Chairman Mao had said "power flows from the barrel of a gun". Those were revolutionary times and that kind of brute power is easy to recognise. It is not so relevant in modern society. These days power is more difficult to define. Every year, the magazine tries to do just that in its listing of the 50 most powerful individuals in India. Power shows itself in different and subtle ways. Money power is easy to identify. It is tangible but being wealthy does not necessarily mean you are powerful. It depends on how your wealth influences the society. Some people don't have wealth but have powerful friends who can help. Their core competence lies in networking. There are those who have unique knowledge or skills which makes them power icons. Some happen to be in the right place at the right time. Some just have credibility. Power can mean that people listen when you speak. It can mean that everyone shows up when you invite them. It can mean people are scared to get on your wrong side. It can mean that millions imitate your actions, your dress, your way of speaking, even your hairstyle.
Our 2005 cover
These individuals exercise influence on a national level beyond their vocation and standing in a particular field and the larger importance of that activity. In many ways, their decisions impact our future as a country and a society. As always, the list of 50 does not include people who wield power because of the office they hold, like the Prime Minister, ministers, bureaucrats and their families. Since 2004, we have eliminated spiritual leaders since their power is nebulous. The most challenging part of the list is the ranking and a subject of heated debate in the office.
This is our fourth list and it reflects the changing power equations in India. There are 21 new names, including four who make a comeback. At least 20 have been present in all four lists albeit with varying ranks. The most dramatic change is in the growing power of information. Last year's list featured six media personalities, this year, there are ten, reflecting the number of launches in print and television. Equally reflective of changing times is the fact that average age of the power listers is down, from 58.92 in 2003 to 55.28 in 2006. Equally telling: only 20 individuals have featured in all four lists while women have risen from five in 2003 to eight this year, a tribute to the kind of progress that women have made in recent times. The rise of the importance of the software industry is evident in the list too. We also introduce a list of ten people in the official establishment who we consider to be the country's most powerful. Official titles don't necessarily reflect the true power they wield.
This year, 19 have exited the list, almost the same as the previous three years. The moral of the list is clear: power is ephemeral. So if you are on the list, use your power wisely and justly. And be nice to people on the way up because you may well meet them again on your way down!