9) Mukesh Ambani, Chairman, Reliance Industries Ltd Rank last year: 5

Ambani top 10 Most powerful indians Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries. (Photo: Reuters)

Why

The richest Indian, according to Forbes and Bloomberg, Mukesh Ambani has continued to acquire and form joint ventures to strengthen his position in various areas, including textile, renewable energy, drone technology and toy manufacturing. He also collaborated with Meta to launch JioMart on WhatsApp. Recently, Ambani picked up a 50 per cent stake in the 100-year-old beverage maker Sosyo Hajoori Beverages.

Power Punch

Ambani has started rolling out 5G services in major cities. So far, he has launched 5G services in over 250 cities across the county. He plans to complete 5G deployment in 2023.

What Next

Ambani has announced he will demerge his financial services arm — Jio Financial Services (JFS) — and list it on stock exchanges. JFS plans to launch a consumer- and merchant-lending business. He is also constructing the Dhirubhai Ambani Green Energy Giga Complex over 5,000 acres in Jamnagar, which will be the world’s largest integrated renewable energy manufacturing facility.

By the way

He is a teetotaller and sticks to a strict vegetarian diet. Ambani enjoys eating out, be it at roadside joints or at the best of restaurants.

8) Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs Rank last year: 10

Nirmala in top 10 of IE Most Powerful Indians Union Minister for Finance Nirmala Sitharaman (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

Why

Emerging from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Nirmala Sitharaman led the charge to announce relief measures for the economy along with renewing the focus on growth through higher productive capital spending. She has been at the forefront in asking the industry to step up private investments in a bid to boost growth.

Power Punch

As the country’s first full-time woman finance minister, she has presented five consecutive Budgets so far. Part of the core team of the Narendra Modi-led government, she resisted pressure from a section within her own ministry to be fiscally liberal. That has held her in good stead and helped prepare for the marathon. In the Budget for next year, her focus on fiscal prudence continues with no splurging of funds in populist schemes. Her big idea was to raise the tax threshold to Rs 7 lakh a year from Rs 5 lakh a year, which means a lot to those joining the workforce or the just retired.

What Next

With global slowdown and rising interest rate cycle, the impact on India’s growth, especially amid subdued exports and demand, is going to be keenly watched.

By the way

She likes listening to Hindustani and Carnatic classical music.

7) JP Nadda, National President, Bharatiya Janata Party Rank last year: 4

Nadda Most powerful Indians list 2023 BJP National President JP Nadda (Express Photo by Prem Nath Pandey)

Why

Despite the BJP’s electoral loss in his home state, Himachal Pradesh, JP Nadda escaped almost unscathed as the BJP gave him an extension until June 2024 as national president. While his “Sewa Hi Sangathan” programme, launched during the pandemic, gave the BJP a humane face, his “Know BJP” initiative — interaction with mission heads and diplomats — is helping the party allay apprehensions about its ideologies and policies among the international community.

Power Punch

In June, after the BJP formed an alliance with Eknath Shinde of the Shiv Sena, its Maharashtra stalwart and former chief minister, Devendra Fadnavis, had announced that he would not be part of the government. Within minutes, Nadda announced on television that the party’s central leadership had decided that Fadnavis would be deputy chief minister.

What Next

With the BJP preparing for fierce electoral battles in key states, Nadda has to ensure that the party wins most of them as those elections would be considered the semi-finals to the Lok Sabha polls. Nadda has already announced that the BJP must win all nine states that go to the polls this year.

By the way

He enjoys watching old parliamentary proceedings.

6) Mohan Bhagwat, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) ChiefRank last year: 3

Mohan Bhagwat Most powerful Indians RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat (PTI Photo)

Why

This may be the strongest BJP government with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s imprint all over but the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh continues to wield significant moral and ideological weight. In a pre-election year, its formidable network will be called upon to mobilise support and help deliver the party a third term in 2024.

Power Punch

There’s no need to look for a shivling in every mosque and the RSS isn’t in favour of launching any more movements on the issue, Bhagwat said in his first remarks on the Gyanvapi row, sending a clear signal on the stand the Sangh would adopt. His comment that there can be no Hindu rashtra without Muslims and his minority outreach efforts will be keenly watched.

What Next

After a successful campaign against triple talaq and love jihad, which led to laws being framed at the Centre and in BJP-ruled states, the Sangh has embarked on a journey to implement Uniform Civil Code. It has led to at least two states forming committees for the same. Bhagwat has also been attempting to change the RSS’s image of being anti-minority.

By the way

Not only does he enjoy listening to music, he also sings well.

5) Yogi Adityanath, Chief Minister of Uttar PradeshRank last year: 6

Adityanath Most Powerful Indians 2023 Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath (Express Photo by Vishal Srivastav)

Why

The first UP CM to return to power after a full term, Yogi Adityanath has blended politics, ideology and governance to shape his tough CM image. His controversial use of bulldozers has become a symbol of a muscular state. Under him, the BJP came back to power, winning 255 seats and a higher vote share. Since then, the BJP has entered new frontiers, winning from the Samajwadi Party strongholds of Azamgarh and Rampur in Lok Sabha bypolls. From Gujarat to West Bengal, Adityanath is now one of the BJP’s most sought-after campaigners.

Power Punch

“Iss mafia ko mitti mein mila denge,” Adityanath said in the UP Assembly, while accusing the SP of sheltering “criminals” and “mafia.” This was a day after Umesh Pal, a key witness in the 2005 case of the murder of BSP MLA Raju Pal, was shot dead in Prayagraj. Days after the CM’s statement, two of the accused in the Umesh Pal murder case were shot dead in encounters.

What Next

His challenge will be to consolidate the BJP’s grip on UP and deliver ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. His growing stature in the BJP is being closely watched both in the party and outside.

By the way

Yoga and walking are part of his fitness regimen.

4) DY Chandrachud, Chief Justice of India Rank last year: 19

IE 100 The List of Most powerful Indians CJI DY Chandrachud (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

Why

D Y Chandrachud, who has a tenure of over two years as the top judge of the Supreme Court, took over as Chief Justice of India at a time of especially fraught relations between the executive and the judiciary. His verdicts over the years, including overruling the Emergency-era verdict of his father, former CJI YV Chandrachud, in the Habeaus Corpus case, have marked him out as his own person. His tenure till November next year— and the verdicts the apex court delivers in big cases — will be keenly watched as it coincides with the general elections in 2024.

Power Punch

The Supreme Court collegium headed by him has so far packed a punch — by making public the government’s reasons for rejecting a candidate to emphatically reiterating some recommendations that were rejected on the basis of sexual orientation and ‘adverse’ comments against the government. Amidst criticism of the judiciary from the government, including the Law Minister and the Vice President, he has weighed in with clear and firm statements.

What Next

With 10 more appointments to the top court in his tenure and an increasingly testy Executive, he will have to navigate tough terrain, especially in an election year. How he pulls it off will shape the institution and public faith in it.

By the way

He is a yoga enthusiast and nature lover.

3) S Jaishankar, Minister of External AffairsRank last year: 15

Jaishankar Top 10 Most powerful Indians External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar (PTI Photo)

Why

In a year of global turmoil, amid the Russia-Ukraine war, S Jaishankar emerged as the most articulate advocate of India’s diplomatic tightrope walk on the global stage. His sharply-worded statements, calling out the West on the war, were the clearest enunciation of India’s position on not choosing sides explicitly.

Power Punch

In February, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that Jaishankar had a point when he spoke last year about the “European mindset”. Jaishankar had said that Europe has to grow out of the mindset that Europe’s problems are the world’s problems, but the world’s problems are not Europe’s problems.

What Next

In the G-20 year, Jaishankar is the principal negotiator of political declarations. He will play a critical role in the projection of India’s interests.

By the way

He likes to play squash in his free time.

2) Amit Shah, Home Minister Rank last year: 2

Shah in top 10 of Most Powerful Indians Home Minister Amit Shah (PTI Photo)

Why

Together with Narendra Modi, he is one half of the BJP’s formidable Big Two. A master strategist, despite not being national president of the BJP for three years now, Amit Shah’s imprint has been visible in each of the BJP’s big electoral victories — from Gujarat to Maharashtra to UP and the Northeast.

Power Punch

Shah was the brain behind the BJP’s “sweet revenge” against the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena that led to the fall of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in Maharashtra. Shah’s strategy apparently led to Eknath Shinde leading a rebellion against Thackeray, after which Shah worked out the minute details of government formation that led to Shinde taking over as Chief Minister with Devendra Fadnavis as his deputy.

What Next

Other than the electoral battles that lie ahead for the BJP, Shah has now taken up the mission of establishing Primary Agriculture Credit Societies (PACS) across the country. These are meant to be providers of various services to gram panchayats and could emerge as significant political influencers at the grassroot level.

By the way

Shah was keen on his granddaughter learning Hindu scriptures, but left the decision to her mother. Today, six-year-old Rudri can recite verses from some of them.

1) Narendra Modi, Prime MinisterRank last year: 1

Modi on IE 100 List of Most Powerful Indians Prime Minister Narendra Modi (PTI Photo)

Why

Year Nine and Prime Minister Narendra Modi remains The Great Disruptor, The Powerful Outsider and the incumbent with the strongest shield against anti-incumbency as he leads his party’s campaign for a third term next year. From toilets and gas cylinders to splitting Jammu & Kashmir, laying the foundation of the Ram temple to a new spot on the global stage, Modi’s power draws from his energy to shape the discourse — and reshape it as per his wish. Criticism of concentration of power, democratic backsliding and over-reach by agencies is yet to find an echo on the electoral street.

Power Punch

Every election is fought in his name. Despite being away from Gujarat, he flew down, threw his weight behind the campaign and took the BJP to a record tally and a historic seventh term.

What Next

Keeping the Opposition constantly pushed to the wall has helped him shrink their space. With nine states poll-bound this year, Karnataka next month, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan later, their outcome will shape his 2024 strategy. The G-20 summit in September will buttress his India-as-global-leader image, right in time for countdown to Campaign 2024.

By the way

Modi often encourages his council of ministers to talk and engage with junior officers and staff and learn from their experiences.

IE100 2022 | Check out last year's list of most powerful people

Check out the full list: 

11) Rajnath Singh, Defence Minister of IndiaRank last year: 13

IE 100 The List of Most powerful Indians Union Minister of Defence Rajnath Singh (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

Why

An experienced politician, Rajnath Singh is the government’s senior-most minister who plays the role of an anchor and a trouble-shooter. He is the first full-time defence minister in the NDA government. A prominent face in Uttar Pradesh politics for decades, Singh is one of the most-accepted leaders in the BJP, with wide administrative and political experience.

Power Punch

Having previously served as home minister, he has a 360-degree view on matters related to national security. He is also known for his relations across party lines, which stands the BJP and the government in good stead during a crisis. He keeps a busy calendar, meeting officials and counterparts from other countries.

What Next

Given his past record, the BJP will rely on Singh’s strong support base in UP for the general elections next year. In his current profile, he has taken personal interest in the government’s plans of achieving self-reliance in defence and taking India’s defence exports to $5 billion by 2025.

By The Way

He is deeply interested in spirituality and practises yoga every morning.

12) BL Santhosh, National General Secretary (Organisation), BJPRank last year: 14

IE 100 The List of Most powerful Indians BJP National General Secretary (Organisation) BL Santhosh

Why

BL Santhosh has been a crucial part of every major decision and move made by the BJP ever since he became party national general secretary (Organisation) in 2019. Unlike most of his predecessors who kept out of the spotlight, Santhosh has been vocal on various issues and airs his views frequently on social media.

Power Punch

It’s not wrong to imagine that Santhosh has become PM Modi’s emissary when it comes to speaking tough to party MPs or ruling chief ministers. Be it sticking to BJP’s ideological agenda or ensuring there’s effective coordination between the RSS and the BJP, Santosh is invariably at the helm. At the BJP national executive meets in Hyderabad and Delhi, Santhosh ensured that the discussions remained confidential, restraining party leaders from talking out of turn. In the Delhi meet, he even made the attendees keep their mobile phones outside the hall.

What Next

As someone who has always been actively involved in Karnataka politics and decisions taken by the party and the government, a win for the BJP in the southern state is essential for him to maintain his stature in the party.

By the way

He is a big fan of Shah Rukh Khan’s film Chak De! India (2007) and has watched it numerous times.

13) Mamata Banerjee, West Bengal Chief MinisterRank last year: 11

IE 100 List of Most powerful Indians West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee (Express photo by Partha Paul)

Why

One of the most powerful Opposition leaders in the country, in 2021, Banerjee single-handedly helped the Trinamool Congress (TMC) win the high-voltage Assembly polls in West Bengal, defeating a surging BJP, becoming the CM of the state for the third straight term. The TMC now hopes to win the state’s three-tier panchayat polls and next year’s Lok Sabha elections in her name.

Power Punch

A street fighter, Banerjee has the unmatched ability to read the pulse of the people and connect with the grassroots. From announcing popular social welfare schemes to excising party leaders whose presence became untenable due to corruption charges, she has so far been able to control the narrative.

What Next

Following her electoral success in Bengal, Banerjee has been making attempts to stitch together an Opposition alliance against the BJP ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. She has made it clear that the Congress can’t expect to be the pole around which other parties gravitate, and has reached out to regional players. With West Bengal accounting for 42 Lok Sabha seats, she can expect to be counted among the kingmakers if she manages to score another impressive performance.

By the way

Banerjee writes poetry and also composes music.

14) Nitish Kumar, Bihar Chief MinisterRank last year: 54

IE 100 The List of Most Powerful Indians Bihar Chief minister Nitish Kumar (Express Photo by Anil Sharma)

Why

Despite switching alliances, Nitish Kumar continues to remain the fulcrum of Bihar’s politics. The longest-serving CM of Bihar is now seen as eyeing a key role in national politics, and of late has thrown the ball in the Congress’s court. Kumar, though, has kept everyone guessing — keeping his deputy Tejashwi Yadav happy by indicating the CM’s position would next be his, though not making this clear one way or the other as all hangs on the success of his national ambitions.

Power Punch

Kumar left the BJP perplexed last August as he quit the NDA and returned to the Mahagathbandan, saying the JD(U) felt “suffocated” in the alliance. His move came five years after he resigned as CM and walked out of the Mahagathbandhan to join the BJP-led alliance.

What Next

A powerful position at the Centre is what Kumar hopes to move to. But if the Grand Alliance does not fare well in 2024, Kumar’s political future even vis-a-vis ally RJD may be precarious. Should the BJP fall short of a majority in 2024 and the JD(U) get even 10-plus seats, trust Kumar to find a way to some role at the Centre.

By the way

Kumar likes his evening bhuja party with his associates.

15) Rahul Gandhi, Congress leaderRank last year: 51

IE 100 The List of Most Powerful Indians Congress leader Rahul Gandhi (Express Photo by Amit Mehra)

Why

His party still a losing electoral proposition, its organisation still a mess, Rahul Gandhi has sprung back. His 136-day Bharat Jodo Yatra earned him the respect of his colleagues and allies and forced his opponents, who have caricatured him as a non-serious, entitled scion, to take note. His disqualification from the House following his conviction in a defamation case — the nature of the case and the speed with which he was suspended — have united the Opposition, for now, and hardened the battlelines.

Must Read | IE100: The most powerful Indians in 2023 (51-100)

Power Punch

Attacked for his gloom-and-doom remarks in the UK, he stood his ground. After his suspension, he framed the contest in clear ideological terms when he said he was fighting for ‘the voice of India’ and was ready to pay any price. How this translates in the poll booth is the enduring challenge for him and his party.

What Next

The way the defamation conviction and his appeals play out inside the courts will also define his campaign outside. Replicating the Bharat Jodo Yatra mobilisation will be a challenge. Karnataka, with polls in April, will be his first test this year.

By the way

During the Bharat Jodo Yatra, he didn’t use any sunscreen during his long trek across the country.

16) Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi Chief MinisterRank last year: 9

IE 100 The List of Most Powerful Indians 2023 Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

Why

Recording its first win in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi polls in December last year helped solidify the position of the Aam Aadmi Party and its chief Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi politics. After winning five seats in the Gujarat Assembly, Kejriwal is looking to extend his influence to other states.

Power Punch

Kejriwal, who for the last four years was wary of attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi directly, can now be seen going all out against him. He has also managed to become an important part of the bloc that finds itself standing against the BJP, with other Opposition leaders signing a letter to the PM alleging “blatant misuse” of Central agencies after the arrest of Kejriwal’s deputy Manish Sisodia. With representatives in Assemblies in four states — Delhi, Punjab, Goa and Gujarat — AAP is also set to become the country’s newest national party.

What Next

Assembly polls in Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh later this year will be a litmus test for Kejriwal’s national ambitions. The legal battle in Sisodia’s and Satyendar Jain’s cases will also be followed closely by him as well as parties across the country.

By the way

After renovating his house at Flagstaff Road, Civil Lines, Kejriwal holds most of his meetings in the camp office.

17) Himanta Biswa Sarma, Assam Chief MinisterRank last year: 32

IE 100 The List of Most Powerful Indians 2023 Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma (Express Photo by Prem Nath Pandey)

Why

Having established himself as the most powerful leader in Assam and as the BJP’s go-to person for political manoeuvring in the Northeast, Sarma is emerging as a national figure. He regularly keeps himself front and centre in national conversations with his statements and actions such as the state-wide crackdown against child marriages in Assam. The BJP has started deploying him for campaigning outside the Northeast, from Gujarat to Karnataka; he also pitched in for the Delhi civic polls.

Power Punch

Sarma played a crucial role in the BJP’s game plan to return to power in Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland, from guiding alliance-building negotiations to campaigning extensively. After seeing off the challenge in Tripura and winning Nagaland, he also made the first move to ensure a place in the Meghalaya government for the BJP despite having just two seats and strained ties with its coalition partner National People’s Party.

What Next

He will be key to the BJP’s Lok Sabha campaign in the Northeast next year, where the party will look to increase its sizeable footprint.

By the way

He has watched only about seven movies in the last decade.

18) Sanjay Kumar Mishra, Enforcement Directorate ChiefRank last year: 46

IE 100 The List of Most Powerful Indians 2023 ED Chief Sanjay Kumar Mishra

Why

Last year, Sanjay Mishra became the first Enforcement Directorate (ED) chief to get a five-year tenure after the government gave him yet another extension. In fact, amendments were pushed through Parliament for this. An IRS officer with a long career in the Income Tax Department, Mishra has transformed the agency so dramatically that leaders have moved on from demanding CBI inquiries to asking for ED probes. The agency under him has acted against top politicians across the country.

Power Punch

During the Budget Session of Parliament, PM Narendra Modi said the ED had achieved what voters couldn’t — it had brought the Opposition together. The statement underlined the vigour with which the agency has gone after politicians from Opposition ranks. It also showed the government’s trust in the agency under Mishra’s watch.

What Next

With the Supreme Court upholding all provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, the agency now has unfettered powers. Mishra’s challenge will be to protect the reputation of the agency when it is under focus.

By the way

Mishra runs 10 km daily and follows a Keto diet.

19) Ashwini Vaishnaw, Minister of Railways, Telecom and ITRank last year: 49

IE 100 The List of Most Powerful Indians 2023 Minister of Railways, Telecom and IT Ashwini Vaishnaw (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

Why

Handling crucial ministries like Railways, Telecom and IT, Ashwini Vaishnaw is now one of the most important ministers in the Modi cabinet. Given that he was elevated from relative obscurity, Vaishnaw is seen to be the choice of the PM himself.

Power Punch

He has untangled the Vande Bharat production deadlock and now the showpiece trains are rolling out every month, almost all of them flagged off by the PM. Under his mentorship, the long-standing logjam over railway station redevelopment is also over, with over 1,200 stations now identified and at various stages of development. As the Telecom and IT minister, he deftly handled the sale of spectrum and introduction of 5G, avoiding controversies.

What Next

Racing towards rolling out 75 Vande Bharat services by August 15, 2024, as announced by the PM from the Red Fort, the Railways Ministry also has to chalk out a plan to spend 2.6 lakh crore by March 2024. He has to ensure that 5G adoption steers clear of hitches.

By the way

Vaishnaw has a habit of closing his eyes while giving dictation especially for critical things like drafting Cabinet notes.

20) Kiren Rijiju, Minister of Law and JusticeRank last year: 52

IE 100 The List of Most Powerful Indians 2023 Minister of Law and Justice Kiren Rijiju (Express Photo by Prem Nath Pandey)

Why

A three-time Lok Sabha MP from Arunachal Pradesh, Kiren Rijiju took over as Union Minister for Law and Justice in July 2021, surprising many in the legal fraternity. Claiming to be an outsider to the profession, unlike his predecessors, Rijiju expresses his views freely. His brusque remarks on issues ranging from the collegium’s functioning to court vacations have caused friction with the judiciary.

Power Punch

Apart from raising the political tempo on judicial appointments, Rijiju has remained steadfast on several recommendations. In an apparent response to the Supreme Court’s observations regarding the government delaying the transfer of high court judges, he said that the country will function according to the need of its people and under the guidance of the Constitution, and nobody can give a warning to anyone. His statement almost initiated contempt proceedings against the law ministry. This came on a day the Centre cleared the names of five judges for elevation to the Supreme Court.

What Next

Rijiju has his task cut out — not just a careful balancing act with the judiciary but also his own future in the party.

By the way

He loves to spend time with his Shih Tzu pup.

21) Shaktikanta Das, Reserve Bank of India GovernorRank last year: 21

IE 100 The List of Most Powerful Indians 2023 RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

Why

As the 25th Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Shaktikanta Das has been steering the central bank and the economy effectively for the last four years. During the Covid years, Das took proactive measures which helped the country’s financial institutions and the economy mitigate challenges, and resulted in a stable macro environment. Meanwhile, as international regulators look at rescue packages for their unstable banks, Das’s regulatory changes for India in recent years have given stability and resilience to its financial system.

Power Punch

After lowering the repo rate by 115 basis points and providing liquidity support during 2020 and 2021, Das has hiked the key lending rate by 250 basis points in the last 10 months amid rising interest rate scenarios by the global central banks and to tackle inflation. He also changed the monetary policy stance to ‘withdrawal of accommodation’ from ‘accommodative’ in May 2022.

What Next

The key challenge for Das in 2023 would be bringing down inflation to four per cent as mandated by the government, while also supporting growth.

By the way

Das follows cricket very closely.

22) Natarajan Chandrasekharan, Tata Sons PVT LTD Chairman Rank last year: 22

IE 100 The List of Most Powerful Indians 2023 Tata chief N Chandrasekaran (Express Photo by Pradip Das)

Why

N Chandrasekaran got a second term as Tata Sons Chairman and the decision was unanimous, as his first term saw the revival of several companies of the group, including Jaguar Land Rover and Tata Steel.

Power Punch

The Tata Group, under Chandrasekaran, not just won a bid to buy the government’s stake in Air India but also convinced Singapore International Airlines — the group’s partner in airline joint-venture Vistara — to merge Vistara with Air India and become a partner in the airline. With the merger of AirAsia India with Air India Express and Vistara with Air India, the group will become the second largest airline in terms of market share in the country.

What Next

The key challenge for Chandrasekaran will be to ensure a smooth merger of the airlines and decide on a long-term plan for the airline venture. With the economy slowing in large parts of the developed world, he will need to ensure that group companies are able to maintain growth.

By the way

Chandrasekaran has participated in marathons in several cities, from Boston and Berlin to Tokyo and New York.

23) Mallikarjun Kharge, Indian National Congress President Rank last year: Not on list

IE 100 The List of Most Powerful Indians 2023 Newly elected Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

Why

The veteran leader from Karnataka became the first person in 24 years outside the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty to become the president of the once-mighty Congress. The Gandhis place immense trust in Kharge, who continues to be the Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha. Kharge’s experience is an asset to the party which is struggling to outwit the BJP. Kharge’s elevation has made him the most significant Dalit figure in contemporary politics.

Power Punch

Although Shashi Tharoor put up a spirited fight, Kharge’s candidature ensured that the party stayed united in his support. He also wrote the obituary of G 23 as all its influential figures rallied behind him.

What Next

The challenge before Kharge is to keep the party united and make it battle-ready for a crucial election year. He will have to ensure that there is minimal division in the party when he constitutes the Congress Working Committee afresh and handpicks AICC office bearers.

By the way

A stickler for cleanliness, Kharge wants everything to be in perfect order — even a missing coaster on the coffee table can rankle him.

24) Manoj Sinha, Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Rank last year: 71IE 100 The List of Most Powerful Indians 2023

L-G Jammu and Kashmir Manoj Sinha (Express Photo by Abhinav Saha)Why

It is not easy to run Jammu and Kashmir, especially after the abrogation of its special status in 2019. While it saw his predecessor being transferred in just a year after revocation of special status, Manoj Sinha has managed to cling on to power for almost three years now. Also, at the Centre, the belief is that the dynasty reigns of the Abdullahs and the Muftis are passe and Jammu and Kashmir needs new faces. Sinha has been brought in to identify younger politicians, who can bridge the gap with seniors of the region as well as bring disparate sections of the society together.

Power Punch

After a long gap, Sinha has managed to get the first foreign direct investment (FDI) in the Valley. A two-screen cinema multiplex and a big shopping mall, now in the works, are two big visible changes that he is pushing for despite the security challenges. In pushing forward the development agenda, the L-G has always acknowledged that the conflict has scarred both the communities, which adds to his credibility.

What Next

With the assembly elections overdue, Sinha’s biggest challenge would be to ensure a conducive atmosphere for free and fair elections in Jammu and Kashmir.

By the way

He’s fond of quoting from Ramdhari Singh Dinkar’s poems, especially the epic Rashmirathi (1952).

25) Amitabh Khant, G20 Sherpa, Government of IndiaRank last year: 92

IE 100 The List of Most Powerful Indians 2023 G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant

Why

Amitabh Kant, a former 1980-batch Kerala cadre IAS officer, has to deal not only with global diplomats but also a wide spectrum of politicians and bureaucrats for holding over 200 meetings across the length and breadth of the country in the run-up to the G20 summit in September 2023.

Power Punch

Kant succeeded Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal to become India’s Sherpa at G20. Before moving to Sushma Swaraj Bhawan, Kant served as the Chief Executive Officer, NITI Aayog, which is headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Known for his effective communication skills and ability to carry out time-bound delivery of initiatives, Kant has handled politically sensitive issues like the Aspirational District Programme. He also headed one of the empowered group of officers constituted to formulate the government’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

What Next

The immediate task at hand for Kant is the successful organisation of the G20 summit.

By the way

He loves listening to Chitra Singh’s ghazal: “Hum ko dushman ki nigaahon se na dekha keejiye”.

26) Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport and Highways Rank last year: 26

IE 100 The List of Most Powerful Indians 2023 Union Minister Nitin Gadkari (Express Photo by Renuka Puri)

Why

Nitin Gadkari enjoys personal goodwill on both sides of the political aisle and is seen as a minister who has performed consistently. He is arguably the only minister who is openly praised by Opposition camps in Parliament. Gadkari, the longest-serving Road Transport and Highways Minister, has held the same portfolio since 2014 and is candid about the shortcomings in his own ministry.

Power Punch

He delivered key projects such as the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway and Delhi-Meerut Expressway, the government’s infrastructure assets in the highways sector. His ministry leads the PM Gati Shakti initiative involving multiple ministries.

What Next

Like the Delhi-Mumbai Expressway, he has to deliver the much-awaited Delhi-Dehradun Expressway before the 2024 Lok Sabha election. He will also steer the roll-out of the vehicle-scrapping policy for government-owned vehicles and the establishment of scrapping and testing centres across India.

By the way

It is common for people of Nagpur to bump into Gadkari, treating his grandchildren to ice cream, at night, sometimes even without security. During winter, he stops by roadside vendors to eat bhutta.

27) Mansukh Mandaviya, Minister of Health and Family Welfare and Chemicals and Fertilisers Rank last year: 25

IE 100 The List of Most Powerful Indians 2023 BJP leader Mansukh Mandaviya (Express Photo)

Why

Mansukh Mandaviya took over the Health Ministry when the government was being criticised for its handling of the Covid pandemic. But under him, India vaccinated a record number of people, created a vaccine surplus and pushed for indigenous manufacturing of vaccines and pharmaceutical ingredients.

Power Punch

He ensured that the Covid-19 vaccination was successful, with over 220 crore doses administered so far. The ministry, under him, prevented surges through timely action during the third Omicron variant-driven wave in November 2021. He is pushing the government’s millet mission, saying the FSSAI will soon formulate guidelines for schools, hospitals and government canteens to incorporate millets as nutritional options in the menu.

What Next

His ministry is focussing on other flagship programmes with a big push towards digital health, including creating ABHA cards to digitise health records of citizens.

By the way

Even before the millet mission was declared, he set up a millets canteen at the ministry.

28) Piyush Goyal, Minister of Commernce & Industry; Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution; TextilesRank last year: 29

IE 100 The List of Most Powerful Indians 2023 Piyush Goyal (Express Photo by Praveen Khanna)

Why

Piyush Goyal is part of a select group of Cabinet ministers responsible for more than two ministries. As a minister in the Modi government since 2014, he has traversed a broad spectrum of ministries, including energy, finance, railways and trade. It’s a testimony to his standing in the government as well as the ruling BJP.

Power Punch

Goyal has been at the centre of India’s free trade pact negotiations with various countries and has been credited for the successful sealing of the free trade agreements with the United Arab Emirates and Australia in recent months. As the leader of the House in the Rajya Sabha, he has emerged as a key troubleshooter for the Modi government.

What Next

He will be focussed on sealing free trade agreements with the European Union and the United Kingdom, as negotiations with both trade partners have had their challenges and are likely to go on for longer than initially anticipated. In the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, he is expected to play a key role in the government’s strategy in Parliament and BJP’s campaign plan.

By the way

A Hindi cinema buff, Goyal is a Dev Anand fan.

29) Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas and Minister of Housing & Urban Affairs (HUA)Rank last year: 42

IE 100 The List of Most Powerful Indians 2023 Hardeep Singh Puri (Express Photo by Amit Mehra)

Why

In the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, Hardeep Singh Puri was among the ministers who were rushed to neighbouring countries to oversee the evacuation of Indians. As the war rolled on and uncertainty dominated the global oil markets, Puri was seen on the international stage, vociferously defending the right of Indian companies to buy Russian crude oil. Back home, under the HUA portfolio, he is responsible for some of the most high-profile projects, including the construction of the new Parliament.

Power Punch

Facing criticism from the West, Puri has reiterated that India will buy oil from wherever it is able to get it cheaper, and, in the process, influence the market.

What Next

While energy security remains at the top of his to-do list, his pushing the Central Vista is key in a pre-election year. His diplomatic experience helps him connect with a wide range of influential newsmakers and apprise them of the Government’s policy imperatives.

By the way

Puri often listens to classic rock music while working in his Nirman Bhawan office.

30) Sonia Gandhi, Congress leaderRank last year: 27

IE 100 The List of Most Powerful Indians 2023 Sonia Gandhi (Express Photo by Prem Nath Pandey)

Why

After handing over the Congress presidency to Mallikarjun Kharge, Sonia Gandhi has stepped back from the public eye. But as chairperson of the Congress Parliamentary Party, she continues to command respect of leaders across generations in the political spectrum. She is the most influential leader in the Opposition space and still has the last word in the grand old party in which the family is supreme. The UPA chairperson enjoys an excellent relationship with almost all Opposition leaders and will play a crucial role in bridging divisions in the Opposition camp ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.

Power Punch

The huge attention that Gandhi drew with her one passing remark about her innings having ended with the Bharat Jodo Yatra shows that her every word and move still matter.

What Next

Gandhi is said to be keen to walk into the sunset. Will that mean not contesting again from Rae Bareli? Will she bid adieu to electoral politics or contest one last time? It is a keenly-awaited decision.

By the way

Known for her love of handloom saris, Sonia Gandhi rarely wears lightweight fabrics such as chanderis, maheshwaris kotas or chiffons

31) Uday Kotak, Managing Director and CEO, Kotak Mahindra BankRank last year: 28

IE 100 The List of Most Powerful Indians 2023 Uday Kotak (Express Photo)

Why

The country’s wealthiest banker, Uday Kotak launched Kotak Mahindra Finance in 1985, which became the first non-banking financial company in the country to be converted into a commercial bank — Kotak Mahindra Bank in 2003. As per Forbes, Kotak’s net worth is USD 13.3 billion.

Power Punch

Under his leadership, Kotak Mahindra Bank has become the fourth-largest private sector lender in the country. The Kotak group has presence in various financial services such as investment banking, asset management, life insurance, general insurance and stock broking. Kotak’s leadership has made him the perfect problem-solver in a crisis, be it resolving issues of a failed IL&FS in previous years or sorting 55 per cent of the Rs 1 lakh crore debt of the complex infra financing institution.

What Next

Kotak is solidifying the bank’s presence in the micro-finance segment. It recently acquired 100 per cent of equity in Sonata Finance Pvt Ltd, an NBFC-MFI, for a cash consideration of Rs 537 crore.

By the way

An aspiring cricketer, Kotak had to give up his dream of pursuing the sport professionally after he got injured playing.

32) Bhupender Yadav, Minister of Environment, Forest & Climate Change; Labour & EmploymentRank last year: 20

IE 100 The List of Most Powerful Indians 2023 Union Minister Bhupender Yadav (Express Photo by Bhupendra Yadav)

Why

Bhupender Yadav has been the chief negotiator on all international forums, including the strategically vital annual Conference of Parties for India, and has represented the interests of the global south by pushing Common but Differentiated Responsibilities (CBDR), which allow for countries to keep climate goals in balance with their developmental needs and not on par with those of developed countries.

Power Punch

Yadav managed to negotiate with Namibia and South Africa in bringing 20 African cheetahs to Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh, creating history.

What Next

He will be pushing to get the controversial Biological Diversity Amendment Bill 2021 passed in Parliament. As labour minister, he has been in the process of building consensus among states as well as Central and state trade unions in re-looking at labour laws. His major challenge will also be to ensure that goals under the National Clean Air Programme, in over 100 cities in the country, are met and maintained.

By the way

Every morning, he reads Patanjali’s yoga sutras.

33) Gautam Adani, Chairman and founder, Adani GroupRank last year: 7

IE 100 The List of Most Powerful Indians 2023 Indian billionaire Gautam Adani (Photo: Reuters)

Why

A first-generation entrepreneur, billionaire Gautam Adani has interests in defence and aerospace, energy, ports and logistics, gas, airports, mining and resources. The richest person in India until January 2023, with a net worth of over $120 billion, Adani, however, has seen his wealth erode after a critical report from the US-based Hindenburg Research, accusing the Adani Group of stock manipulation and accounting fraud.

Power Punch

Adani has been aggressively looking to expand into newer areas. He entered the cement sector by acquiring Ambuja Cements Ltd and ACC Ltd for $6.5 billion, making it India’s second-largest cement player. Last year, he also took control of television channel NDTV from the Roys.

What Next

Adani has been experiencing setbacks since the release of the US-based Hindenburg Research on January 24, 2023. The allegations led to fall in share prices of all his companies and he was forced to withdraw the Rs 20,000 crore fully-subscribed follow-on-public offer (FPO). The market cap of Adani Group companies has fallen by around $100 billion over the last few trading sessions. This development will cast a shadow on his various expansion plans.

By the way

He likes traditional vegetarian cuisine.

34) MK Stalin, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK chief Rank last year: 23

IE 100 The List of Most Powerful Indians 2023 Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu MK Stalin

Why

MK Stalin has become Tamil Nadu’s most popular leader after his father M Karunanidhi’s passing and his party’s two subsequent electoral victories in 2019 and 2021. Before the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, Stalin’s national role will be crucial, alongside his performance as CM.

Power Punch

Stalin is setting himself apart from most regional party leaders by playing a prominent role in the national Opposition. He’s actively urging all regional parties to unite and confront the BJP in the 2024 elections. They have agreed that the prime ministerial candidate can be determined later.

What Next

The DMK’s focus will remain on retaining their vote base in the state. With strong alliances with the Congress, the Left, Dalits and minority parties from 2019, it will be crucial for Stalin to keep it together ahead of next year’s Lok Sabha polls. Stalin must also rein in some of his party members with a dubious track record, avoid corruption charges and keep up the goodwill that his government has earned until and beyond the next round of elections.

By the way

Stalin takes out time to watch movies, work out and walk in Adyar’s Theosophical Society campus.

35) K Chandrasekhar Rao, Telangana Chief MinisterRank last year: 38

IE 100 The List of Most Powerful Indians 2023 Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao

Why

Even as K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) remains the most popular leader in Telangana, his government has launched flagship schemes such as Rythu Bandhu and Dalita Bandhu, and initiatives such as Mission Bhagiratha to supply drinking water to every household. He is one of the few political leaders to have taken a strong stand against the BJP and PM Narendra Modi.

Power Punch

After taking on the BJP, KCR has escalated his national ambitions. He is aiming to bring in an alternative alliance without the Congress or the BJP. He has renamed Telangana Rashtra Samiti as Bharat Rashtra Samiti to take the party to the national level, and has announced plans to contest Lok Sabha seats in neighbouring states such as Karnataka, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. He has also rallied the support of like-minded parties such as DMK, AAP, Left, JD (S) and JD (U).

What Next

He faces a litmus test in the forthcoming state elections, with the BJP aggressively expanding its footprint in the state. The Congress is also making a huge effort to regain lost ground.

By the way

KCR takes a keen interest in growing crops at his farmhouse in Erravalli village.

36) Anurag Thakur, Minister of Information & BroadcastingRank last year: 45

IE 100 The List of Most Powerful Indians 2023 Information & Broadcasting Minister Anurag Thakur (Express Photo by Abhinav Saha)

Why

Anurag Thakur is the voice of the government, conveying important policy decisions and taking questions. Thakur’s other portfolio — Youth Affairs & Sports — gets the government a lot of traction among the youth, an important constituency to build upon going forward.

Power Punch

He quelled the crisis that arose when the country’s top wrestlers alleged sexual misconduct by the Wrestling Federation of India chief. When Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid lashed out at Vivek Agnihotri’s The Kashmir Files at the International Film Festival of India in Goa in November last year, with the minister sitting in the front row, Thakur kept his calm and let the crisis dissipate. As a party leader, he is often propped up to take on tough opponents like the Aam Aadmi Party.

What Next

In the run-up to the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, BJP has shortlisted 160 constituencies as tough seats. Of these, Thakur has been given the responsibility of crucial constituencies such as Mumbai South Central and Kalyan. He will also have to regain his influence in his home state of Himachal Pradesh, where the party suffered a setback during the recent Assembly polls.

By the way

Thakur feeds peacocks at home every morning.

37) Smriti Irani, Minister of Women & Child Development, Minority AffairsRank last year: 44

IE 100 The List of Most Powerful Indians 2023 Minister of Women & Child Development, Minority Affairs Smriti Irani (Express Photo by Praveen Khanna)

Why

Smriti Irani has been given the charge of the Minority Affairs Ministry at a time when the BJP has been wooing the Pasmanda Muslim vote bank across the country. This, in addition to one of BJP’s most important vote bases — women — makes both portfolios crucial. As the Woman and Child Development Minister, Irani has introduced several landmark legislations and policies including the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill 2021 and Poshan Abhiyaan 2.0.

Power Punch

Conversant in a number of languages, including English, Hindi, Gujarati, Bengali, Marathi and Punjabi, and as one of the few women ministers in Modi’s cabinet, she is not only one of the party’s most prominent election campaigners, but also its most visible spokespersons.

What Next

Irani is expected to bring in the much-awaited anti-trafficking Bill in Parliament soon. The draft Bill has been hailed by trafficking experts and human-rights activists as one of the most comprehensive bills to ever be introduced.

By the way

Her daughter Shanelle’s wedding reception was attended by a slew of Bollywood and television celebrities, including Shah Rukh Khan.

38) Siddaramaiah, Leader of Opposition in KarnatakaRank last year: Not on list

Minister of Women & Child Development, Minority Affairs Former Karnataka CM and Congress leader Siddaramaiah

Why

Siddaramaiah has stayed relevant in the state’s politics despite the Congress losing power in 2018. The former CM has been one of the most staunch opponents of the BJP’s polarisation politics in Karnataka. Despite being a first-generation politician from a farming family, he is the second chief minister to have completed five years in office — a rare feat in the state’s political history.

Power Punch

Taunted by the BJP with the name Siddaramulla Khan, the former CM responded by saying the taunt was a recognition of his secular credentials. “They (BJP) have rewarded my belief in secularism by attaching a Muslim name to my name,” Siddaramaiah said in December 2022. He has the support of the AHINDA vote base, including Dalits, Muslims and Kuruba — the largest community in the state — making him their preferred leader.

What Next

Siddaramaiah could be the CM of Karnataka for a second term if the Congress wins the 2023 state polls on account of his positioning as the foremost state leader of the party.

By the way

Siddaramaiah is an exponent of a local temple dance form called ‘Veera Kunitha’. He dances on occasions at temple festivals in his village in Mysuru.

39) Devendra Fadnavis, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Rank last year: Not on list

IE 100 The List of Most Powerful Indians Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis (Express Photo by Ganesh Shirshekar)

Why

Devendra Fadnavis has led the coalition government of BJP-Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde faction) smoothly since June 2022. He has given a fresh impetus to mega infrastructure projects and has taken major policy decisions in core areas of agriculture, power and rural sector to bridge the regional imbalance and usher development in backward regions such as Marathwada and Vidarbha.

Power Punch

His role in accomplishing Operation Lotus successfully paved the way for the BJP-Shinde-faction coalition government in Maharashtra. As the Opposition leader in 2019, Fadnavis had embarked on exploiting the internal conflict within Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) constituents. He capitalised on the unrest among Shiv Sena members, whipping up Hindutva fervour to engineer a split in Uddhav Thackeray’s party, which helped pull down MVA.

What Next

The BMC elections in 2023 remain a major challenge. The BJP, along with the Shinde faction, has set an ambitious target to win 150 seats out of 227 in the BMC. Dislodging the three decades rule of Shiv Sena (UBT) led by Uddhav remains a task.

By the way

He loves driving for long hours.

40) Tejashwi Prasad Yadav, Bihar Deputy Chief MinisterRank last year: 55

Why

Tejashwi, who became deputy CM for the second time last August, has emerged as the RJD’s undisputed leader and is beiing discussed as the next CM face. He has been crafting a pan-Indian image, regularly interacting with leaders like MK Stalin, K Chandrasekhar Rao, Akhilesh Yadav and Hemant Soren.

Tejashwi Prasad Yadav Tejashwi Prasad Yadav

Power Punch

While Nitish Kumar is accused of flaunting an ideology of convenience, Tejashwi hasn’t wavered from the RJD’s ideological position. Together with other Opposition parties, he is taking on the BJP for “misusing” Central agencies. Tejashwi, who can connect with his audiences as was seen during the recent Purnea rally, has added “A to Z” to “M-Y” to broaden his political base.

What Next

He is looking to make the RJD a stakeholder in national politics by winning seats in the 2024 polls. His second goal would be to become the undisputed leader of the Mahagathbandhan as he has his eyes set on the CM position in 2025.

By the way

Tejashwi and Rachel, his wife, are expecting their first baby soon.

41) Bhupesh Baghel, Chattisgarh Chief MinisterRank last year: 35

Why

As the Congress chief for Chhattisgarh, Baghel, along with TS Singhdeo as Opposition leader, catapulted the party back to power after 15 years and handed the biggest defeat to the Modi-led BJP government in the state.

Bhupesh Baghel Chattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel

Power Punch

Baghel’s government procured a record 10 lakh metric tonnes (MLT) of paddy from farmers at a better price this year. His government has given a big push to climate resilient policies, a green economy and laid a template for sustainable livelihood schemes. He has empowered women self-help groups, which are turning cow dung to vermicompost and even selling forest produce through market linkages. These have won appreciation from even the Prime Minister.

What Next

This year’s Assembly Elections will be a litmus test for the Baghel government as critics saw the 2018 elections more as a loss for the BJP than a win for the Congress. The BJP is in talks to infuse new faces into the party, as it did for the Lok Sabha elections. Further, Modi and Amit Shah will campaign in the state with support from the RSS.

By the way

He plays Candy Crush on his phone while travelling.

42) Naveen Patnaik, Odisha Chief MinisterRank last year: 33

Why

Entering politics after the death of his father and former CM Biju Patnaik in 1997, Naveen Patnaik formed the BJD and has steered it to success, ruling Odisha for the past 23 years. His cradle-to-grave schemes are attributed to the BJD’s electoral success. His focus on sports, especially Indian hockey, helped Odisha organise two successive World Cups.

Naveen Patnaik Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik

Power Punch

The BJD president managed to withstand the Modi wave during the 2014 and 2019 general elections. Despite being atthe helm of power since March 2000, Patnaik beat anti-incumbency of four terms and returned to power in the 2019 Assembly elections by securing 113 of the 147 seats. As Odisha goes to Assembly and Lok Sabha polls simultaneously next year, Patnaik is eyeing a sixth straight term. Under his leadership, BJD has never lost an election.

What Next

Patnaik may face a challenge in picking his successor and the “problem of plenty” will also be a big headache for the BJD supremo while picking candidates for the forthcoming polls in 2024.

By the way

Patnaik is a history buff, a voracious reader and likes to watch shows on Netflix.

43) Pinarayi Vijayan, Kerala Chief MinisterRank last year: 24

Why

Pinarayi Vijayan is heading the only Left-led government in India. Among all the Opposition chief ministers in the country, Vijayan is one of the most visible and consistent critics of the BJP and the RSS. He is the only CM in the history of Kerala to retain power for a second consecutive term.

Pinarayi Vijayan Pinarayi Vijayan

Power Punch

As the only CM in the party, Vijayan has gained an upper hand in CPI (M)’s national politics. He has made the party take his government’s administrative initiatives to the national level as an alternative to the neo-liberal policies of the BJP.

What Next

The onus of making the Left relevant in the country rests with Vijayan. Kerala looks like the only state where the Left can weather the BJP storm and Vijayan would face his next test in the Lok Sabha elections in 2024. His challenge is to retain the popularity of his previous regime, the image of a crisis manager and able administrator at a time the state is facing a severe financial crisis.

By the way

His Opposition leaders may have numerous complaints against him but they all agree that he can keep a secret. What is told to Vijayan stays with Vijayan.

44) Uddhav Thackeray, Shiv Sena (UBT) presidentRank last year: 16

Why

Uddhav Thackeray suffered two big setbacks in the last six months — his having to resign as chief minister of Maharashtra and the split in the Shiv Sena. The Election Commission’s decision to divest the title ‘Shiv Sena’ and its symbol (the bow and arrow) proved disastrous for the party’s identity but Thackeray is determined to fight back.

Uddhav Thackeray Uddhav Thackeray

Power Punch

As the CM of Maharashtra, he ably tackled the Covid pandemic with the support of alliance partners — the Congress and the NCP. Despite ideological differences, Thackeray managed to keep the equation with the Congress and the NCP intact. By making the ECI a national battle, and not just Maharashtra’s, he elicited support from regional parties across the country.

What Next

Thackeray has to regain the lost confidence among the cadre. After losing the party’s original title and symbol, Thackeray’s real test will be to give the organisation a new identity. Retaining the hold over the BMC remains the foremost challenge this year.

By the way

Photography is his passion, which he pursues in his leisure.

45) Sunil Bharti Mittal, Bharati Enterprises ChairpersonRank last year: 68

Why

The entry of Reliance Jio in India’s telecom space resulted in significant consolidation of the market, forcing many companies to either exit or merge. However, Bharti Airtel emerged largely unscathed.

Sunil Bharti Mittal Sunil Bharti Mittal

Power Punch

While Reliance Jio bought more 5G spectrum than Airtel, the latter became the first to roll out 5G services last October, the day when the next-generation technology was officially launched by PM Modi. Under Mittal, Airtel decided to opt for the non-standalone model of 5G implementation which experts believe could give the company an early edge as it is compatible with more devices than Jio’s stand-alone counterpart.

What Next

Mittal’s key challenge will be to continue launching 5G services in as many cities as possible, considering Jio has promised a countrywide availability by the end of this year. Also crucial will be the launch of OneWeb, Airtel’s broadband from space service, which has already been delayed by a few months.

By the way

Mittal loves flying and even took lessons when he was young.

46) CR Paatil, Gujarat BJP President and Lok Sabha MPRank last year: 53

Why

A close aide of PM Modi, CR Paatil, despite his non-Gujarati roots, has a strong presence in Gujarat. After his appointment as Gujarat BJP president in 2020, Paatil brought sweeping changes not only in Cabinet appointments but also in the distribution of party tickets.

CR Paatil CR Paatil

Power Punch

In the recent Gujarat Assembly elections of 2022, the party, under Paatil, replaced former CM Vijay Rupani, deputy CM Nitin Patel and other ministers and veteran leaders with fresh faces. The party still won with a record 156 of 182 seats. Paatil’s negotiations helped in the scrapping of the Par Tapi Narmada river-linking project and the deferring of the higher GST slab for the textile industry.

What Next

Parliamentary elections next year will be Paatil’s biggest challenge. While it is being said that Paatil is cut out for a bigger national role, it remains to be seen whether that will happen before or after the Lok Sabha elections.

By the way

Paatil added an extra ‘a’ to his last name due to numerology and switched to half-sleeve shirts from full-sleeved ones on the advice of an astrologer.

47) Jay Shah, BCCI secretaryRank last year: 47

Why

It’s no secret that Indian cricket is run by its secretary Jay Shah and nothing moves without his approval in the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). Shah’s voice matters in the International Cricket Council (ICC), too. Son of Union Home Minister Amit Shah, he was instrumental in launching the Women’s Premier League in India. With its media rights going for Rs 951 crore, WPL, even before a ball was bowled, was easily the most sought after women’s cricket tournament in the world.

Jay Shah Jay Shah

Power Punch

Being the youngest Asian Cricket Council (ACC) chief, he stuck to his stand that India won’t travel to Pakistan to play in the Asia Cup this year. Also, during his tenure as BCCI secretary, he decided to have pay parity for Indian women’s cricketers and now their match fees are equal to Indian team men players. With Shah calling the shots, Ahmedabad, and not Mumbai, is the new nerve centre of Indian cricket with the Narendra Modi stadium hosting most high-profile games.

What Next

Hosting the 2023 World Cup successfully in India will be high on his agenda. It also remains to be seen if he can organise bilateral India-Pakistan games, world cricket’s biggest draw.

By the way

His favourite web series is Special Ops and he loves paneer tikka.

48) Nita Ambani, Chairperson and founder, Reliance Foundation, co-owner of Mumbai IndiansRank last year: 48

Why

From team owner to league owner, administrator to entrepreneur, she has been at the front and centre of the burgeoning Indian sports industry. India’s lone member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), she led the country’s successful bid to host the IOC’s Session, which will be hosted at the Reliance-owned Jio World Centre in Mumbai in October. Ambani has also forayed into sports broadcasting, with most major sports events — including the IPL and FIFA World Cup — being shown live on Jio platforms.

Nita Ambani Nita Ambani

Power Punch

She is the only Indian to be a part of three commissions of the IOC — Olympic Education, since 2017, Culture and Olympic Heritage since 2020. She was included in the Digital Engagement and Marketing Communications panel last year.

What Next

The IOC Session in Mumbai this October, where India hopes to further push its case to host the 2036 Olympics.

By the way

According to her daughter Isha, her strongest identity is as a dancer. “For more than 50 years, she has danced every day. I have seen her dedicate time towards her craft,” Isha said.

49) Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Supreme Court judgeRank last year: Not on list

Why

After he was appointed a Supreme Court judge in 2017, he went on to became the second senior-most judge of the court. As part of the Collegium since July 2022, he is the face of the SC taking on the government on the appointment of judges.

Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul

Power Punch

Just days after CJI Justice DY Chandrachud took office, the crucial contempt case against the government for delay in the appointment of judges was listed before a bench headed by Justice Kaul. The move showed that he was the trusted choice for the CJI — both studied together at St Stephen’s and Delhi University’s Campus Law Centre. The bench has questioned the Attorney General and criticised the Law Minister for his remarks on the collegium system of appointing judges.

What Next

Justice Kaul will continue to play a key role in appointing judges till he retires in December. He also has a bunch of crucial cases listed before him, which include the Centre’s decision to dilute Article 370 of the Constitution. Justice Kaul is also hearing cases to reform bail law.

By the way

A theatre enthusiast, Justice Kaul can often be spotted in the India Habitat Centre, Delhi, watching plays.

50) Shah Rukh Khan, ActorRank last year: 82

Why

After a prolonged lull, Shah Rukh Khan has made a spectacular comeback. Since its release on January 25, not only has the action-packed Pathaan, in which he plays the titular protagonist, resurrected him as a crowd-puller but has become one of the highest-grossing Hindi films (it earned over Rs 540 crore in the Indian market and over Rs 391 in overseas collections).

Shah Rukh Khan Shah Rukh Khan

Power Punch

Three decades since he entered showbiz and gained widespread popularity as a heartthrob, with Pathaan, Khan has now remodelled himself as an action hero. The audience’s validation of Pathaan reiterates Khan’s mass appeal as an actor who cuts across different sections and generations of viewers. This has special significance for the actor who went through a difficult phase when his son Aryan Khan was arrested in 2021 on charges of possessing drugs. He was later found not guilty.

What Next

The highly-anticipated Jawan, directed by Atlee Kumar, and Rajkumar Hirani’s Dunki — featuring Khan in lead roles — are scheduled to release this year.

By the way

Khan turned to cooking quite a lot during the lockdown and likes to cook Italian.

51) Bhupendra Patel, Chief Minister, Gujarat

Rank last year: Not on list

CM Bhupendra Patel CM Bhupendra Patel . (Express photo by Nirmal Harindran)

Why

Bhupendra Patel was a surprise choice to replace Vijay Rupani as chief minister of Gujarat, home to both PM Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah. The BJP retained Patel as the CM after its historic victory in the 2022 Assembly elections. As the head of Gujarat, Patel is a significant figure in Modi’s plans to make India a $5-trillion economy. Patel is also central to Modi and Shah’s ambition to have Gujarat host the Olympics in 2036, the planning for which has already begun.

Power Punch

With Patel as the CM face, the BJP broke the Congress’s record tally of 149 Assembly seats and bagged 156 constituencies. The cherry on the cake was Patel’s victory from Ghatlodia constituency by 1.92 lakh votes, the highest margin in the state.

What Next

The Lok Sabha elections in 2024 will be the next challenge for Patel. The party is eyeing a hattrick of winning all 26 parliamentary seats in the state that will definitely be a test of Patel’s mettle.

By the way

Patel is fond of playing cricket and badminton. He loves having pav bhaji and fafda jalebi.

52) Eknath Shinde, Chief Minister, Maharashtra

Rank last year: Not on list

Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde .(Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal ) Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde .(Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal )

Why

As Maharashtra chief minister, Eknath Shinde has managed to strike a delicate balance between governance and politics. The revolt that brought him to power dealt a massive blow to Uddhav Thackeray and the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA). For Shinde, keeping control of 50 MLAs despite their individual ambitions and aspirations during the coup proved his popularity among his colleagues. He has managed to emerge from the shadow of Uddhav Thackeray and carve out his own public identity.

Power Punch

Last July, Shinde successfully faced a trust vote, receiving 164 votes while the Opposition got 99. With some Congress and NCP members backing him by remaining absent from the vote, Shinde proved his political might.

What Next

Though he managed to gain control of the party by getting the support of a majority of its MLAs, MLCs and MPs, Shinde’s next test will be more difficult — gaining the acceptance of Shiv Sena workers at the grassroots.

By the way 

The Maharashtra Chief Minister has a weakness for vada pav and misal pav from the famous Thane-based Mamledar Misal. He also enjoys farming in his village in Satara. 

53) Virat Kohli, cricketer 

Rank last year: 80

Virat Kohli . (APPhoto/ThembaHadebe) Virat Kohli . (APPhoto/ThembaHadebe)

Why

Virat Kohli went 1,021 days without a century in any format before ending the drought in T20s. Recently, he scored three centuries in ODIs and a 186 against Australia in a Test match to signal a return to form in all three formats. Without the added pressure of captaincy, Kohli seems poised on the verge of a full-blown resurgence.

Power Punch

While he went more than three years without a century, Kohli remains one of the best batsmen in Test cricket, even in One Day Internationals, and one of the fittest players in world cricket. Known to speak his mind, he has talked about his struggles with mental health and backed teammate Mohammed Shami when the fast bowler faced communal abuse on social media after the loss to Pakistan in the T20 World Cup in 2021.

What Next

At 34, Kohli still has plenty of cricket ahead of him, but the immediate target will be to help the team win the 50-over ODI World Cup to be held in India between October and November this year.

By the way 

Kohli’s favourite food is chole bhature but he never compromises on his fitness. Even when he is not part of the team, he trains for at least two hours at the gym.  

54) Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General of India

Rank last year: 37

54 Tushar Mehta (1) Tushar Mehta . (Express photo by Nirmal Harindran)

Why

Tushar Mehta is the Narendra Modi government’s trusted legal strategist. He appears on behalf of the Centre in virtually every political case, especially against Opposition-ruled state governments.

Power Punch

After the West Bengal elections in 2021, Mehta led the Centre’s charge against the Trinamool Congress in post-poll violence cases before the Calcutta High Court. The bitterly-contested High Court intervention led to an inquiry by the National Human Rights Commission. The rights body recommended a CBI probe in cases of rape and murder. Mehta also headed the Indian delegation at the United National Human Rights Council in its 41st Session of Universal Periodic Review in Geneva last November. He defended India’s position on Jammu and Kashmir and argued that civil society organisations are not under attack.

What Next

With the Lok Sabha elections round the corner, Mehta, who represents Central investigative agencies, will be crucial in high-profile cases. After serving as Solicitor General for over five years, Mehta’s rise through the ranks will also be closely watched.

By the way

An Urdu poetry enthusiast, Mehta has a vast collection of books in the genre in his library

55) Vinai Kumar Saxena, Lieutenant Governor, Delhi

Rank last year: Not on list

Delhi LG distributes appointment letters Vinai Kumar Saxena.(PTI Photo/Vijay Verma)

Why

The relationship between the AAP government and Raj Niwas has soured further since Vinai Kumar Saxena was appointedL-G last May. The first non-bureaucrat to take over the post, the former chairperson of the Khadi and Village Industries Commission has consistently upped the ante against the Arvind Kejriwal government.

Power Punch

Armed with the Government of NCT of Delhi (Amendment) Act, 2021, Saxena has ordered several inquiries into government departments. The most significant among these is a report on the formulation of the now-retracted Excise Policy that has put the AAP on the backfoot, with Kejriwal’s number two, former Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, arrested in the case.

What Next

With the global image of Delhi in focus ahead of the G20 Summit in September, Saxena has put himself at the forefront of several infrastructure projects. The next big flashpoint between hisoffice and the CM is likely to be the power subsidies scheme.

By the waySaxena opened up the annual “At Home” gathering, held in January, to common people.

56) BV Nagarathna, Judge, Supeme Court of India

Rank last year: Not on list

56 BV Nagarathna 01 BV Nagarathna. (FILE)

Why

In 2027, Justice BV Nagarathna will make history as the first woman to take office as the Chief Justice of India. Although her tenure as CJI will last for just over a month, the move is hugely significant for a judiciary trying to be more inclusive and diverse.

Power Punch

In her short stint in the Supreme Court, Justice Nagarathna has made her presence felt. Earlier this year, she penned a powerful dissent in the 4:1 verdict upholding the Centre’s demonetisation decision. Based on a clinical examination of records and the language in the minutes of meetings submitted by the government, Justice Nagarathna held that the RBI did not independently apply its mind in initiating the process. A day later, she wrote another dissenting opinion holding that statements made by ministers can be vicariously attributed to the government.

What Next

As a judge in line to be CJI, Justice Nagarathna will be part of benches hearing several crucial cases, including the challenge to the electoral bonds scheme.

By the way

In 1996, her brother, Justice ES Indiresh, a sitting judge of the Karnataka High Court, began his practice as an advocate in her chamber.

57) Sharad Pawar, President, Nationalist Congress Party

Rank last year:17

57 Sharad pawar (1) Sharad Pawar (Express photo By Ganesh Shirsekar )

Why

Known for his astute political manoeuvrings, Pawar has always been at the centre of Maharashtra and national politics, springing surprises every now and then. Though last year Pawar failed to stop the fall of the coalition government of the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) — an alliance between the Uddhav Thackeray-led Shiv Sena, his own Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the Indian National Congress (INC), in whose formation he had played an instrumental role — he is still one of the tallest Opposition leaders around. He will play a key role if the Opposition wants to unite against the BJP ahead of next year’s general elections.

Power Punch

By fuelling Uddhav Thackeray’s ambition, Pawar got the NCP and the Congress back to power in 2019. His role in keeping the alliance together, even after it lost power, points to his skill as an expert negotiator and peacemaker.

What Next

With the Congress weakened and Thackeray also on the backfoot after the split in the Sena, the NCP chief’s next big goal is to get his party to make deeper inroads in the state. Nationally, he is working to get like-minded Opposition parties together against the BJP.

By the way

Pawar is passionate about cricket and wrestling.

58) YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, Chief Minister, Andhra Pradesh

Rank last year: 39

58 YS Jagan Reddy 04 YS Jagan Reddy . (FILE)

Why

Jagan Mohan Reddy remains one of the most popular leaders in Andhra Pradesh. Under his leadership, the state has launched several welfare schemes and benefits. Since coming to power in May 2019, the government has transferred Rs 3,19,227 crore to eligible beneficiaries. His government has also enacted sweeping reforms in school education.

Power Punch

Reddy is now urging his party leaders and cadre to achieve “Mission 175”, aiming to win all 175 Assembly seats and electorally wipe out their rival — Telugu Desam Party (TDP). He made his intentions clear at a public meeting in Kuppam that is TDP chief and arch rival N Chandrababu Naidu’s constituency.

What Next

Apart from balancing the state’s finances, burdened by the huge expenditure bill on welfare schemes, Jagan faces a challenge from actor-turned-politician K Pawan Kalyan’s Jana Sena Party (JSP). The TDP and the JSP may get tacit support from the BJP, making things difficult for Jagan.

By the way

Reddy will be shifting home to Visakhapatnam, the administrative capital of Andhra Pradesh.

59) Dharmendra Pradhan, Minister of Education

Rank last year: 18

59 Dharmendra Pradhan (2) Dharmendra Pradhan. (Express photo by Prem Nath Pandey)

Why

Among the trusted lieutenants of the BJP leadership, Dharmendra Pradhan has led the government’s efforts to implement the National Education Policy, 2020, which has set in motion transformational changes in the school and higher education sector. He also holds the key Skill Development and Entrepreneurship portfolio.

Power Punch

After a successful stint at the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, which steers the Ujjwala Yojana, Pradhan was put in charge of the education ministry in July 2021. Since the BJP came to power in 2014, the ministry has been helmed by four ministers. Apart from the NEP, Pradhan oversaw the implementation of measures to mitigate learning losses due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

What Next

Apart from his ministerial responsibilities, Pradhan is in charge of the BJP’s election efforts in Karnataka where polls are expected to be held in May. His stock in the party rose after he led its Uttar Pradesh Assembly election campaign in 2022.

By the way

Pradhan holds a Master’s Degree in Anthropology from Bhubaneswar’s Utkal University.

60) Dattatreya Hosabale, General Secretary, RSS

Rank last year: 31

RSS, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Dattatreya Hosabale, RSS survey, RSS plans all-India survey, Indian Express, India news, current affairs Dattatreya-Hosabale . (PTI Photo)

Why

As executive head of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Dattatreya Hosabale will have a crucial role in mobilising cadres ahead of the 2024 general elections. Even as he continues to influence government policy, he is also expected to steer the organisation during its centenary year (2025).

Power Punch

With his roots in the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), he has helped the RSS student organisation expand its footprint in the south. He has had a say in crucial appointments at key educational institutions and is believed to have considerable influence within the Yogi Adityanath government in UP. Hosabale is among the Sangh leaders who is said to be close to the Prime Minister and one whose opinion the PM respects.

What Next

Under him, the RSS has launched a programme to promote entrepreneurship in the hinterland and push the Modi government’s atmanirbhar ambitions.

By the way

Hosabale is fluent in Kannada, Hindi, English, Tamil, and Sanskrit. He has a Master’s in English literature from Bengaluru University.

61) Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Chief Minister, Madhya Pradesh

Rank last year: 40

Shivraj Singh Shivraj Singh Chouhan .( PTI Photo by Manvender Vashist )

Why

Shivraj Singh Chouhan is the longest-serving Chief Minister in the BJP’s ranks at present. Despite anti-incumbency and alleged voter fatigue, he remains the most formidable Other Backward Classes (OBC) leader in a faction-ridden BJP unit in the state. Although there have been talks of a change of guard in the state, the BJP still has not been able to find a replacement for Chouhan.

Power Punch

Despite vehement opposition, including from the RSS, Chouhan gave a six-month extension to his trusted bureaucrat and Chief Secretary Iqbal Singh Bains last November, hours before his retirement. This showed Chouhan was still the last word on administrative appointments.

What Next

With a change of guard almost ruled out, Chouhan is likely to lead the BJP in the state election later this year.

By the way

Chouhan’s pet, Nick, a German Shepherd, died earlier this year. The CM, who was deeply attached to the 14-year-old dog, dug a grave for him on the premises of his official residence.

62) Ashok Gehlot, Chief Minister, Rajasthan

Rank last year: 34

62 Ashok Gehlot Rajashthan CM Ashok Gehlot . (Express photo by Nirmal Harindran)

Why

He is one of the only three chief ministers of Congress-ruled states. In his third term, Ashok Gehlot has been the tallest face of the Congress in Rajasthan since he first became the CM in 1998.In his present term, Gehlot has taken important decisions such as bringing back the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) for state employees. Despite the Congress high command’s desire to see him contest the elections for the party’s national president, Gehlot managed to hold on to the CM post.

Power Punch

Despite a long-standing tussle with former Deputy CM Sachin Pilot, Gehlot successfully prevented a change of guard in 2020 when Pilot and his loyalists rebelled against him. Under him, the Congress has won successive by-elections. Gehlot has also captured attention with his government’s public welfare schemes, including a universal health insurance scheme.

What Next

Gehlot’s biggest challenge is the Assembly election in December, when he will be looking to retain power for a fourth term.

By the way

Gehlot is known as the jaadugar (magician), a term he often uses for himself. His father was a professional magician and Gehlot pays tribute to his roots by invoking it.

63) Manohar Lal Khattar, Chief Minister, Haryana

Rank last year: 43

ML Khattar CM Haryana Manohar Lal Khattar. (Express Photo by Kamleshwar Singh)

Why

Manohar Lal Khattar’s tenure as chief minister has been marked by efforts to redefine governance in Haryana and bring the administration to people’s doorsteps. The Chief Minister’s popularity rests on his administration’sgovernance track record. Under his leadership, the BJP returned to power in 2019, though with a reduced tally and in alliance with the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP). Khattar’s government has come up with some novel ideas, including educated panchayats, some of which the Centre has recommended to other states as well.

Power Punch

Khattar has faced criticism over the lack of jobs and price rise but has firmly stood his ground and persisted with his development agenda to place Haryana in a high-growth trajectory.

What Next

With the general elections approaching in 2024, his challenge will be to consolidate the BJP’s popularity in the state and return to power for a third straight term, based on his own administrative strength.

By the way

Khattar is fond of gardening and maintains a kitchen garden at his residence.

64) Hemant Soren, Chief Minister, Jharkhand

Rank last year: 67

64 Hemant Soren (1) Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren . Express photo by Prem Nath Pandey

Why

Hemant Soren has been successfully running a coalition government in a state where the political situation is often in a flux. A reluctant politician who took the reins under the tutelage of his father Shibu Soren, known as Guruji, Soren has been able to shed the image of being “Guruji’s son”. A vocal Adivasi leader, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) chief was among the political leaders who managed the Covid-19 pandemic efficiently in the state.

Power Punch

After getting embroiled in a mining lease controversy, Soren used government programmes to reach out to Adivasis, OBCs, and Dalits to counter the BJP’s attempts to corner him. His government also approved a Bill that defines a local with 1932 as a cut-off for domicile — a decision similar to the one that had cost Jharkhand’s first CM, Babulal Marandi, his job.

What Next

Soren’s challenge will be to lead the UPA to victory next year in most of Jharkhand’s 14 Lok Sabha seats, something it has not been able to do since the Modi wave swept in in 2014. A bigger challenge will be the anti-incumbency during the Assembly elections in 2024.

By the way

Soren loves simple food and is an avid badminton player.

65) Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, AICC general secretary in charge of UP

Rank last year: 75

65 Priyanka Gandhi (2) Priyanka Gandhi Vadra . (Express photo by Vishal Srivastav)

Why

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra is a key member of the Nehru-Gandhi family troika that calls the shots in the grand old party. A member of the Congress Working Committee and All India Congress Committee general secretary in charge of Uttar Pradesh, she plays a big role in shaping the party’s policies, charting the organisational roadmap and crisis management along with her mother Sonia and brother Rahul. Known as the conscience keeper of her mother, she and her brother are often said to take unilateral decisions in the party.

Power Punch

Sensing that the Congress had a chance of winning in Himachal Pradesh, she led the Assembly election campaign from the front and successfully ended the party’s electoral drought.

What Next

With Sonia Gandhi in semi-retirement mode, all eyes are on whether Priyanka will make her electoral debut from Rae Bareli in Uttar Pradesh in the Lok Sabha elections. The other formulation is her contesting from Amethi and Rahul switching to Rae Bareli.

By the way

She is an avid cook and baker. She is also working on her memoir.

66) Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Minister, Jal Shakti

Rank last year: 41

Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, Union Jal Shakti Minister, TMC, World Hindi Day, West bengal news, indian express news Gajendra Singh Shekhawat. (Express Photo)

Why

Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, a two-term Lok Sabha member, is tasked with steering the Narendra Modi government’s three ambitious schemes — Jal Jeevan Mission, the interlinking of rivers, and Namami Gange. The Jal Jeevan Mission is particularly significant as its outcome and impact may be a crucial factor in the 2024 general elections.

Power Punch

Shekhawat is among the few ministers who were not moved during the mid-term reshuffle in the Modi cabinet in 2021. His continuity has yielded results, with the number of families getting piped water supply in rural areas increasing to over 11 crore from about 3.23 crore just before the launch of the Jal Jeevan Mission in 2019.

What Next

The big challenge now is to push the project to interlink rivers. Besides, his home state Rajasthan will go to polls later this year and the outcome will be important for his political trajectory.

By the way

Shekhawat keeps himself updated about his ministry’s projects in real time. He also loves mirchi bada, a famous street food from his hometown Jodhpur.

67) Basavaraj Bommai, Chief Minister, Karnataka

Rank last year: Not on list

Basavaraj Bommai 01 Basavaraj Bommai . (Express Photo)

Why

Basavaraj Bommai is the BJP’s face for the coming Assembly polls in Karnataka. Given that he heads its election campaign management committee, he is crucial to the party’s efforts to retain the only southern state where it has managed to come to power. With his government facing corruption allegations, Bommai has tried to counter it by focussing on the work done by his administration. He has travelled extensively in the state in the last two years to launch or highlight government schemes, including irrigation and domestic water supply.

Power Punch

Bommai has remained at the helm even though his party and government have dealt with one controversy after another — from the hijab row to the halal meat controversy to corruption allegations levelled by contractors. The CM has proved adept at handling difficult situations.

What Next

There have been signs of the BJP leadership losing its patience with Bommai even as internal battles have begun over poll tickets. The CM has the task of ensuring the party overcomes these bumps in the road and retains power.

By the way

A mechanical engineer by qualification, Bommai is a former Tata Motors employee.

68) Bhagwant Mann, Chief Minister, Punjab

Rank last year: 61

Punjab news, chandigarh news, Bhagwant Mann.(file)

Why

As Punjab’s Chief Minister, Bhagwant Mann is in charge of law and order in a crucial border state. As the Amritpal Singh episode has shown, his handling of the security situation will be crucial to Punjab’s stability and will have a bearing on national security. Last year, Mann ran a high-octane campaign during the Assembly polls and brought the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) to power with a tally of 92 of117 seats.

Power Punch

Last May, within two months of coming to power, Mann sacked Health Minister Vijay Singla on charges of corruption.

What Next

His challenge is to dispel the perception that the AAP leadership in Delhi is controlling Punjab. Lately, the CM has been asserting himself, conveying the message to bureaucracy and people that he is no pushover. The party will also face tough tests in the local body elections and the Jalandhar Lok Sabha bypoll, whose dates have not yet been announced.

By the way

Whenever he gets time in the morning, Mann plays volleyball with his security guards.

69) Azim Premji, Founder chairman, Wipro

Rank last year: 60

Wipro Chairman Azim Premji. (Express Photo) Wipro Chairman Azim Premji. (Express Photo)

Why

He is not just one of the foremost pioneers of the information technology industry, Azim Premji is also an exemplary philanthropist, often described as India’s Bill Gates. Having passed on the reins of his group to son Rishad, Premji continues to be an influential business and thought leader in India and beyond.

Power Punch

Over the past few years, he has been instrumental in providing funding worth thousands of crores to his philanthropic initiatives through the buyback of Wipro shares. Bill Gates said that he was “inspired by Azim Premji’s continued commitment to philanthropy” after the latter announced in 2019 that he was donating $7.5 billion worth of Wipro shares to the Azim Premji Foundation — taking his total contribution to the foundation’s endowment corpus to $21 billion.

What Next

The Azim Premji Foundation recently announced that in addition to education, it will now focus on healthcare for the poor and marginalised by setting up primary health clinics, followed by multi-speciality hospitals and even a medical university in the country.

By the way

Premji avoids staying in five-star hotels; he travels economy and chooses made-in-India brands.

70) General Anil Chauhan, Chief of Defence Staff

Rank last year: Not on list

Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Anil Chauhan . (Express Photo) Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Anil Chauhan . (Express Photo)

Why

General Anil Chauhan took over as India’s second Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) nearly a year after India’s first CDS General Bipin Rawat died in a helicopter crash. Having retired from the Army as the Eastern Army Commander, he was then serving as a military advisor in the National Security Council Secretariat. With a distinguished career of over 40 years, he has had extensive experience in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast.

Power Punch

The fact that the government chose to keep on hold the appointment of a CDS for almost a year before announcing General Chauhan’s name for the position is reflective of what the top officer brings to the table. Known to be a quiet worker, General Chauhan will drive several planned changes in the Armed Forces.

What Next

He is responsible for prioritising important procurements for the Armed Forces based on a larger vision for the military, including manpower optimisation.

By the way

He takes an active interest in golf.

71) General Manoj Pande, Chief of the Army Staff

Rank last year: Not on list

Chief of Army Staff General Manoj Pande. (PTI/File) Chief of Army Staff General Manoj Pande. (PTI/File)

Why

A decorated Army general with nearly four decades of experience, General Manoj Pande is the first Army chief from the Corps of Engineers, a position which was typically held by officers from combat arms. Gen Pande has served along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) facing China and the Line of Control (LoC) opposite Pakistan. He has also been the Commander-in-Chief of the tri-service Andaman and Nicobar Command.

Power Punch

His vast experience, at various military theatres and in the Army headquarters, will aid in the changes in the Indian military. This includes a transformation into theatre commands, a reorientation to focus on China, a new recruitment of soldiers under the Agnipath scheme and right-sizing of the Army.

What Next

Known for his active interest in pushing innovation and technology infusion in the Army, he will be driving the Army towards further modernisation to keep pace with the evolving ways of warfare.

By the way

He is a good singer. His son is an officer in the IAF.

72) Rajiv Kumar, Chief Election Commissioner

Rank last year: Not on list

73 Rajiv Kumar Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar .(EXPRESS PHOTO BY PRAVEEN KHANNA)

Why

As Chief Election Commissioner, Rajiv Kumar is set to oversee the 2024 general elections while pushing for electoral reforms. Under him, the Election Commission has proposed allowing remote voting for migrant workers and reducing the limit for disclosure of donations from Rs 20,000 to Rs 2,000 each. The former Finance Secretary was also instrumental in the EC’s drive to de-list many unrecognised political parties that are believed to be using Income Tax exemptions for money laundering or non-political purposes.

Power Punch

He is known to respond swiftly to statements by political figures, whether it be Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav’s claim that Muslim and Dalit voters were struck off the rolls in UP or the YSRCP, which had reportedly elected YS Jagan Mohan Reddy for life.

What Next

Both Kumar and Law Minister Kiren Rijiju have hinted that several electoral reforms may be in the offing. It remains to be seen if they include remote voting.

By the way

An avid trekker, Kumar has trekked across Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Tibet. In fact, he trekked to a remote polling station in Uttarakhand in 2022 along with election officials.

73) PK Mishra, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister

Rank last year: 65

74 PK Mishra PK Mishra, Additional Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

Why

Be it bureaucratic appointments, policy logjams or ensuring seamless coordination among various departments to achieve government objectives, PK Mishra’s is one of the key voices in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

Power Punch

Known to enjoy the complete trust of Prime Minister Modi, the retired Gujarat cadre IAS officer is practically the filter through which most bureaucratic decisions pass through. He will be monitoring the implementation of policies in various sectors as he believes that “ultimately, whatever policy we may frame, it comes back to how it is implemented on the ground – at the district and village levels.” This is very important in executing the welfarist agenda of the central government.

What Next

With just a year to go for the general elections, Mishra will be playing a key role in pushing the bureaucracy on the government’s agenda on key issues of growth, employment generation and welfare programmes.

By the way

Mishra is one of the government’s foremost experts on disaster management. In fact, it was because of his swift response to the Gujarat earthquake that he caught Modi’s attention.

74) Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Minister of State for Electronics and IT

Rank last year: 63

75 Rajeev Chandrasekhar (2) Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Minister of State for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship and Electronics and Information Technology of India Chandrasekhar. (Express Photo by Gajendra Yadav.)

Why

Rajeev Chandrasekhar has been instrumental in preparing drafts of key legislations like the Digital Personal Data Protection Bill, 2022 and National Data Governance Framework. He’s also played a key role in conceptualising a programme on India’s semiconductor manufacturing push.

Power Punch

Considered to be very accessible, Chandrasekhar has been a vital link between the government and industry. He has facilitated and chaired a number of meetings on several regulations and policies with representatives from both sides of the divide. He pioneered a key provision that allows for setting up government-appointed appellate committees for users of social media entities.

What Next

The key challenge is to finalise crucial legislations such as the draft Digital India Bill and the Data Protection Bill, which can significantly change the internet ecosystem in India and impact big digital businesses.

By the way

There’s a digital clock in his office, showing the number of days he has left in his current term, a reminder of how many targets that he has set for himself and needs to complete by 2024.

75) Bimal Patel, Architect, MD, HCP

Rank last year: 57

76 Bimal Patel (1) Bimal Patel, Director, HCP Design  Express Photo by Gajendra Yadav.

Why

Bimal Patel’s firm is handling important public projects, including the Central Vista revamp in New Delhi, transforming the overall landscape of the 2-km Kartavya Path from India Gate to Rashtrapati Bhavan, and the new Parliament building. It has also started work on the Rs 1,200- crore Sabarmati Ashram Redevelopment Project in Ahmedabad and completed the first phase of the Kashi Vishwanathcorridor in record time.

Power Punch

While critics called the Sabarmati Ashram project “Disneyfication”, Patel was able to get all the stakeholders on board. Similarly, the Supreme Court cleared the Central Vista Redevelopment last year after it was challenged there.

What Next

Patel has been roped in for the Master Plan of the Somnath temple in Gujarat. Other prominent projects include the Mumbai Port Complex Masterplan and the Pune Riverfront Development project.

By the way

He is writing a book on reforming urban planning in India, which, he says, “engages his intellect and creativity without having to collaborate or negotiate withother people”.

76) Kumar Mangalam Birla, Chairman, Aditya Birla Group

Rank last year: 77

 Kumar Mangalam Birla . Express Photo by Nirmal Harindran Kumar Mangalam Birla . Express Photo by Nirmal Harindran

Why

With strategic investments and acquisitions, Kumar Mangalam Birla has increased the turnover of the Aditya Birla Group by well over 30 times to $60 billion. It has operations in 36 countries across North and South America, Africa, Asia and Europe. He was ranked as the ninth-richest Indian and 106th globally by Forbes in 2022.

Power Punch

In February, the Union government cleared a long-awaited plan to convert Vodafone Idea’s interest dues worth more than Rs 16,000 crore (or $2 billion) into equity, paving the way for him to become the single largest shareholder in the cash-strapped telecom company.

What Next

The key challenge for Birla would be to expand the Vodafone Idea’s 5G coverage since both its rivals, Jio and Airtel, have stolen a march over it in terms of 5G deployment. Finding investors to inject capital into the troubled telco would also be a priority. Future-proofing the business, Birla’s three children have joined the boards of group companies.

By the way

He enjoys pistol shooting.

77) Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Congress leader in Lok Sabha

Rank last year: 73

 Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury . (PTI Photo/Arun Sharma) Congress MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury . (PTI Photo/Arun Sharma)

Why

If the much depleted Congress punches above its weight in the Lok Sabha, it is largely because of Chowdhury’s firepower. As the party’s leader in the Lok Sabha, he is the Opposition’s voice in high-powered committees headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which select the CBI Director, Central Vigilance Commissioner, Chief Information Commissioner, Chairman and members of the NHRC and the Lokpal. A loyalist of the Nehru-Gandhi family, Chowdhury is president of the West Bengal Congress, member of the Congress Working Committee and chairman of the all-important Public Accounts Committee of Parliament.

Power Punch

Chowdhury led the Congress to victory in the Sagardighi Assembly by-election, a blow to Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Mamata Banerjee. What Next With the expected organisational reshuffle in the Congress, the big question is if he will be able to hold on to key party positions.

By the way

He is deeply interested in football and cricket and never misses the sports pages in newspapers.

78) Shashi Tharoor, Congress leader, author

Rank last year: Not on list

79 Shashi Tharoor 02 Congress MP Shashi Tharoor . Express photo by Renuka Puri.

Why

An erudite politician, his standing within and outside the Congress rose after he decided to contest the party’s presidential election against the leadership-endorsed candidate Mallikarjun Kharge on his own steam. Tharoor proved that he is not a pushover and that there is more to him than being a suave and articulate Lok Sabha MP with an influential social-media presence and a gift of words. His ideas to revive the Congress found such resonance that the Congress high command will find it difficult to disregard him from now on.

Power Punch

He was always the underdog but Tharoor managed to garner more votes than heavyweights Sharad Pawar and Rajesh Pilot did when they contested the Congress presidential election in 1997 and Jitendra Prasada, when he pitted himself against Sonia Gandhi in 2000.

What Next

His increased engagements and political activities in Kerala have shaken and stirred Congress politics there.

By the way

A cricket buff, Tharoor catches up on highlights of cricket matches while on the treadmill.

79) Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu, Chief Minister, Himachal Pradesh

Rank last year: Not on list

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu . (Express Photo by Gajendra Yadav.) Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Sukhvinder Singh Sukhu . (Express Photo by Gajendra Yadav.)

Why

He worked his way up in the party and helped the Congress win a tightly contested election in Himachal Pradesh. With more than one party aspirant for the chief ministerial chair, Sukhwinder Singh Sukhu got the support of most MLAs. Despite intra-party rumblings, he stood by his commitment to development and public welfare.

Power Punch

He kept his promise of re-introducing the Old Pension Scheme (OPS) besides other social welfare policies. Sukhu has effectively sent out a message of strong leadership that will not bow down to pressure.

What Next

He will be keenly watched for the kind of fiscal roadmap he draws up to implement schemes such as OPS and offer cash assistance to women. With the general elections approaching, the Congress will be looking to consolidate its hold in states it is in power.

By the way

Sukhu is a patron of cricket. In friendly matches, he is known to be an all-rounder.

80) Vasundhara Raje, Former Chief minister, Rajasthan

Rank last year: Not on list

81 Vasundhara Raje (1) Vasundhara Raje .( Express Photo by Rohit Jain Paras).

Why

The two-time former chief minister remains the BJP’s tallest leader in Rajasthan. Although she has been challenged by multiple leaders in her own party, Vasundhara Raje, who is now her party’s national vice-president, has demonstrated that she is the best bet to bring it back to power. In 2013, the BJP got 163 seats in the 200-member Assembly, a record that still holds.

Power Punch

She has made herself relevant with her MLA supporters and outfits like the Vasundhara Raje Samarthak Manch campaigning that she be the BJP’s face in the state. Her rally this month, that tied with her birthday on March 8, was a show of great strength. Even BJP president JP Nadda reiterates the achievements of her previous two terms in party meetings while visiting the state.

What Next

Raje is hoping to be a chief ministerial candidate in the next round of Assembly elections. Question is can she inch past BJP state president Satish Poonia and Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat in the race?

By the way

Raje is known to start all her election yatras after praying at the Charbhuja temple in Rajasthan’s Rajsamand district.

81) M Jagadesh Kumar, Chairperson , University Grants Commission

Rank last year: 89

82 Jagadesh Kumar (1) Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar. (Express photo by Praveen Khanna)

Why

An acclaimed name in nanotechnology, Kumar, who hit headlines during his tumultuous tenure as vice-chancellor of the Jawaharlal Nehru University between 2016 and 2022, is one of the most influential voices in the higher education sector as chairperson of the University Grants Commission (UGC).

Power Punch

Over the last year, the UGC, led by Kumar, has been implementing major recommendations of the National Education Policy 2020, including the Common University Entrance Test (CUET) , regulations to allow foreign universities into India and IITs to expand abroad.

What Next

The power corridors are already abuzz with speculation that Kumar is tipped to be the first chief of the proposed Higher Education Commission of India (HECI), which will subsume the UGC and AICTE, which is also envisaged in the NEP, 2020.

By the way

A fitness freak, Kumar is an avid cyclist, so much so that in 2013, he had published a paper in the reputed journal IETE Technical Review on the benefits of cycling.

82) Asaduddin Owaisi, President, All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM)

Rank last year: 62

83 Owaisi (2) Asaduddin Owaisi.  Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal

Why

Asaduddin Owaisi has emerged as the most influential Muslim leader and, in the absence of a cogent Opposition, is building a pan-India appeal. His party has branched out into other states and notched up wins in the Assembly and local bodies elections. He remains the undisputed leader of the AIMIM and undefeated in the Hyderabad Lok Sabha constituency.

Power Punch

Under Owaisi’s leadership, the party has entered the electoral fray in Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, UP, Bihar and Tamil Nadu. It has won the Aurangabad Lok Sabha seat in Maharashtra, five Assembly seats in Bihar and two in Maharashtra. However, what’s significant is the way AIMIM has made inroads into local bodies, winning ward seats in Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and the municipalities of Modasa, Godhra and Bharuch in Gujarat.

What Next

With Owaisi strengthening the AIMIM at the grassroots level, it will be part of the alliance of like-minded parties as proposed by Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao for 2024.

By the way

Owaisi is very active on social media, issuing statements including strong counters to the PM and other BJP leaders

83) Rohit Sharma, India cricket captain

Rank last year: 69

Team India's practice session in Mohali Rohit Sharma. PTI Photo by Manvender Vashist (PTI12_12_2017_000091A)

Why

Under Rohit Sharma’s leadership, the Indian team was ranked No.1 in all formats of the game. Having led the team to the semifinals of the T20 World Cup in Australia in 2022, he is the most successful IPL captain till date and remains one of the game’s most flamboyant openers. He is adept at adjusting to the requirements of various formats, situations and conditions. Be it grooming youngsters and giving a long rope to experienced players, Sharma has brought stability and a sense of security among players.

Power Punch

Under his captaincy, Mumbai Indians have become the most dominant IPL franchise and have provided Indian cricket with stars such as Jasprit Bumrah and Hardik Pandya. His first major achievement has been booking a final spot in the World Test Championship. He has the backing of top BCCI officials and selectors and has a say in the selection of players. He stood by his predecessor Virat Kohli through the latter’s lean phase.

What Next

Sharma has a chance to win the ICC Test Championship title in June and lift the 50-over World Cup on home soil later this year. This would end India’s decade-long drought of major ICC titles since 2013.

By the way

His favourite food is dal chawal. He is a fan of the web series Entourage.

84) Akhilesh Yadav, Samajwadi Party (SP) President

Rank last year: 56

Akhilesh Yadav . (Express Photo) Akhilesh Yadav . (Express Photo)

Why

With Lok Sabha elections next year, Akhilesh Yadav is all set to be the Opposition’s face in Uttar Pradesh, which has 80 Lok Sabha seats that can tilt the outcome.

Power Punch

Despite being defeated in the Assembly elections in 2022, Yadav took the bold step of giving up his parliamentary seat of Azamgarh to become the Leader of Opposition in the Vidhan Sabha — a message to the SP cadre that he was willing to take on Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath in the House. After the death of party patron and father Mulayam Singh Yadav, he made peace with estranged uncle Shivpal Yadav, who is expected to play a crucial role in rejuvenating the cadre base at the grassroots.

He even met Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee, hoping to form a front of regional parties to take on the BJP in 2024. He believes in equidistancing himself from both the BJP and the Congress and focussing on reclaiming his lost voter base.

What Next

The SP hopes to launch a spirited campaign for a caste census and hopes it resonates with voters in a state where caste politics continues to be a decider.

By the way

He has a deep interest in plants and can identify many species.

85) Dr Prathap C Reddy, Founder-chairman, Apollo Hospitals

Rank last year: Not on list

86 Dr Prathap-C-Reddy Dr Prathap C Reddy . (FILE)

Why

He had the first-mover advantage when he decided to set up a private healthcare chain in 1983. Since then, he has built a chain of hospitals to make international quality healthcare accessible, a template followed by other hospital chains. Dr Reddy used technology to take healthcare to remote areas, beginning with the world’s first V-SAT-enabled remote village in Andhra Pradesh. And just when others got into the game, he extended his business to the hinterland, taking high-quality healthcare to semi-urban and rural geographies.

Power Punch

As a cardiologist, he realised that Indians are more prone to heart diseases compared to other Asians. His Billion Hearts Beating Foundation envisages a module for Indians to stay heart-healthy. Apollo 24X7 clinics and drug stores are now in every neighbourhood.

What Next

The group will be using Artificial Intelligence in a big way and launch AI-based personal health management programmes.

By the Way 

He loves horses and is seen at the Madras Race Club during racing season.

86) Nandan Nilekani, Non-executive Chairman, Infosys

Rank last year: 87

Nandan Nilekani Nandan Nilekani

Why

Nandan Nilekani, who co-founded Infosys in 1981, has successfully executed projects both in the public and private sectors. In 2009, he became Chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India and was instrumental in the roll-out of Aadhaar.

Power Punch

From Aadhaar, eKYC, eSignatures, DigiLocker, UPI, to the new digital public infrastructure like the Account Aggregator system, Nilekani has been advocating technology-based governance delivery systems. The government has sought him out to deliver several initiatives under the Digital India scheme.

What Next

Nilekani has evangelised the Beckn protocol, which is an open source protocol to enable decentralised digital commerce and is at the backend of the Centre-backed Open Network for Digital Commerce (ONDC), which is being developed as an alternative to the duopoly of Amazon and Flipkart in India’s e-commerce market. His challenge will be to scale ONDC, dubbed as the e-commerce moment of UPI.

By the way

He got his first smartphone at 55.

87) Amitabh Bachchan, actor

Rank last year: Not on list

Amitabh Bachchan Amitabh Bachchan

Why

The ‘OG’ of Indian cinema had multiple screen outings last year. Prominent among them were Jhund, Brahmastra and Uunchai. They received both commercial and critical successes reiterating the fact that Bachchan remains a crowd-puller nearly 50 years since he grabbed public attention as ‘the angry young man’.

Power Punch

Bachchan rarely speaks at public forums on contemporary issues but when he does, people sit up and take notice. When he spoke at the inauguration ceremony of the 28th Kolkata International Film Festival in December, it drew much appreciation and began conversations around free speech. Speaking about Indian cinema’s tryst with censorship, he said that “questions are being raised on civil liberties and freedom of expression.”

What Next

The veteran actor, who is currently nursing an injury suffered during the shooting of Project K, has been working on a bunch of interesting projects. He will be seen next in Ganapath, Taalismaan and Ghoomer.

By the way

He eats only vegetarian food, and has given up sweets, rice and paan.

88) Mehbooba Mufti, J&K Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief

Rank last year: 79

Mehbooba Mufti Mehbooba Mufti

Why

Even as most Kashmir-based parties are going through a lean phase, and with most of PDP’s own top leaders gravitating towards pro-New Delhi parties, Mehbooba Mufti is emerging as the lone voice of dissent against the Centre’s Kashmir policy. From bigger issues like the abrogation of Article 370 to local issues like corruption and demolition drives, she reflects the concerns of common Kashmiris that has helped her grow in stature.

Power Punch

She doesn’t hesitate to take up controversial issues on which most of the Valley’s mainstream political leaders have remained silent. Recently, she visited the Navagraha temple in Poonch and offered water to the shivling there, proudly claiming she was acting as a citizen of a nation that follows “Ganga Jamuni tehzeeb” and that religion was a deeply personal matter — chastising zealots on both sides in the process.

What Next

With Assembly elections expected any time this year, the biggest challenge for Mufti is to revive her party that has seen a vertical split, find credible leaders to replace the defectors and prove that she is still worthy of a fight.

By the way

With four cats at home, Mehbooba Mufti is a keen follower of cat reels on Instagram.

89) Farooq Abdullah, president, J&K National Conference

Rank last year: Not on list

Farooq Abdullah Farooq Abdullah

Why

The National Conference (NC) president may be at the fag end of his career but as a traditional political leader, he is still seen as the voice of Kashmiris, one which he is careful to nurture and champion. This is why he has cobbled an alliance with other mainstream political parties in the Valley, including NC’s arch rival, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Power Punch

At 85, when most political leaders retire from public life, Abdullah is still a charismatic leader, who can draw crowds. While his son Omar Abdullah is waiting in the wings, it is the patriarch who dictates terms in the NC.

What Next

Abdullah has stitched up an alliance — People’s Alliance For Gupkar Declaration — to challenge the BJP electorally but it would be tough for him to keep the alliance intact till the Assembly elections, which the Centre says are around the corner. While he pledged that the all-party front would contest elections jointly, dissent came from his own party. Can he counter the BJP narrative and wrest political power?

By the way

His favourite dish is marchawangun qorma (mirchi qorma), a delicacy in Kashmiri wazwan.

90) TV Somanathan, Finance and Expenditure Secretary

Rank last year: 76

T V Somanathan T V Somanathan (File)

Why

As the seniormost secretary among the five secretaries in the Finance Ministry, Somanathan is one of the most influential of bureaucrats. He has been instrumental in the government’s continued push for capital expenditure to incentivise growth and reforms in public sector enterprises. He has quietly pushed policy changes that ensured elimination of hidden subsidies and efficiency in expenditure management. This has restored credibility in budget estimates. Somanathan has helped design a number of PLI (Productivity-Linked Incentive) schemes.

Power Punch

With the intent of sticking to fiscal consolidation and keeping the growth momentum intact, he has kept a tab on expenditure and shunned fiscal profligacy in the Budget despite it being a pre-election year.

What Next

With the global slowdown expected to have a spillover effect, through weak export and consumption demand amid a high interest rate cycle, he will have to do a balancing act of sticking to fiscal targets and undertake more spending to push the economy towards a higher growth path.

By the way

He’s an avid tennis player but Covid restrictions halted his visits to sports facilities. He is yet to resume his games.

91) Sajjan Jindal, Chairman, JSW Group

Rank last year: Not on list

Sajjan Jindal Sajjan Jindal

Why

Steel magnate Sajjan Jindal started his career in 1982 by looking after the steel manufacturing of the OP Jindal Group in the western region. He is now heading JSW Steel – the country’s largest steel player — beating a Goliath called Tata Steel. JSW Steel is the flagship business of the diversified $22 billion JSW Group.

Power Punch

Under Jindal’s stewardship, the JSW Group has expanded to different core sectors of the economy, such as steel, power, infrastructure-building and cement. The group runs some of the most energy-efficient and eco-friendly manufacturing facilities in the country. He was the first to introduce the Corex technology instead of a blast furnace to produce hot metal in India.

What Next

Over the last three decades, JSW Steel has grown from a single manufacturing unit to become the country’s leading integrated steel company with a capacity of 27 MTPA. Jindal’s next phase of growth is to take JSW Steel’s total capacity to 37 MTPA by FY25. JSW Energy Limited is building a significant renewable energy portfolio.

By the way

A fitness enthusiast, he is known to have done a dead lift of 110 kg at the gym.

92) V Anantha Nageswaran, Chief Economic Adviser (CEA)

Rank last year: Not on list

V Anantha Nageswaran Chief Economic Advisor (CEA) V Anantha Nageswaran in a press conference. (Express Photo By Amit Mehra/File)

Why

Holding a doctoral degree from the University of Massachusetts, Nageswaran has donned many roles as an economist, author, teacher and consultant. As CEA, he plays a key role in bringing out the Economic Survey, which he calls the master document to take stock of the economy.

Power Punch

His appointment as CEA came just two days before the presentation of the Economic Survey on January 31 last year. He had earlier been a part-time member of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister between 2019 and 2021.

What Next

With some developed nations witnessing a banking crisis in the making, he has his task cut out for persisting with capital expenditure and reforms for India amid growing external headwinds.

By the way

He has co-authored four books on topics ranging from the rise of financialisation to derivatives. Two of these books were co-authored with his now Finance Ministry colleague, Finance Secretary TV Somanathan.

93) Pushkar Singh Dhami, Chief Minister, Uttarakhand

Rank last year: 84

Pushkar Singh Dhami Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami

Why

Even after losing to Congress candidate Bhuwan Chandra Kapri from the Khatima seat in the 2022 Assembly elections, Pushkar Singh Dhami got re-elected as the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand with the BJP winning 47 seats in the 70-member House. Clearly his non-controversial image, unlike that of his predecessors, held him in good stead among the BJP top leadership.

Power Punch

Despite being attacked by the Opposition on irregularities in recruitment exams to state services, the Ankita Bhandari murder case and the messy handling of the Joshimath land subsidence in his second term, Dhami made up with some quick corrective action in all these issues.

What Next

With Joshimath residents in need of large-scale relocation, Dhami will be facing a major challenge in the next few months. With similar reports of land slips in other parts of the state too, a successful Chardham yatra will be another major challenge. Dhami’s test is in balancing ecology with development.

By the way

Dhami is a good cricket and badminton player.

94) Suman Bery, Vice Chairperson, Niti Aayog

Rank last year: Not on list

Suman Bery Suman Bery

Why

Having had a decade-long career across multiple sectors, Suman Bery brings a wide range of insights to the government think-tank on policy issues. A former director-general of the National Council of Applied Economic Research (NCAER), he has served as a member of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council, the Reserve Bank of India’s Technical Advisory Committee and the National Statistical Commission.

Power Punch

Bery left the World Bank when India’s economy opened up following liberalisation in 1991 and as a special consultant to the RBI between 1992 and 1994, advised its officials on financial sector policy, institutional reform, market development and regulations.

What Next

Bery is in the thick of things at NITI Aayog at a time when the relationship between the Centre and Opposition-ruled state governments has soured. Given that the Aayog has, in the past, been an advocate of increased private-sector participation, Bery will have to play a balancing act to ensure that states are on board for the Centre’s privatisation measures.

By the way

He is a food and wine connoisseur.

95) SS Rajamouli, Filmmaker

Rank last year: Not on list

SS Rajamouli SS Rajamouli

Why

The global success of RRR (Rise, Roar, Revolt), which won the 2023 Academy Award for Best Original Song, has not only made SS Rajamouli one of the country’s most prominent filmmakers, it has also pushed Brand India in the global pop-culture space. Legitimising Indian sensibility and an epic scale, it has spurred speculation that he could even direct a venture in the Marvel multiverse.

Power Punch

Although RRR was snubbed as India’s official selection for the Oscars, Rajamouli pushed it for nomination in 14 categories. Eventually, the film’s song, Naatu Naatu, bagged the Oscar entry for Best Original Song. He also picked up multiple international awards, including the Golden Globe Award for Best Song, five Hollywood Critics Association Awards and two Critics’ Choice Movie Awards.

What Next

Rajamouli’s next, titled SSMB29, is an ambitious action-adventure film along the lines of Indiana Jones with Mahesh Babu in the lead. A sequel to RRR is on the cards. And, with the kind of attention he has got, may be a film with a Hollywood studio.

By the way

Ben Hur is Rajamouli’s all-time favourite film and he has watched it more than 20 times.

96) Fali Nariman, Constitutional jurist

Rank last year: 81

Fali Nariman Fali Nariman at The Indian Express Idea Exchange in New Delhi. (Express Photo by Tashi Tobgyal)

Why

Despite the fewer appearances in courtrooms, Fali Nariman is still regarded as the conscience-keeper of the judiciary. At a time when the executive and judiciary are at loggerheads over judicial appointments and the application of the basic structure doctrine to strike down executive action, Nariman is a trusted voice of reason.

Power Punch

Nariman is appearing in the case challenging the practice of excommunication in the Dawoodi Bohra community. He has also been persistent with his argument that “courts are empowered under our Constitution to invalidate not only executive orders, but also legislative enactments that violate any part of the Fundamental Rights guaranteed in Part III of the Constitution (Bill of Rights).”

What Next

Given his experience, Nariman’s informed views will be crucial in shaping conversations, both inside and outsidethe courtroom.

By the way

Nariman and his family walked from Burma to the Indian border during World War II, to escape Japanese occupation of Burma.

97) Deepika Padukone, Actor, producer, entrepreneur, brand ambassador

Rank last year: Not on list

Deepika Padukone Deepika Padukone (Instagram)

Why

With the huge success of Pathaan, the top-grossing Hindi film of all time, and Hollywood courting her, Deepika Padukone has emerged as a bonafide action star. She is currently the global ambassador for luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Levi’s and Adidas. She also turned producer in 2020 and co-founded self-care brand 82°E, besides creating mental-health awareness through her foundation.

Power Punch

Padukone has had her best international exposure yet. She was jury member at the 75th Cannes Film Festival and unveiled the golden FIFA World Cup trophy in Qatar. But it was as an Oscar presenter, introducing the award-winning song Naatu Naatu, that she won millions of hearts with her poise, dimpled smile and classic Louis Vuitton black gown.

What Next

She is part of ambitious film projects like Fighter with Hrithik Roshan and Project K with Prabhas. She will join Rohit Shetty’s cop universe in Singham Again. She is likely to be cast opposite Mahesh Babu in SS Rajamouli’s next film.

By the way

She has a tattoo of her company logo.

98) Yusuffali MA, Chairman, Lulu Group

Rank last year: Not on list

Yusuffali Yusuffali M A, Chairman and MD of Lulu group, with Karnataka Chief Minister Basavaraj Bommai. (Express Photo)

Why

Yusuffali MA is the richest man from Kerala and the greatest success story of an expatriate in West Asia. The retail king operates in over 20 countries across West Asia, South Asia, the US and Europe, and has an annual turnover of around $8 billion.

Power Punch

Yusuffali is a powerful link between the rulers of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and India. A businessman known to have connections with all parties, he is also a benefactor for numerous initiatives. His interventions brought relief for hundreds of expatriates in West Asia. In April 2020, a member of Abu Dhabi’s royal family reportedly acquired a 20 per cent stake in LuLu for $1 billion, according to Forbes.

What Next

India is now a major destination in the Lulu group’s expansion plan. He has lined up shopping malls, hyper markets from Kerala to Srinagar and high-end hotels in various states. He has signed an MoU with the UP government for Rs 4,500 crore to set up outlets in Noida, Varanasi, Gorakhpur, Ayodhya, Kanpur and Prayagraj. Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan described him as the state’s unofficial ambassador.

By the way

The 2008 Padma Shri recipient is known to love rare models of luxury cars.

99) Alia Bhatt, Actor, producer, entrepreneur

Rank last year: 97

Alia Bhatt Alia Bhatt (Instagram)

Why

Alia Bhatt was the Hindi film industry’s most bankable and versatile actor, delivering three major hits in different genres with Gangubai Kathiawadi, Darlings and Brahmastra. She walked away with accolades for her powerful performance in Gangubai Kathiawadi as a sex-worker, and as a victim of domestic abuse in Darlings, which she co-produced. She launched Ed-a-Mamma, a clothing brand for children. Amid all this, she married actor Ranbir Kapoor and gave birth to their daughter Raha.

Power Punch

Despite the post-pandemic lull in film theatres, Gangubai Kathiawadi — directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali — pulled the crowd back to the halls. Darlings, which is streaming on Netflix, became the highest-viewed non-English Indian original film. Bhatt supports the cause of homeless animals.

What Next

Bhatt will appear alongside Israeli actress Gal Gadot in the highly anticipated American spy action thriller, Heart of Stone, directed by Tom Harper. In July, she has the Karan Johar-directed romantic comedy, Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani, up for release.

By the way

Bhatt’s company Ed-A-Mamma is named after her cat, Edward.

100) Ranveer Singh, Actor, brand ambassador

Rank last year: Not on list

Ranveer Singh Ranveer Singh (Photo: Instagram)

Why

The flamboyant actor, who is the brand ambassador for the NBA in India, knows how to take compliments as well as criticism in his stride. In the new Pepsi commercial, Ranveer Singh debunks all the criticism he has been facing for his choices. Even though his last few films — Cirkus, Jayeshbhai Jordaar and 83 — have not been commercial successes, he has cemented his reputation as a versatile actor who doesn’t hesitate to take risks. That’s the reason why his onscreen characters leave an imprint.

Power Punch

Singh showed that he is comfortable in his own skin and with his vulnerability with his nude photoshoot for Paper magazine. The photos sparked a controversy with police complaints registered against him but he held his own.

What Next

Singh’s next release is the Karan Johar-directed Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani with Alia Bhatt. He is likely to start shooting for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Baiju Bawra soon. The actor is likely to collaborate with director S Shankar for a grand pan-India trilogy based on the Tamil epic novel Velpari.

By the way

He has a collection of bunny slippers.

Since you are here, check out our previous IE100 lists:

👉🏽 IE100 2021: In 2021, well before the Hindenburg storm, Gautam Adani moved up to rank 10 on the list. Meanwhile, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval stood at rank 6.👉🏽 IE100 2019: Reliance Industries CMD Mukesh Ambani moved up to rank 10 in 2019.👉🏽 IE100 2018:Congress leader Sonia Gandhi made it to the top 10 in 2018. 

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