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Worth Knowing
Look out for these people. They will have a role to play as India grows and develops.

Power players: Who is shaping the new India? Here are three of the many talented nation-builders who have come to the fore in recent years. While they represent different regions of the country and various political ideologies, they fervently extol economic reform and development, and believe India is moving ahead — as they are.

Chandrababu Naidu, 51, is the tech-smart chief minister of the go-ahead southern state of Andhra Pradesh. A favorite of the business community, he effectively holds the balance of power in the governing coalition, since if he pulls out, the central government would collapse.

K.N. Govindacharya wields considerable influence in the ruling coalition¹s dominant BJP party. He is a radical ideologue and one of the chief exponents of pro-Hindu policies. Close to the powerful Home Affairs Minister (and PM-in-waiting) L.K. Advani, Govindacharya is despised by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee ‹ whom Govindacharya recently characterized as merely a ³convenient mask² to allow the BJP to present a softer image. But Govindacharya, 51, is savvy and knows when to spout the strident ³saffronization² line and when to put it on the backburner. Love him or hate him, he knows where he is headed.

Pramod Mahajan,is minister of information technology and parliamentary affairs (i.e. the government whip). From the large and influential state of Maharashtra, he has always been a fervent follower of the BJP¹s pro-Hindu line. An unabashed populist and publicity seeker (he is a former journalist), Mahajan, 51, is one of the BJP¹s key fundraisers and fixers. Don¹t mess with this man.

One of the few really bright lights in the disheartened and effectively leaderless opposition Congress party, Digvijay Singh is a no- nonsense, forward-looking politician. The 53-year-old wields much of his clout as the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh. Watch out for him when Congress finally gets its act together and returns to power ‹ as it will one day.

Minister for Communications Ram Bilas Paswan, 54, astutely balances holding a cutting-edge portfolio with espousing the cause of the poor and downtrodden. He is lukewarm (if not inwardly antagonistic) about fast-paced economic reforms and gets great mileage out of his campaigning for the oppressed ‹ for which he has been jailed several times (always a good item on any Indian politician¹s CV). The beard completes technocrat Paswan¹s man-of-the- people image.

Two years ago, at the age of 43, Mamata Banerjee, right, split from the Congress party to form a splinter group, the Trinamool Congress. She has never looked back. Now minister for railways, she recently secured breakthrough victories for her new party in local elections where it was pitted against the veteran West Bengal state leader Jyoti Basu. Intellectuals may scoff at her, but Banerjee will have the last rollicking laugh.

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