Mayawati crashes into top 100 club; Sonia Gandhi slips (Lead, Changing dateline)

August 28th, 2008 - 8:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Aug 28 (IANS) With her prime ministerial ambitions, Indian Dalit leader Mayawati has crashed into the club of world’s 100 most powerful women even as Sonia Gandhi, head of India’s ruling coalition, slipped a few notches.Making her debut at the 59th place in the fifth annual Forbes list, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader is said to “in the running to be prime minister, from her perch as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state”.

Gandhi, the Congress president and chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), has slipped to 21st position from her last year’s sixth rank, with the “rising star” “challenging Gandhi’s position as the country’s most powerful woman”, said the US magazine.

At No. 3, up from fifth last year, Indra Nooyi, the Indian-born chairman of PepsiCo, is the highest-ranked woman in business as she expands the food and beverage giant globally to counter a fall in American preference for soda and chips.

Indian biotechnology firm Biocon’s Chief Kiran Mazumdar Shaw at 99th is the third Indian on the list.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is rated the most powerful woman in the world, topping the list for the third year running. US Federal Deposit Insurance Corp chairman Sheila C. Bair follows her at the second position. US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is ranked No. 7.

Gandhi, Mayawati and Shaw are the only three Indians on list, while Nooyi is the only other person of Indian-origin. Last year’s list included another person of Indian-origin Vidya Chhabria of the United Arab Emirates, at 98th place, but she has dropped out this year.

Despite her fall from sixth position last year, Gandhi has outranked people like Hillary Clinton (28th), Oprah Winfrey (36th), Melinda Gates (40th), Laura Bush (44th) and Queen Elizabeth II (58th).

Besides, at her 59th position, Mayawati is also ranked higher than MTV Networks CEO Judy McGrath (60th), Finland President Tarja Halonen, US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Hyundai Group Chairman Hyun Jeong-Eun and Ireland President Mary McAleese.

Gandhi and Mayawati have also outranked Harvard University President Drew Gilpin Faust, The New York Times Co President and CEO Janet L. Robinson, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, London Stock Exchange CEO Clara Furse, Western Union CEO Christina Gold, Time Inc CEO Ann Moore and Deloitte Chairperson Sharon Allen.

“Gandhi, the Italian-born leader of India’s most powerful political party, the Indian National Congress Party, has by now assumed the role of elder stateswoman,” says Forbes.

But “although she remains firmly at the head of the country’s ruling party, a rising star, known by the single name Mayawati, is challenging Gandhi’s position as the country’s most powerful woman.

“Mayawati has aligned herself with the nationalist Hindu BJP party and joined its members in vociferously opposing Gandhi’s party’s historic agreement with the US on nuclear cooperation,” Forbes says, taking note of BSP’s withdrawal of outside support to the UPA coalition on the eve of last month’s trust vote in parliament.

“In the running to be prime minister, from her perch as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state,” Mayawati at 39, was the youngest politician elected to the post and also the first Dalit to head a state government in 1995, notes the magazine.

She “commands a large following and goes simply by Mayawati. In 2007 she shrewdly built an alliance with Brahmins, and the BSP, which she heads, has started to increase its national presence. Some say she could trail-blaze again as India’s first Dalit prime minister”, it said.

According to Forbes, its annual ranking of the most powerful women in the world measures “power” as a composite of public profile and financial heft. The economic component considers job title and past career accomplishments, as well as the amount of money the woman controls. In total, the women ranked on the list control $26 trillion worldwide.

Others in the top 10 include WellPoint CEO Angela Braly, Anglo American Cynthia Carroll, Kraft Foods chief Irene B. Rosenfeld, Temasek Holdings CEO Ho Ching, Areva CEO Anne Lauvergeon and Xerox Corp CEO Anne Mulcahy.

Six of the 10 most powerful women are from the US, while one each are from Britain, Germany, France and Singapore.

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