|Equality! Give us a break. That oldest urge of revolutionaries and nation builders, and inscribed on every testament of freedom. Look around and see how idealism gets atomised by power. How the world we live in abhors the coziness of sameness. The social pyramid has survived the best and the worst of man's intentions. There is always a conspicuous minority of "them". They are different; they are the "wow! people" who evoke awe if not admiration. They are the privileged few whose influence is larger than their numerical size. They are the bracketed characters in the national narrative, and they are separated from the ordinariness of the rest. They are the power elite, members in that exclusive club of men and women whose ideas and attitudes and actions influence the life of the nation. They are what we call the Establishment, whose existence is insulated from the quotidian vicissitudes of the mass society. In the unequal animal kingdom, beware, they are the pinstriped pachyderms who walk unchallenged. |
The Establishment, though, is going through an evolutionary change. According to the archetype, the wealthiest and the medaled and the politically empowered were the original members. The twin powers of market and information shattered the equilibrium. In the so-called flat world, the digital utopia is no longer a piece of science fiction. Along came a new class of silicon moguls. India, the newest destination for globalisation junkies, has become home to some of the most audacious dreamers and doers, now feted and feared protagonists of the global economy. Well, haven't you seen a Davos accessorised by India? Obviously our Power List 2006, like the last three, is dominated by the corporate Brahmins, people whose influence is mainly defined by wealth and what they do with it and how. Some of them just don't go away from our list, their staying power a tribute to the entrepreneurial verve of the new business class. They just don't give up. They are followed by the movers and shakers in the media: India is big news, and it is growing bigger, on television screens and on newsprint. The fantasy barons are the next, consolidating Bollywood's status as one of the biggest shows on earth. Policy mavens and cultural commissars, impresarios and socialites complete the list. Glaringly, there is an overwhelming absence: the power of the clerisy. The public intellectual who can sway perceptions with the power of ideas is hardly seen in this country-or on this list.
The list reflects the national zeitgeist. The political environment and the market whims ensure that there is no permanency about the establishment, whose power, after all, comes through association and access. The power elite may be kinetic India's brand ambassadors, but their power is relative. They embody what others aspire. They are not necessarily the fabulous few, and their power should not be confused with greatness or moral correctness. Still, these are the mighty few who are the leading actors in the power performance called India. Turn the pages and listen to the rustle of power.