Forbes ‘most powerful’ list and the Indian connection

November 13, 2009

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is among four Indians who share space with U.S. President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao on the Forbes 2009 list of the World’s Most Powerful People.

Those who dominate the list were chosen based on the number of people they influence, their ability to project power beyond their immediate sphere of influence and their control of financial resources.

For Singh, a self-effacing economist who led a resurgent Congress Party to a landslide victory in the general election this year, the accolade is a reflection of how far he has come since his name was proposed as an obvious choice for the post of Prime Minister.

The Congress’ showing in the recent assembly elections in Maharashtra, Haryana and Arunachal Pradesh had set the trend for its performance in subsequent by-elections where it won 10 of the 31 seats contested.

The message was clear. Independent of the shackles of its communist allies, the party led by Singh (placed 36th on the Forbes list) is now free to aggressively push much-needed reforms.

Under Singh, the Indian economy grew at the rate of 6.7 percent in 2008/09 despite inadequate monsoons and a global slowdown.

Singh assured investors at the World Economic Forum of a seven percent growth next year and a medium term objective of achieving a growth rate of 9 percent per annum as the economic downturn shows signs of reversing.

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani is placed 44th on the Forbes list followed by steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal at 55th and Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata at the 59th spots.

With a net worth pegged at $19.5 billion by Forbes magazine earlier this year, Ambani is thought to be Asia’s richest man.

Forbes says the “ranking is intended to be the beginning of a conversation, not the final word,” but interestingly, some of the names on its power list have strong India connections in their own unusual ways.

Dawood Ibrahim, wanted in connection with the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, ranks 50th on the list and is described as “boss of Mumbai-based organised crime syndicate D-Company.”

Tibetan spiritual leader in exile and Nobel laureate the Dalai Lama (39) fled Tibet to India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule.

Powerful and influential Indians have often made the Forbes lists. Congress president Sonia Gandhi has appeared on its 100 most powerful women’s list.

From autocrats to multi-billionaires, Forbes judges power based on its own varied criteria. It throws open the question of who has missed its list and deserved to be there.

Is a militant more powerful than the Pope?

But does the common man care beyond his three daily meals? How much bearing does it have on their lives?


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Well, at the very least there are 2 Indians in the Top 10 of Global Billionaires. They should be greatful to M. Singh’s reforms that allowed them to pursue their riches.Its still a pity that despite Mumbai also being a billionaire city we are going to be slow at eradicating poverty in India. Such as shame that the govt has to spend more in defending our borders.

Posted by bulletfish | Report as abusive

Indian population is still growing and shall surpass that of China in 6 to 8 years’ time, whilst China is stuck with 1.3 billion people for the past 10 years. So it is not surprising Indian PM shall be the most powerful man in terms of the number of people he influences over the next decade.

Posted by Joyce | Report as abusive

Am a bit surprised Sonia Gandhi is not on the list. And why have a separate ‘most powerful women’ list anyway?

Posted by Toe Knee | Report as abusive

well Sonia Gandhi is not in the list, and they were forced to have a separate list of “most powerful women” because that was the only way to get her to 100th in the list, by the way there are only 30 ladies in the list.

Posted by naren | Report as abusive

The real surprise was definitely Dawood in that list. Especially ahead Ratan Tata and Mittal. The Mumbai underworld has layed low for the past few years. The impact and power has definitely reduced from a few years back.Was Dawood there in any previous list? Coz he is probably at his least powerful position now, atleast taking the last 5-10 years into account.

Posted by Alan | Report as abusive

Clear victory of congress in the last general election is a welcome surprise, in case you believed the psephologist, but it can barely be called a landslide. Mr Singh certainly deserves the credit for the running a smooth government against all challenges, without tireless campaign of Sonia and Rahul not sure he could alone lead the party to a majority. Manmohan sticks to his domain expertise (and excels) and may be thats why he is still behind so many leaders in this list in spite of being PM of second most populous country with second fastest GDP growth rate among big countries.Is he more infulential than Osama Bin Laden ?Forbes ‘most powerful’ list has a few surprises. Mr Berlusconi’s position in number 12 can be debated. Granted his country houses Ferrari and Lamborgini, but he has been in news for all the wrong reasons. Is he more powerful than Angela Merkel or Warren Buffet ?Kim Jong Il is in 24th position. Is Gaddafi losing power as he became more benevolent dictator ?

Posted by Rex | Report as abusive

Rituparna,You are right in stating that the common man is not concerned whether there are 2 or more billionaires in Forbes list , he is more concerned in getting his 3 square meals and security to his life and property. In India, whether we achieve 6% growth, or more, children are still begging on the street, illegal employment of children in India is rampant, this is national shame . The presence of so many criminals as politicians and bureaucrats in New delhi, has already made delhi as a crime capital of the country, of late the crime is affecting the common man. Successive govts in India have failed to solve various issues concerning common man , as such for him it is not at all important whether Mukesh Ambani or anybody else or the great PM ,Man Mohan Singh now find place in the most powerful people of the world.

Posted by Manish | Report as abusive

After this result we should not speak India is a poor country because we have so many billionaire in our country.There is problem with our country a person who is poor is becoming more poorer and richer become more richer. There is inequality between person to person. We can remove poverty from our country very easily but one should step forward for this and a common can’t do this we can expect from these listed billionaires only.

Posted by Priya | Report as abusive

India has its fair share of enterprising, self-made entrepreneurs and astute well-meaning politicians, some of whom are billionaires in their own right. Most of them have blazed a trail and continue to show amazing talents. In a country with widespread disparity between the rich and the poor, these individuals have become role models with so much to offer in terms of experience, wealth and benevolence. India is growing from strength to strength but the very poor need to evolve as well.

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