India Insight

Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh slip in Forbes’ most powerful list

India’s top politicians Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh have fallen out of the top 20 in Forbes’ annual list of the world’s most powerful people.

Gandhi, leader of India’s Congress party, was No. 21 on the 2013 list, down from 12 last year. Prime Minister Singh took the 28th spot in the list, also losing nine spots since 2012.

Gandhi was ranked third among nine women in the annual list of the world’s 72 most-powerful people — one for every 100 million people on Earth — which Forbes said is based on factors ranging from wealth to global influence.

The Forbes ranking found four heads of state occupying the top five spots among the world’s most powerful people. Russian President Vladimir Putin bumped American counterpart Barack Obama from the No. 1 spot. China’s president Xi Jinping, Pope Francis and German Chancellor Angela Merkel rounded out the top five.

The list’s highest-ranked businessman was Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates at No. 6. Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man and chairman of Reliance Industries, slipped a spot to 38 this year while Indian-born steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal was at No. 51, sandwiched between the presidents of the World Bank and South Korea.

Narendra Modi follows his roadmap to Delhi

The Narendra Modi charm offensive showed up in full force in India’s capital on Wednesday. Modi, the main opposition party’s likely prime ministerial candidate gave a speech on progress and development at one of Delhi’s premier colleges, the youthful audience greeted the 62-year-old politician with gusto, news outlets called his speech a “roadmap for India,” protesters showed up en masse and Twitter went bananas.

If not a direct declaration of grand political ambition, the nearly one-hour speech at the Shri Ram College of Commerce sounded like a pitch for a national role: here was the chief minister of Gujarat talking about development to more than a thousand students in New Delhi, staying away from the usual and divisive political overtones, repeatedly referring to the youth of the country (future voters), and outlining his vision for India.

“The whole world is looking at India as a big marketplace. Why? Because they (other countries) think they can sell here easily. It is the demand of our time to make India a leader in manufacturing and dump our goods in the world market,” Modi said, according to our report on the Reuters news wire.

Window closing on Prime Minister Singh’s planned visit to Pakistan

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Thomson Reuters)

It is eerily quiet on the fenced border between India and Pakistan in the southern plains of Jammu and Kashmir. Farmers are planting paddy, you can hear the sound of traffic in the distance from both sides of the border, and sometimes the squeals of children. Overhead in high watchtowers that can be seen from a mile, soldiers peer through binoculars at the enemy across while in the rear just behind the electrified fence with its array of Israeli-supplied sensors, soldiers are strung out in a line of bunkers. It’s a cold peace on one of the world’s most militarised frontiers.

Now the young chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, wants to change that, by cracking open the border and allowing the movement of people and trade through a road and rail route that have been shut since Partition in 1947.

A user’s guide to India’s cabinet reshuffle

(Opinions expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of Thomson Reuters.)

In what is most likely the last cabinet reshuffle for the UPA-II government  before the 2014 general elections, 22 ministers were sworn in at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on Sunday.

Here is the background, as explained by Frank Jack Daniel and Mayank Bhardwaj of Reuters:

Rahul Gandhi can change Congress’ image with cabinet entry

India is asking the same old question after news reports said Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday before a possible cabinet reshuffle later this month: will Gandhi be one of the cards in his deck?

Gandhi’s entry into the government would be the only opportunity for him to prove that he has what it takes to one day rule India. He’s seen as the prime-minister-in-waiting, and a cabinet post would better equip him to deal with the hurly-burly of Indian politics.

Several cabinet posts are vacant, and some cabinet ministers hold additional portfolios. And even after passing market-moving reform measures, Congress’ task of boosting its public image is incomplete.

Mamata Banerjee: I’ve got Friday on my mind

Mamata Banerjee‘s threat that her ministers would quit on Friday unless the Indian government scrapped its plan to save the economy was her way of giving the government time to consider its options.

I told my colleague Aditya that in reality, it was probably a chance for her to reconsider her move because there was no way that the government would bend to her desires.

That’s not the most auspicious start to an American journalist’s attempt to call outcomes in Indian politics. The government’s reform plan, from which there was to be no retreat, no surrender … is in retreat.

Political crisis in India: Mamata Banerjee moves out, UPA should move forward

It wasn’t unexpected. After more than three long years of association with the UPA II coalition government, key ally Mamata Banerjee is taking her name off the lease, packing up her things and getting ready to move out. Whether she has taken Congress’ chances for holding power in India with her depends on how strong — and willing — the party’s other friends are.

This move, precipitated by her anger at urgent government moves to fix India’s economy, is a case of better late than never. There is no point being part of a coalition if you don’t like how it works or the decisions that it makes.

Banerjee isn’t moving out just yet. After giving the coalition 72 hours to relook at its recent initiatives, she has given another 72 hours to the coalition before her ministers resign on Friday, Sept. 21. Her demands: rollback diesel prices, scotch a plan to allow foreign direct investment in India’s retail businesses and spend more money on keeping home cooking gas prices artificially low.

You can’t talk about Manmohan Singh that way!

Is it a compliment when the government of one of the largest countries in the world demands that you apologise for something you wrote? Ask Simon Denyer, India bureau chief of The Washington Post and a former Reuters editor based in Washington D.C. and India. #gallery-1 { margin: auto; } #gallery-1 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 33%; } #gallery-1 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-1 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */ Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (R) talks to reporters during a news conference in Sedona Hotel in Yangon May 29, 2012. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun/Files Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaks during the fifth India-Brazil-South Africa summit (IBSA) in Pretoria October 18, 2011. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko/Files Prime Minister Manmohan Singh speaks at the University of Dhaka September 7, 2011. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj/Files

Denyer in a Post article called India’s prime minister Manmohan Singh a “dithering, ineffectual bureaucrat presiding over a deeply corrupt government”. Denyer also said that the 79-year-old Singh has fallen from grace, and that he no longer fits the image of being a “scrupulously honorable, humble and intellectual technocrat”.

Denyer didn’t leave much out: Singh is an object of ridicule, has ignored his cabinet’s corruption, has let the rupee’s value collapse, has let his reputation be tarnished, has given away coal mining concessions and cost the treasury billions, and lost the confidence of his party long ago. The implication is that his main value is to be quiet and do what he’s told.

Congress strikes two birds with one stone

Why so much euphoria over the presidential polls? Shouldn’t the government concentrate on the economy; it’s a ceremonial post after all, we thought.

However, the way the election process panned out might be the boost the Congress party needed ahead of the 2014 general elections, not only politically, but even for the economy.

With Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee all set to be India’s 13th president, the party has every reason to cheer, at least for now. The Congress will have the benefit of having one of its most loyal ministers at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, and he can come in handy in 2014.

With stalled reforms, Indian government needs to win new friends

‘Deferred’ — Excessive use of this word is something that India cannot afford at this stage. Amid economic turmoil, reforms are desperately needed to signal the government’s resolve to fix the current situation.

But in yet another postponement on Thursday, the cabinet deferred the pension reform bill which proposed to open the sector to foreign investors, after key ally Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal and Trinamool party chief, opposed it.

With 19 members in the Lok Sabha, parliament’s lower house, Banerjee’s party has acted like a roadblock for the UPA coalition for months. Maybe the government needs to seriously start thinking about replacing her in the coalition, or limp along as a lame duck administration until the next election.

  •