What does it Tell Us?

the Indian Express List of 100 Powerful Indians

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The Indian Express has come out with its annual list of 100 most powerful Indians. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi is at No.1, Home Minister Amit Shah at No.2, RSS Sarsanghachalak Mohan Bhagwat at No.3 – no surprises there! In fact, beginning with the PM, the overwhelming majority of those who figure in the list are politicians – ruling party, opposition leaders, cabinet ministers, chief ministers, party bosses and ideologues. The politicians are followed by the bureaucrats – who is more powerful than the Enforcement Directorate? The Chief Justice and the CJI-in waiting, the Chief of Army, the Chairperson of SEBI share space with businesspeople – Gautam Adani naturally figures prominently.

As politicians, babus and businessmen take up most of the spots, there are hardly any left for people of other pursuits. Sports is represented rather thinly by Neeraj Chopra and Vinesh Phogat, Bollywood is however, well-represented by  Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan, Alia ‘Gangubai’ Bhat, Deepika Padukone and Karan Johar. Non-Bollywood arts is represented by Nita Ambani whose ‘power punch’ is described as the construction of the Nita Mukesh Ambani Cultural Centre. Now, if big buildings are the index of power, then the chief of the PWD should be considered way more powerful than her! The other name in the ‘arts’ section is Kiran Nadar – millionaire art collector and owner of Kiran Nadar Museum of Art. It is shocking that not a single one of the artists whose canvases she displays or whose art she collects, has made it to the list.

The list makes me think about how one considers ‘power’ and ‘powerful’. I used to think that ‘power’ is a  wide thing that includes the power of ideas, the power of moving people to pursue the paths of higher thinking and purposeful living, the power of research and innovation, the power of human imagination. But all these aspects are not reflected in the list that the Indian Express has served up at the breakfast table. The only  dimension of power which the IE has considered, is the individual’s power over others which comes from politics and money. Otherwise it would be quite inexplicable how the athlete Neeraj Chopra who positively influenced and inspired millions of youths across the world figures at number 46, way below Nitish Kumar at number 24 whose most recent claim to fame is yet another political palti.

Even if we consider that societies across the world have always been fascinated by the power of politics, babudom, and money, a self-proclaimed enlightened paper like the Indian Express ought to push beyond such confining boundaries. They must bring to us the powerful poets, artists, activists, innovators, independent thinkers and philosophers. There are many like me who are asking why Geetanjali Shree, for instance, is not on the list. How is her contribution to the world of ideas any less worthwhile than the contribution of any designated file-pusher? Any catalogue of this nature is bound to be incomplete but this year’s Indian Express list verges on utter meaninglessness.



  • Paromita Goswami