He was anointed the BJP’s prime ministerial face for 2014 in spite of severe opposition from party patriarch L K Advani and his followers. His subsequent rallies have generated immense crowds as he traverses state after state challenging the Congress party and Rahul Gandhi. He has been able to quell all opposition within the party for now with the help of powerful backers including those in the RSS. Despite the 2002 riots, many senior Muslim clerics are endorsing his campaign. He has turned development into a political catchphrase being adopted by other leaders. His aggressive style and combative public speeches are polarising the agenda. He emerged as the most searched Indian politician on Google, and topped Twitter trends too. He invoked Sardar Patel’s legacy to counter the Gandhi clan, laying the foundation stone for a 600-foot-tall Statue of Unity depicting the late leader. He has impressed industry with success stories in his state.
Arvind Kejriwal: Giant Killer of the Year
As a rank outsider launched into public life by Anna Hazare, Kejriwal’s political ambitions led him to form Aam Aadmi Party which tapped the anger against the Congress party and gave it 28 seats out of 70 in the Delhi Assembly. He was the giant killer of the election; defeating three time chief minister Sheila Dikshit by 22,000 votes. With his MLAs, he holds the key to power in the state. His rivals fear that AAP would become a nationwide phenomenon, threatening to upset existing political equations. Taking the plunge to form the government in Delhi, Kejriwal said the opinion of the people who participated in the referendum process was overwhelming in favour of formation of the government in Delhi. Thus, respecting this message, AAP has decided to form the government. He thanked the people for their faith and support, adding that he looked forward to their continued support. Requested that his oath-taking ceremony be held at Delhi’s massive Ramlila grounds, from where his one-time mentor Anna Hazare and he had launched their anti-corruption campaign in 2011.
P Chidambaram: Deficit Buster
At a time when the business community in India and abroad started writing the epitaph of the Indian Economy in 2013, the Harvard-educated corporate lawyer-turned-politician chose to ignore the naysayers. Despite Indian economy rolling down from 8 per cent growth rate to barely 4 per cent and besieged with problems of high inflation, high interest rates deterring investment and high twin deficits—fiscal and current account—Chidambaram through his innovative policy interventions helped lower the current account deficit from a whopping $100 billion to $70 billion now. His series of lectures in India and other developed nations to hardsell India at a global platform helped the business community alter its views about India. With less than half a year to go before India goes to polls, Chidambaram has also been successful in pulling India out of the ratings abyss.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan: Farmer’s Son Also Rises
While Narendra Modi is about high octave speeches and high-tech rallies, the 54-year-old Chouhan’s soft spoken ‘people friendly’ approach won him a third term as CM of Madhya Pradesh by bettering his previous number with 165 MLAs. The “tea vendor’s son” may have to contend with the “farmer’s son”, who won flying the development banner—one hitherto claimed to be an exclusive Modi totem. Under Chouhan, the state achieved an average annual economic growth of 10 per cent over the past five years on the back of an unprecedented agriculture boom—18 per cent last year, the country’s highest. The fact that 10 ministers of Chouhan’s last cabinet lost, proves the strong anti-incumbency the BJP was up against. Chouhan, ever since he assumed charge in 2005, has focused on women voters by introducing women incentive schemes. The CM’s pro-girl child image, numerous schemes that he launched for the girls, including Ladli Laxmi Yojana, Mukhyamantri Kanyadan Yojana, made him popular among women voters. In the 2013 elections, the state also witnessed the highest ever female participation with close to 70 per cent of the 2.2 crore female voters coming out to vote.
Anand Sharma: Master Negotiator
The Union minister who played the role of sheet anchor during times of slowdown. Be it his successful negotiations at the Bali Ministerial Conference of WTO where he protected India’s legitimate concerns on Food Security, or drafting the new Foreign Direct Investment policy to attract overseas investments to put Indian economy back on growth trajectory or dispelling “half truths” being spread by international institutions, Sharma dealt with them with the finesse of a surgeon. His initiative saw international business houses agreeing to venture into India. Despite adverse business environment, he successfully positioned India as a business destination which still has a lot of room.
Once India’s hero of economic reforms, he finished his last year as PM in economic, political and foreign policy disgrace. The rupee fell to its worst ever at 68.80 to a dollar, inflation was up to 7.25 per cent and prices went stratospheric. Policy paralysis and industrial decline defined Singh’s 2013. As demands for him to make way for Rahul Gandhi increased, he was left holding an eroding fort, isolated within the party and government. After Congress lost four states, Sonia Gandhi indicated that a new PM face would lead the party in 2014. In New York, though Sharif called Singh a dehati aurat, he continued peace talks. By cancelling his CHOGM visit, he showed his weakness, dictated to by regional parties.
Sharad Pawar : Food Price War
Food inflation cost the Congress a drubbing in the recently held Assembly elections. And the person in the eye of the storm is Sharad Pawar, Union minister for agriculture. Despite all assurances, Pawar has not been able to control spiralling food prices which scaled new heights prior to the polls. Pawar did not have an explanation. Initially, he blamed the price rise on shortage of supply. However, this argument was withdrawn after experts said food production had fallen only by 4 per cent whereas prices had gone up by 600 per cent in various markets.
Asarm Bapu : Unholy Nexus
The father of all controversial godmen, Asaram Bapu, landed in jail after several encounters with the law and media. On September 1, he was arrested for sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl at his ashram in Jodhpur on the pretext of exorcising her from evil spirits. After his arrest, skeletons kept tumbling out of the closet. Soon his son Narayan Sai was arrested for allegedly raping a woman in his father’s ashram at Surat. Two sisters have accused his father and him of raping them at separate ashrams in Gujarat between 1997 and 2006. Meanwhile, Surat police plans to question Asaram whom it suspects had a role in the conspiracy to bribe police and other institutions to weaken the case against Sai. The police stumbled upon a bribery racket of `13 crore. Asaram’s wife and daughter were also arrested, and they reportedly admitted that they supplied girls to Asaram. The mother and daughter were later released on bail.
Mayawati:Nothing to Trumpet About
The former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and BSP chief suffered a setback as her party’s popularity nosedived in the four Hindi belt states which went to polls recently. At the national level, Mayawati may have emerged as a reliable partner for Sonia Gandhi with her unwavering support on crucial issues, but back in UP she is struggling to get winnable faces for 2014. She failed to get the reservation in promotion Bill passed in Parliament.