The race is on. And the first contestants at the starting line are politicians. They may frustrate you, anger you and, every once in a century, give you hope. But they are the ones who determine if India can have a nuclear bomb.
They determine how you and I live. They are important to our lives. With just a word out of place, any of them can bring the stock market crashing down, leaving millions of Indian poorer.
There are many of them out there – legislators, ministers, governors, party officials, activists and aspirants. You probably know a handful yourself. But the field needs to be narrowed down.
There are six nominees from the category of politicians competing for the big prize of the Indian of the Year, to be named by CNN-IBN in partnership with the Hindustan Times.
You guessed it. Communist Party of Indian (Marxist) leader and the United Progressive Alliance’s chief tormentor Prakash Karat is among the six. Did someone say he is the most powerful politician?
After all, the nuclear deal with the United States remains unsigned only and primarily because his party, which supports the UPA government, puts its foot down. And the government hasn’t shown the courage to defy them.
The next contestant is a politician with magical powers. It’s none other than the Uttar Pradesh chief minister Kumari Mayawati. What a surprise she pulled off in UP; pollsters are still rattled.
Her upper caste-lower caste alliance was both breathtaking in its simplicity and stunning for the audacity. She knew it all along, and believes most people including some in the media simply refused to see it coming.
Suddenly, social engineering – a much-abused term – acquired a new respectability. This was not an alliance of two similarly positioned castes, but the fusing together of the opposites. Is she your candidate?
Wait, there are others. Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, another reason why pollsters have taken to eating crow, for instance. Experts now talk about pro-incumbency as a factor determining electoral fortunes.
He pulled off an amazing victory in Gujarat, one that very few people could foresee. Once again, like Mayawati, he knew it was coming and said so to whoever cared to listen. The masks were for real.
The next candidate is a bit of a wild card entry. Or so it seemed when first confronted with his name. B.C. Khanduri. Does it ring a bell? Chief minister of Uttarakhand. So????????
Here is another clue. The man who laid out the highways that are transforming the way Indians travel and trade. Now, that sounds familiar – this goes to his tenure as a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.
The fifth candidate, let if be set at the outset, will be a favourite of every punter with a rupee invested in the booming Indian economy. That pretty much means you and I and our neighbour.
To Finance minister P Chidambaram goes the credit of giving India a spectacular growth rate and the ability and resilience to sustain it – and not let it flag under the commonplace pressures of coalition politics.
And this brings us to the sixth and last nominee, foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee, Congress’s chief troubleshooter, no matter what the crisis is about or who is fighting whom.
He heads countless Groups of Ministers (better known by their snappier acronym GoMs) and it’s a wonder how he keeps up with his primary responsibility of running the foreign ministry. He does it quite well. Also.
And here is how you can vote. Starting Monday (January 7), you can sms your vote to 52622. Type IPOL (POL stand for politics) space and A for Karat, B for Mayawati, C for Modi, D for Khanduri, E for Chidambaram and F for Mukherjee.
Or, you can log on to cnnibnindianoftheyear.com and follow instructions. Voting for the next category begins the day after and so on and so forth. The last category nominations will be declared on January 12.
Voting closes on January 15.