This Article is From Dec 30, 2019

Road To Delhi: 10 Indian Politicians Who Had The Most Impact This Decade

2010-2019: Through the many ups and downs, there emerged women and men who navigated political trajectories alongside the social and political movements.

Road To Delhi: 10 Indian Politicians Who Had The Most Impact This Decade

The two Lok Sabha polls in the last decade played a big role in the emergence of the new political titans

New Delhi:

Politics in India has seen a tectonic shift in the last ten years. Many politicians, who were at best regional players, catapulted into the national spotlight and went on to become titans of Indian politics. On the other hand, some of the conventional heavyweights of the previous decade saw their influence diminish to the extent that they now play second fiddle to smaller parties. Much of this played out in the past two national elections. The last year of this decade saw a high-adrenaline poll campaign where a motley group of opposition parties failed to stitch together an alliance strong enough to take on the electoral might of the ruling BJP, which not only retained power but gained an even bigger mandate. Through the many ups and downs, there emerged women and men who navigated their political trajectories alongside the social and political movements and who, for better or worse, influenced the politics of the past decade.

Here are 10 politicians who had the most impact on Indian politics this decade:

Smriti Irani

Smriti Irani, a soap opera star-turned-politician, became a key member of the Modi government who dealt the Congress party its most humiliating defeat in the 2019 national election. At the start of the decade, she was appointed president of the Mahila Morcha, the BJP's women's wing. She went on to become a Rajya Sabha member from Mr Modi's Gujarat and soon, started gaining prominence within the party. When Rajnath Singh became the BJP president in 2013, she was appointed as one of the vice-presidents of the party. Mentored by former BJP president Nitin Gadkari, Ms Irani contested the 2014 Lok Sabha polls from Amethi, challenging then Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi in his constituency. The audacious electoral battle in what had traditionally been a Congress citadel saw the BJP leader reduce Mr Gandhi's victory margin to just over one lakh votes. Over the next five years, Smriti Irani campaigned aggressively in Amethi. She kept visiting the constituency regularly and virtually stationed herself in Amethi during her 2019 campaign. In one of the most watched contests of the 2019 polls, Ms Irani won the Amethi seat by 55,000 votes, defeating Rahul Gandhi, its three-time lawmaker. The dusty, largely rural constituency had been held by Mr Gandhi's family almost continuously for the last four decades. In the new cabinet, the BJP leader was rewarded with two portfolios for her victory; Women and Child Development was added to her earlier Ministry of Textiles.


Smriti Irani defeated Rahul Gandhi in Amethi by 55,000 votes in the 2019 national election.

Himanta Biswa Sarma

In 2014, Himanta Biswa Sarma was with the Congress party, campaigning against Narendra Modi in the north-east. This was when the Congress-ruled five out of seven states in the region while the BJP had none. A year later, he quit the Congress after a fallout with Rahul Gandhi. Mr Sarma took over as chairman of the BJP-led Northeast Democratic Alliance and crafted the party's strategy for the states in the region. By December 2018, he helped the party establish its control in all seven states. In 2019 national election, the Assam finance minister was not given a poll ticket. The BJP instead wanted him to oversee the party's campaign. The BJP and its allies won a majority of the 25 seats in the north-east in the national election, up from eight in 2014.

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Himanta Biswa Sarma, a former Congressman, joined the BJP in 2015

Arvind Kejriwal

A former taxman turned politician, Arvind Kejriwal's rise in politics has been nothing short of spectacular. He rode the 2011 anti-corruption wave as part of Anna Hazare's movement, India Against Corruption. The relationship between the two ultimately soured and in November 2012, Mr Kejriwal launched his political party, the Aam Aadmi Party. He was sworn-in as Chief Minister in December 2013 but resigned after 49 days. When he contested the 2014 national election from Varanasi against Narendra Modi, his critics accused him of quitting office to gain the national spotlight. The same year, Mr Kejriwal renewed his campaign for Delhi with an apology. In the 2015 assembly election, his party won a historic landslide victory, reducing the BJP -- its sole opposition -- to just three seats. The anti-graft champion was sworn-in for the second time in February 2015. Mr Kejriwal has often been derided by his critics, and his party has repeatedly failed to gain ground in other states. But as far as Delhi is concerned, his party remains a force to reckon with.


Arvind Kejriwal was sworn-in as Delhi Chief Minister for the second time in February 2015

Jagan Mohan Reddy

From a Congress MP in 2010 to Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh in 2019, Jagan Mohan Reddy charted his political journey meticulously over the past decade. After the death of his father and one of Andhra Pradesh's most popular chief ministers, YS Rajasekhara Reddy in 2009, Jagan Mohan inherited his supporters. He wanted to succeed his father as Chief Minister but the Congress high command in Delhi was not convinced. In November 2010, Jagan walked out of the Congress and within a few months, floated his political party; Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress or YSR Congress. In 2014, Jagan Reddy's party wiped out Congress as the principal opposition party. Five years later, YSR Congress decimated the ruling Telugu Desam Party in the 175-member state assembly, winning a massive 151 seats and also won all 22 of Andhra Pradesh's 25 Lok Sabha seats.


Jagan Mohan Reddy floated his political party; Yuvajana Sramika Rythu Congress or YSR Congress in March 2011.

Nirmala Sitharaman

In 2010, just four years after joining the BJP, Nirmala Sitharaman was appointed the party's spokesperson. In the past decade, she has rapidly risen through the ranks to become one of the most influential ministers in the Modi government. Ms Sitharaman -- a protégé of veteran leader Arun Jaitley -- was appointed a junior minister in 2014 when the BJP came to power. In September 2017, she became the first woman to be appointed full-time defence minister. During this time, she defended the government's position on the Rafale fighter jet deal, amid allegations of irregularities by opposition parties. She was at the helm of the Defence Ministry when India carried out airstrikes against terrorist training camps in Pakistan's Balakot. When the BJP secured a second term in 2019, Ms Sitharaman was appointed India's first full-time woman finance minister. While the finance portfolio was seen as a huge promotion, it came with the challenging task of arresting a sagging economy and tackling a major jobs crisis. Since taking charge, she has announced a range of measure to spur demand and revive economic growth.


Nirmala Sitharaman was appointed India's first full-time woman finance minister in 2019

Mamata Banerjee

In 2011, Mamata Banerjee, or as her supporters call her - Didi - stormed the Left bastion that was West Bengal, ridding the state of a 34-year-long Communist rule. During the national election two years later, she walked the tight rope between a scam-tainted UPA and the BJP-led NDA which swept to power in Delhi. The move paid off and her Trinamool Congress won 34 of the state's 42 seats. In 2016, Ms Banerjee secured a second term as Bengal chief minister and an even bigger mandate, beating not just the Left-Congress combination, but also the BJP which sought to make inroads in the state. In the run-up to 2019 election, she became one of the fiercest critics of the Narendra Modi-led government. This involved several confrontations between the central and state governments and even name-calling. While the Trinamool lost a significant share of its seats to the BJP, the campaign reinforced the sobriquet Ms Banerjee's supporters gave her: 'street fighter'.


Mamata Banerjee has become one of the fiercest critics of the Narendra Modi-led government in recent years.

Arun Jaitley

Whether it was to articulate the government's achievements or defend its controversial policies, Arun Jaitley -- a former finance minister and veteran BJP leader -- was PM Modi's man for the job. He had been Mr Modi's go-to man in Delhi since the late 1990s. When the BJP came to power in 2014, he became the number 2 in PM Modi's government and one of his most trusted cabinet members. As Finance Minister, he steered through Parliament major economic legislations such as the nationwide Goods and Services Tax and even defended the government's controversial moves such as the 'notes ban'. The lawyer-turned-politician was acknowledged as the ultimate backroom strategist and the BJP's key trouble-shooter. Ailing for several years, he wrote to PM Modi after the BJP won a second term in May 2019, asking to let him stay out of the cabinet. He died on August 26, 2019.


Arun Jaitley -- known to be part of LK Advani's core team -- was acknowledged as the ultimate backroom strategist and the BJP's key trouble-shooter.


Today, K. Chandrasekhar Rao or KCR, as he is popularly known, is a regional heavyweight whose party has wiped out the opposition in his home state of Telangana. But 10 years ago, he was the face of the Telangana movement. His party, Telangana Rashtriya Samiti, was founded with the sole aim to seek a separate Telangana state. The Congress government in the Centre finally blinked, and on June 2, 2014, India's newest state was formed. KCR, who has since been the chief minister of the state, has not lost a single election after 1983. In 2014, his TRS won 11 of the 17 Lok Sabha seats and 63 of the 119 assembly seats. In 2018, KCR's move to dissolve the state assembly eight months early paid off, with his party winning an even bigger majority. In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, while it won a majority of the seats in the state, its tally was down to nine. KCR is seen as one of the prominent leaders who see a non-Congress, non-BJP government as the way forward.


K. Chandrasekhar Rao or KCR has been the chief minister of Telangana since its formation.

Narendra Modi

Until 2014, Narendra Modi was a Chief Minister who spent more than a decade in office as a political pariah for his alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots. All that changed with the 16th Lok Sabha election. A high-powered campaign, with Mr Modi as the face of a new BJP gathered steam in the run-up to the polls. On May 26 that year, Mr Modi scripted history when he took oath as Prime Minister and formed the first non-Congress single-party majority government in the country. He also led the BJP to the biggest electoral victory for any party in 30 years. In 2019, Mr Modi, along with BJP chief Amit Shah engineered another electoral victory; this time gaining an even bigger mandate while the opposition struggled to offer a counter-narrative. PM Modi has played a central role in Indian politics in this decade and his prominence is expected to continue well into the next one.


Narendra Modi has played a central role in Indian politics in the past decade.

Amit Shah

As the chief architect of the BJP's electoral victories - in the Lok Sabha, as well as the state assemblies - Amit Shah has come a long way. At the start of the decade, he was the Gujarat Home Minister with little heft outside his state. He has been Narendra Modi's most trusted lieutenant for decades now. With the BJP's first landslide victory in 2014, he became the party's national president and a close confidante of the newly-elected Prime Minister. BJP's return to power saw him take on a new role -- that of the Union Home Minister. He is seen by many as the de facto number 2 in the PM's cabinet and is part of all major policy decisions of this government. In the past few months as Home Minister, he scrapped Jammu and Kashmir's special status, divided the state into two Union Territories, brought about a controversial citizenship law, and has, on several occasions, hinted at a nationwide citizens' register to weed out illegal immigrants.


Amit Shah has been Narendra Modi's most trusted lieutenant for decades now.