Political Power List Of 2021
India Today|November 01, 2021
THE GLOBAL COVID PANDEMIC, which hit the world last year, not only took away the lives of millions and devastated economies, it also reorganised the political order in many regions. India was among the countries hit the hardest by the ravaging virus, yet, the political impact of Covid is still not evident. Six states went to polls since the pandemic broke out in India in March 2020—all before the second wave of Covid hit the country in early April 2021—but it was not an electoral issue during the campaigns. The political power order of the country has remained largely unchanged with the RSS-BJP ecosystem firmly entrenched at the top. While de facto Congress chief Rahul Gandhi remains the sole national voice against the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP government, recent political movements have seen the emergence of regional satraps as new power centres. West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee not only withstood a massive BJP campaign to dethrone her in the assembly poll earlier this year but is also now projecting herself as an alternative to Modi. In this quest, she will need the support of Maratha stalwart Sharad Pawar, who is the unofficial nerve centre of the Maharashtra government. The India Today political power list of 2021 provides a quick overview of the strongest players giving direction to the political discourse in the country.
Kaushik Deka, Anilesh S. Mahajan, Ashish Misra, Romita Datta and Kiran D. Tare

1 NARENDRA MODI, 71

PRIME MINISTER OF INDIA

MASTER OF ALL HE SURVEYS

BECAUSE he continues to be the supreme commander of the government and the ruling BJP. Despite the many crises such as the pandemic, economic distress, and farmers’ protests, he remains way ahead in the popularity stakes, as a range of opinion polls show

BECAUSE his personal stamp is evident everywhere, be it the Union cabinet reshuffle or the change of chief ministers in BJP-ruled states. The nationwide celebration of his birthday and completion of 20 years in public office was almost an official acceptance of his cult status, an unprecedented phenomenon in the Sangh Parivar

BECAUSE he rarely blinks under pressure, be it on the farm laws or a caste census. And despite some flipflops, under him, India has anchored the world’s largest vaccination drive

CATCH’EM YOUNG After the 2019 win, PM Modi had asked J.P. Nadda and B.L. Santhosh to keep an eye out for younger leaders, especially women and those from the backward classes. Their recommendations have come through as candidates for MLCs, the BJP organization team, and also in the recent cabinet reshuffle

2 AMIT SHAH, 56

Union Minister for Home Affairs

THE ULTIMATE ENFORCER

BECAUSE he is PM Modi’s right-hand man and handles all critical assignments, including being interlocutor with warring RSS affiliates over the government’s policies

BECAUSE even though he is no longer party president, he is still the chief architect of the BJP’s poll campaigns, and his opinion counts in everything, be it organizational work or policy decisions

BECAUSE as home minister, he is responsible for India’s internal security and the challenges the country faces on many fronts—cross-border terrorism, homegrown insurgents, drug smuggling, etc. He also monitors peace talks with several insurgent groups in the Northeast and is de facto J&K administrator

HOMEBOUND The Union home minister loves homemade gajar ka parantha for breakfast. No matter where he is, he always checks in with family—wife Sonal, son Jay, daughter in-law Rishita, and four-year-old granddaughter Rudri

3 MOHAN BHAGWAT, 71

RSS Sarsanghchalak

THE INVISIBLE LONG TERM

3 DATTATREYA HOSABALE, 66

General Secretary, RSS

BECAUSE the opinion and vision of the top two heads of the RSS matter in the policy directives of the BJP-ruled Union government and the 18 states the party rules (12 alone and six with allies). The RSS’s influence is evident in some of the key developments of the past few years—construction of the Ram Mandir, abrogation of Article 370, criminalization of religious conversion for marriage. The Centre is also taking forward the RSS’s economic agenda of swadeshi or self-reliance

BECAUSE the RSS is now no longer just the ideological fountainhead of the BJP, it is also helping the government ensure the implementation of certain schemes and projects as well, such as ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’ and ‘Sewa hi Sangathan’

BECAUSE RSS pracharaks, who play crucial roles in the BJP’s electoral machinery, directly report to the duo, and they, in turn, advise the BJP and its brass on corrective measures, whenever required

BEHIND CLOSED DOORS Despite pursuing a Hindutva agenda, Bhagwat strongly believes that ‘liberal Muslims’ can be political allies of the RSS. He regularly has private as well as public meetings with the community’s leaders

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