Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Tata Sons Chairman Ratan Tata are among the five Indians named among the most powerful people in the world by Forbes in its this year’s list of 68 people “who matter“.

India’s business tycoons Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani and steel giant ArcelorMittal Chairman Lakshmi Mittal also make this year’s list.

China’s President Hu Jintao has topped the 2010 Forbes list of the ‘World’s Most Powerful People’

For the top spot, Jintao pipped US President Barack Obama, who comes in at second place. Of the 6.8 billion people on the planet, Forbes’ list comprises “the 68 who matter.

The heads of state, major religious figures, entrepreneurs and outlaws on the second annual list were chosen “because, in various ways, they bend the world to their will. Gandhi debuts on the 9th spot in this year’s list of the world’s most powerful people.

Incidentally, she was not featured in Forbes’ recent list of the world’s most powerful women.

Recently elected to record fourth term as head of India’s ruling Congress Party, 63-year old Gandhi has cemented her “status as true heiress to the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty.”

Forbes said despite her Italian birth, foreign religion (Roman Catholic) and political reluctance, “Gandhi wields unequaled influence over 1.2 billion Indians.

Having “handpicked brainy Sikh economist Manmohan Singh” as Prime Minister, Forbes said Gandhi remains the real power behind the nuclear-tipped throne.

She is now grooming her 40-year-old son Rahul for prime minister’s role.

Singh, “universally praised as India’s best prime minister since Nehru,” is ranked 18th on the list. He has moved up in the list from last year’s 36th position.

Forbes said the soft-spoken Oxford-trained economist is “ideally trained to lead the world’s fourth-largest economy in terms of purchasing power into the next decade.”

Credited with transforming India’s quasi-socialist economy into world’s second-fastest growing, 78-year old Singh is now enjoying the fruits of free-market policies he implemented as India’s finance minister in early 1990s.

With the World Bank forecasting India’s GDP to surge 7.6 per cent in 2010 and another eight per cent in 2011 -- not far behind its 9 per cent forecast for China -- Forbes said this is clearly the case of “slow and steady will win the race.”

Ambani, who has a networth of USD 29 billion, comes in on the 34th spot. His ranking too improved from last year, when he was ranked 44th. The 53-year old “business maharaja” is Asia’s richest person, who certainly likes to live like a king, Forbes said.

His one billion dollar 27-floor high-rise in Mumbai is the world’s most expensive private residence.

His petrochemicals conglomerate Reliance Industries is India’s most valuable private sector company with a market cap of USD 80 billion. It accounts for nearly five per cent of India’s GDP and 15 per cent of exports.

The Reliance refinery at Jamnagar in western India can process 1.24 million barrels daily making it world’s single largest refining complex in one location.

“Firm is setting up a joint venture in Marcellus Shale, one of the most promising gas deposit regions in the US,” Forbes said.

Occupying the 44th spot is Lakshmi Mittal, chairman of the world’s largest steel company ArcelorMittal.

The 60-year old steel magnate has a networth of 28.7 billion dollars.

Mittal moved up 11 notches in this year’s ranking from his 55th spot last year.

London’s wealthiest resident, Mittal is sponsoring London’s 2012 Olympic games, paying for most of a 400-foot twisting steel tower to be named ArcelorMittal Orbit at the city’s Olympic Park and helping groom Indian athletes through his foundation for the Olympics and other championship events.

His company has operations in 60 countries and produces 73 million tons of steel, eight per cent of world’s output. One out of five cars in the world is made with its materials.

Tata dropped two notches from last year and comes in at the 61st position in the Forbes 2010 list of the world’s most powerful people.

Calling the 72-year old Tata Sons head as “India’s best brand ambassador,” Forbes said Tata made “automotive history” last year with his ‘People’s Car’ -- the 2,200 dollars Tata Nano, the world’s cheapest auto.

“In nation of a billion, environmentalists call it eco-disaster. After Nano debuted in 2008, India’s passenger car sales rose most in three years in 2009; three Tata competitors now working on Nano copycats,” Forbes said.

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