April 05, 2020
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Hits & Duds 2002

The upwardly mobile

Hits & Duds 2002
Vinod Khanna, Shatrughan Sinha
When stars aren’t getting the call from Bollywood studios, it’s politics for them. And once they’ve been in politics and done that (for enough years), the stars want to become ministers. So, in the fitness of things, the bjp’s two patients stars Shatrughan Sinha and Vinod Khanna saw their fortunes soar this year, being inducted into the cabinet. Shotgun became health minister while Khanna looks after tourism. Both have grandiose plans for making India healthier and more tourist-friendly. Hit or flop, only time will tell.

L.K. Advani
Elevated to the post of deputy prime minister, it was a year of upward mobility for the BJP strongman, formalising the succession issue within the BJP. Did we ever speculate on ‘after Vajpayee who?’ The 73-year-old Karachi-born, who counts his books as his "most precious processions", was the brain behind the rath yatra which brought the BJP centrestage and today enjoys de facto authority, minus the responsibilities of the prime ministership. The Gujarat results are a shot in his arm: of all the bjp leaders, he backed Narendra Modi the most.

J.M. Lyngdoh
The original, T.N. Seshan, was loud, abrasive—and effective. The quiet James Michael Lyngdoh abhors publicity, and is possibly more so. This was amply proved by the firm manner in which India’s new cec conducted the Kashmir and Gujarat polls—despite some bjp leaders stooping so low as to cast aspersions on his integrity. A taciturn Khasi from Meghalaya and a 1961 batch ias officer, Lyngdoh was alloted the infamous Bihar cadre where he soon built up a reputation as an honest, tough, no-nonsense officer. An exercise freak with a black belt in karate, he’s also a polyglot, fluent in French and German. Lyngdoh, who will oversee the state elections this year. will be around till ‘04. Politicians, watch out.

A.P.J. Abdul Kalam
Think big. And just do it. These have been Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam’s credos in life. The Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu-born aeronautical engineering major from Chennai, India’s missile man, rose through the ranks to become India’s 11th President on July 25. At the imperial Rashtrapati Bhavan, the 71-year-old self-effacing scientist, who people are now calling the ‘people’s president’, hasn’t stopped dreaming. After all, the bachelor Prez with the retro rock star locks had developed India ‘Vision 2020’, a blueprint for the country’s future. He strongly feels that igniting the love for science in the minds of our children will go a long way in making India a truly modern nation.

Narendra Modi
The villain of the year turned a hero when he led the bjp to a thumping win in the Gujarat elections. Rarely has a politician been so demonised after his state government turned a near-blind eye to the pogrom—well over 1,000 Muslims lost their lives and possessions, a "reaction" to the fire-bombing of a train in Godhra in which some 60 Hindu kar sevaks lost their lives. The 55-year-old rss pracharak-turned-BJP politician and CM counts "photography and trekking" as hobbies on his CV and a "keen interest in IT" (he promptly replies to e-mail). The defining poll results ground to dust the Opposition, media, political pundits and rivals within. No wonder he’s Hindutva’s proudest poster boy now.

Yashwant Sinha
India’s rollback finance minister moved to external affairs this year, and immediately made his mark as a refined, articulate face of India abroad. In comparison to predecessor Jaswant Singh, who revelled in convoluted foreign policy-speak, the affable 65-year-old Sinha, a political science teacher-turned-bureaucrat-turned-politician, has brought his political skills to play to navigate the choppy seas of diplomacy. He proved to be the epitome of cool, bringing ASEAN summit delegates to their feet with his rendering of a traditional Bhojpuri song.

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