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Sonia, Mittal among top 100 influential people

May 04, 2007 11:18 IST

Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, steel baron Lakshmi Mittal and Pepsico CEO Indra Nooyi figure in Time magazine's coveted list of 100 most influential people, which also includes Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.        

However, missing from the list for the first time in four years is United States President George W Bush.

In a write up on Gandhi, who is also on the cover of the magazine's Asia edition, Time says in the 16 years since the death of her husband, she had become the face of the country's most famous family and as leader of the Congress party, she has managed the largest political party in the country and steered it to victory.

'And she has done all this wearing a sari. Imagine if the US were run by an Indian Hindu woman without a college degree. It is tough: the US has never elected anyone who's not Christian, white and male - even as Vice President. But India, which is an even bigger democracy, is run in all but name by an Italian Catholic widow with a high school education,' it adds.

'When her party won national elections in 2004, she was offered the prime ministership; she listened to her inner voice and turned it down, and anointed economist Manmohan Singh in her stead,' the magazine recalled.

'It was a gesture that was, well, Gandhian. And it solidified her hold on power. For ordinary Indians, this act of renunciation held tremendous mythic resonance. Though Singh is prime minister, it is Sonia, 60, who is the kingmaker.'

'And her most lasting legacy may lie in her children Rahul and Priyanka, one of whom may well become India's prime minister some day, ascending to the high office that their mother has thus far renounced,' it said.

The list also features Queen Elizabeth II, Sudanese President Mohamed Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir, acting Cuban President Raul Castro, Iranian Supreme leader Atyatollah Ali Khamenei, Chinese President Hu Jintao, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and Pope Benedict XVI.

Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barrack Obama, fighting for Democratic nomination for next year's US presidential election, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and outspoken and staunch critic of President Bush, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are among the Americans who find their names on the list.

This year's list features people from 27 countries and includes 29 women and 71 men. But Americans predominate, constituting 54 among the 100 and Britain follows with ten.

Releasing the list, Deputy Managing Editor Adi Iqnatius said the list contains both people who had good effect and evil influence in the world and that explains bin Laden being on the list.

Replying to question, Iqnatius agreed that the selection is subjective, adding that there are several other influential people. But the magazine had to make the make the selection which is based on varied criteria.

Initially, the list had 1000 names, which were pared down to 100. But he conceded that predominance of Americans could be due to the fact that the magazine is located in New York.

Time magazine compares Laskhmi Mittal, CEO of Arcelor Mittal, the world largest steel company with Scottish-American Industrialist Andrew Carnegie who consolidated steel industry in the United States and is widely respected as a philanthropist, saying Mittal appears to reincarnation of Carnegie.

'Both were accountants whose vision greatly exceeded that craft. Both overcame fierce opposition, and both leaped impossibly high hurdles to reach goals that boggled their contemporaries' minds,' Time said of the two steel magnates.

Mittal's wealth and power, it says, came from achieving his dream of consolidating the global steel industry. Carnegie's came from consolidating the American steel industry.

'Both gave notoriously glamorous parties. Carnegie was, and Mittal is, famously generous and charitable, although Mittal has given millions of dollars without fanfare to tsunami relief and other causes. Carnegie's philanthropy was instrumental in spreading his fame,' it stresses.

Yet arguably, Mittal, 56, overshadows Carnegie in some ways. Carnegie's US Steel was the first American company to achieve a $1 billion market capitalization. Arcelor Mittal seems likely to become the world's first 100 billion dollar market-cap steel company, the write up notes.

In a write-up on Nooyi, Time magazine says for her, the shocking thing isn't who she is but the world she has inherited.

'Globalism was not new when she joined PepsiCo more than a decade ago but the global part has changed. As Pepsi's strategist, she's a former management consultant, Nooyi helped position PepsiCo for growth in China, the Middle East and her native India.'

Time says it should not be surprising that PepsiCo, a 'quintessentially American company making quintessentially American products,' would appoint a CEO who is not American-born (or male, for that matter). After all, Pepsi gets about 40 per cent of its $35.1 billion in sales of beverages, food and snacks from beyond the US and most of the company's growth is overseas.
Dharam Shourie in New York
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