The 2013 TIME 100 Poll was released on March 28, 2013 by the American magazine ‘Time’ and it is an opportunity for the millions of internet fans to cast votes for their favorite leaders, artists, innovators, icons and heroes, who they believe are the most influential people in the world.
The whole idea of doing the “100 most influential people in the world” list happened during a discussion on February 1, 1998 in a symposium in Washington DC and based on its popularity and response, Time magazine made it an annual issue since 2004. This has certainly become a pop culture of late to show your support to a candidate being listed in the top 100. Of Late, social media is being used to the fullest to drum up support for a candidate so much so that Time has introduced a new measure this year: ‘Candidate Social Shares’, which measures which candidate’s poll pages are getting the most buzz on social media, from Twitter to Pinterest.
One important thing to keep in mind is that these candidates chosen are simply the most influential people in the world but doesn’t necessarily mean in a positive way. As Time clearly points out: “Although appearing on the list is frequently mistaken as an honor, this set of people are recognized for changing the world, for better or for worse”.
Though the poll contains candidates from diverse set of fields, it is politicians and political activists who get lot of visibility and noise around the nomination – either for or against it. Generally speaking, it is relatively smooth sailing for other category nominees: artists, innovators and icons in this poll when compared to politicians as they have fans that either like them or not like them as against politicians who have people who ‘love’ them or ‘hate’ them. Few politicians and activists have succeeded in getting to the top, most have faltered.
From an Indian perspective, this list has featured some high profile Indian politicians/activists in the final 100 in past few years including Mamata Banerjee in 2012, Aruna Roy in 2011 and Manmohan Singh in 2010 in the Politicians and Revolutionary category. The initial lists published each year having more than 100 nominees have seen handful of Indians but have mostly failed to make it to the final 100 list.
Narendra Modi is one such nominee who ended up on the wrong side of this poll history. He topped the list with most number of ‘No Way’ votes in 2012 list. He polled in 256,828 ‘Yes’ votes compared to 266,739 ‘No Way’ votes making him one of the only two candidates in top 15 to poll more No votes than Yes; the other being Bashar Assad of Syria. The result must have stung pretty hard for a politician known to have a huge bunch of ardent internet followers. This only goes on to prove that it is very important for politicians in this poll to not just have many admirers but have fewer critics. Modi was one of the 195 candidates in the initial list of 2012 but didn’t figure in the final 100 which was a victory of sorts for his critics.
If one analyzes all the political figures in the list, it is easy to observe that many politicians, especially the controversial and lightning-rods types, have equal, if not more, foes than allies. Many US and other international politicians who in general sense are controversial for their political stance including Former US senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Former house speaker Newt Gingrich known for their ultra conservative social stance, and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu known for his hawkish foreign policy received huge number of negative than positive votes.
However, this may not be true in all cases. The other Indians in the 2012 list were Anna Hazare and Nitish Kumar, who polled in much less percentage of total votes than Modi however their ‘Yes to No’ vote ratio was much better: Anna getting 88% to 12% in his favor of the total 27, 336 votes and Nitish scoring 78% to 22% of the total 17, 272 reflects on their overall likeability. Still, both of them didn’t figure in final list.
Now, coming to the 2013 poll, RTI activist and Aam Aadmi Party founder Arvind Kejriwal is the lone Indian in the initial list of 151 nominees. He is currently leading in the second spot with more than 63,000 votes but the interesting point to note is his ‘Yes to No’ vote ratio: 95% Yes compared to 5% No votes. It is an interesting statistics given the general theory about politicians voting ratio in this poll explained earlier. The other two politicians in the list: Mohamed Morsi, who is leading the list currently and Bashar Assad, who is in the third spot confirm to the theory and have more No votes than Yes.
So, how did Arvind Kejriwal alone buck the trend? This says something about the man himself. Kejriwal has been in national spotlight for good part of last three years from the beginning of his ‘Indian Against Corruption’ movement in 2011, though his stellar work with the RTI campaign came much before that. He succeeded, along with Anna Hazare and others, in channelizing the popular anger of people against the growing number of mind-numbing scams in India to create a popular draft bill called the Jan Lokpal through which corruption could be reduced significantly and lives of common man made better. While the ruling politicians and their core supporters perceived him as stubborn, unflinching and even arrogant at times, general public saw him as a steadfast general who kept the campaign on course.
Then came the (in)famous split with Anna Hazare on the future course of campaign, he founded the new alternative political party, now named Aam Aadmi Party, and kept his crusade against corruption going forward. He hasn’t looked back since and has mounted one offense after another against the ruling central and other state governments and has created an army of young volunteers for his party. While the party itself and some of its members heavily criticized by people from both right and left side of the political spectrum, Arvind has been largely unscathed by any big criticisms. Ruling party with all investigative agencies at its disposal could not dig any dirt worthy from the man’s past. Even many who ideologically differ with Kejriwal or may simply disagree with his mode of protest tend to agree that he is idealistic with a vision for the county and is charismatic.
It is true that Arvind Kejriwal is still a new entrant in political arena and the old adage of ‘Familiarity breeds contempt’ may still catch up to him but he is an unconventional politician and an activist at heart, so he may end up being a true rebel after all.
Whether he and his party succeed in the upcoming elections is yet to be seen, so is the question on whether Arvind Kejriwal can finish in the top 100 influential people in the world. Official voting ends on April 12th and the final TIME 100 is selected by TIME’s editors and revealed on April 18th. For what is worth, he has already proven to be a new trend-setter for the political category in the TIME’s 100 poll.