Who Are UPA'S 10 Most Powerful People?
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Who are UPA's 10 Most Powerful People?

 
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Power lists are always a contentious affair. Rating the country's finest sportspersons, richest businessmen or blockbuster filmstars is relatively easy. But, as with beauty, measuring power is a minefield of subjectivity. And when it comes to a power list of politicians and bureaucrats, it can get really slippery. There are those who love to flaunt the trappings even when they lack the real thing, and those who control the levers while staying in the shadows.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee
At 74, Pranab babu brings not just political wisdom but much-needed ballast to the UPA government. He is trouble-shooter-in-chief, repository of institutional memory, respected strategist, and for all practical purposes, the No. 2 man after Manmohan. At the end of almost every Cabinet meeting, the PM turns to Mukherjee for his views.

Home Minister P Chidambaram
Chidambaram was drafted into government by a Rajiv Gandhi eager to induct a new crop of professionals to break the stranglehold of old "power-brokers" on the party. Several assignments and a rich haul of experience later, the 64-year-old minister has earned his spurs as a deft trouble-shooter after his handling of the food-for-oil scam which splattered Natwar Singh, then foreign minister, as an alleged beneficiary of Saddam Hussain's largesse.

Railway Minister Mamata Banerjee
Impulsive, impossible - but to her legion of followers in West Bengal, inspirational. That's 54-year-old Mamata Banerjee - one of the mavericks of Indian politics, and remarkably enough, for all her whimsical ways, the future leader of "intellectual" West Bengal. The dichotomy is resolved if you see her for the person she is - upfront to the point of being in your face, without lipstick or foundation or a trace of guile. What you see is what you get, which makes the little firebrand endearing, never mind the warts.




Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh
Beyond ministries, Jairam has many uses - one of them is being a key associate of Rahul Gandhi. Jairam is not just a policy wonk, he's an implementer who can blend policy making with political compulsions. He was one of the key people behind the winning aam admi Congress campaign of 2004. His inputs are sought for the speeches of both Sonia Gandhi and Rahul.

Commerce Minister Anand Sharma
When Anand Sharma was named a Cabinet minister in UPA-2 , jaws hit the floor. Today, Sharma has a very serious assignment - to navigate India through the choppy waters of WTO. What's the secret of the rise and rise of this 56-year-old Rajya Sabha member from Himachal Pradesh?

Political Secretary To Congress President Ahmed Patel
He is the ultimate insider - unswervingly loyal and ever alert to the dangers of the spotlight. He sleeps four hours a day - between 2 am and 6 am - and when he does, he probably dreams of politics. He gives honest advice when it is solicited and is nothing if not discreet. Knife-sharp, he is an astute judge of people and situations, carries complicated messages and delivers them to the right people with the right nuance. No wonder then, that the 60-year-old Ahmed Patel is widely regarded as the most influential person in UPA-2 after Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh.

Defence Minister A K Antony
Everyone in the Congress knows Antonyji is important. But only Cabinet members know how important. Ironically, for someone who gained national prominence by defying Indira Gandhi in the Emergency, the 69-year-old minister is now known to be terminally loyal to the High Command. He rarely speaks at Cabinet meetings, but when he does - in his understated style - everyone listens. He is his master's voice, and to defer is wise. So, when he sounds downbeat about a proposal, people quickly lose enthusiasm for it.

Digvijay Singh, Congress General Secretary
Digvijay Singh is a quiet charmer. With his canny political sense, feel for the grassroots, clear articulation - both in English and Hindi - and winning smile, this former Rajput royal from the principality of Raghogarh in Madhya Pradesh's Guna district, has clawed his way back from political ground zero. He seemed to be down and out after the 2003 drubbing when the Congress, under his leadership, was reduced to 37 seats in an assembly of 230 in MP, but has re-emerged as one of the key political generals of UPA-2.

M K Narayanan, National Security Advisor

When Mayankote Kelath Narayanan took over as National Security Adviser (NSA) three weeks after J N Dixit's death in January 2005, many policy pundits shook their heads in disbelief. This was not a job for spooks, they said, only those with hands-on foreign policy experience (like Dixit and his predecessor Brajesh Mishra) could truly appreciate the intricacies of world politics and the myriad threat perceptions emerging from an imperfect world. Mike - as Narayanan is called by some friends - may be a great officer, they said, but his exposure was limited to the Intelligence Bureau.

T K A Nair, Principal Secretary to PM
Nair, 70, is not flamboyant like some big babus of the PMO have been in the past. But he's better than many of them when it comes to delivering results, often rolling up his sleeves and getting into the micro-management of things. When the PM is on an overseas tour, and every important sarkari functionary is out with him, Nair often stays home to hold the fort. He keeps a low profile, leaving the more outgoing NSA to deal with the press.


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