New Delhi, Dec 27: Some grabbed eyeballs for the controversies they kicked up, some for their politics, and others for making people smile and applaud. A look at the top newsmakers of 2012 in different sectors:
Sonia Gandhi: From deftly handling one-time ally Mamata Banerjee’s tantrums and backing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s decision on foreign investment to taking confrontationist positions in parliament and even preventing an MP from snatching a copy of a bill, the Congress president stayed in the news all of this year. As always, Gandhi, 66, also the chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance, was the steely presence behind most decisions taken by the ruling party and the government. The usually reticent woman showed a rare fiery side, making heads turn with her activism in the Lok Sabha — egging party colleagues to not give in to the opposition sloganeering over coal blocks allocation and darting after Samajwadi Party MP Yashvir Singh to prevent him from snatching a copy of the promotions quota bill before younger colleagues could get up.
Manmohan Singh: Tagged by a section of the western media as an “underachiever” and his government accused of policy paralysis, the prime minister attempted to combat economic despair with his initiative to open the Indian retail market to foreign direct investment and hike diesel prices. Manmohan Singh, 80, ignored the walkout threat of then ally Trinamool Congress and weathered the opposition onslaught in parliament on the issue – thanks to dexterous number juggling by his ministers – ensuring the government’s victory in the vote. With an eye on the 2014 polls, his government is hoping to push the direct cash transfer scheme, heralded as a “game changer”.
Narendra Modi: He won the Gujarat elections for the third straight term, becoming the opposition BJP’s most prominent leader and intensifying the buzz that he was headed to New Delhi as its prime ministerial candidate in 2014. The controversial 62-year-old Gujarat chief minister and formidable politician, believed to have done wonders for Gujarat’s economy and also polarised its society, was quick to seize opportunities. When Maruti’s Haryana factory was hit by strikes, Modi quickly offered land in Gujarat for the car factory, like he had done in the case of Tata Nano when West Bengal’s Nandigram proved too troublesome. This year, Britain, acknowledging the importance of Gujarat as an investment and business destination, took back the travel freeze imposed on Modi after the 2002 riots. While Modi has not publicly apologized for the carnage, he did tell people “forgive” him if he had committed any mistakes.
Arvind Kejriwal: Who will he expose next? Activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal’s series of press conferences to “expose” people in high places, mainly politicians and businesspersons, grabbed media attention and people were eager to know was next on the 44-year-old former Indian Revenue Service officer’s agenda. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra, BJP chief Nitin Gadkari, Salman Khurshid, now the external affairs minister, and Reliance Industries were all targets of his exposes on alleged corruption and wrongdoing. All denied the allegations. After parting ways with his mentor Anna Hazare, Kejriwal launched his political outfit Aam Admi Party (AAP).
Aamir Khan: Touted as Mr Perfectionist, Aamir made his TV debut with “Satyamev Jayate”, a 14-part series on topics as varied and sensitive as female foeticide, old age and untouchability. The show that went on air May 6 evoked strong emotions and a high viewership, touching a chord with the “aam aadmi”. To ensure a wide audience he ensured the show was telecast on Doordarshan simultaneously when it came on Star Plus. The serial was followed by his suspense thriller “Talaash”, which had him packing in an intense performance as a cop. The film has earned profits at the box-office, both in India and overseas, though critics have panned the script. Now, he has plans to make a film on the Mahabharata.
Sridevi: The “Hawa Hawaii” girl made her grand Bollywood comeback this year in “English Vinglish”. After a 15-year sabbatical, Sridevi’s flawless performance in the film as a homemaker won the hearts of millions of women. Once known as India’s only female superstar for her ability to carry a film through on her shoulders, Sridevi, 49, is still remembered for her huge hits like “Mr India”, “Chandni” and “Chaalbaaz”.
Sachin Tendulkar: Ending days of speculation, India’s batting great decided Dec 23 to retire from ODIs. The timing was a bit surprising since it came moments before the team for Pakistan was announced. It was not the way Tendulkar fans would have expected him to end his 23-year illustrious career. Tendulkar, considered one of the greatest batsmen the world has seen, also got his 100 centuries this year during the Asia Cup in Dhaka.
Sushil Kumar: The wrestler from Baprola village on the outskirts of Delhi created history by becoming the only Indian to have won back-to-back medals at the Olympics this year. Sushil won the silver medal in the Men’s 66kg Freestyle Wrestling event at the 2012 London Olympics. He had won a bronze in the Men’s 66kg Freestyle Wrestling at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Vijay Kumar: The army shooter made India proud by winning the silver medal in the individual 25-metre rapid fire pistol event at the London Olympics. Vijay had earlier won three gold medals and one silver at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games. After a lot of controversy, Vijay was promoted as Subedar Major and given a cash award of Rs.30 lakh with Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh promising all help to elevate him to the rank of an officer.
Ratan Tata: Ratan Naval Tata steps down as chairman of Tata Sons, the holding company of the $100 billion salt-to-steel conglomerate Tata Group Dec 28 when he turns 75. Tata retires after being at the helm of affairs for 21 years. He is succeeded by 44-year old Cyrus Pallonji Mistry, whose family is a significant stakeholder of Tata Sons. After giving up his official responsibilities, Tata will hold the title of chairman emeritus of Tata Sons.
Vijay Mallya: It was a turbulent year for the “king of good times” and UB Group chairman Vijay Mallya. His Kingfisher Airlines, one of the largest aviation firms in India till recently, was grounded due to mounting debt. In mid-October, the Indian regulator suspended the licence of the airline, believed to be reeling under nearly $2 billion debt and which has not paid its staff for seven months. Mallya sold majority 53.4 percent stake in his liquor firm United Spirits to British spirits giant Diageo for $2 billion. The deal will provide some reprieve to UB Group, which has been struggling under a mountain of debt.
Gang-rape victim: The 23-year-old physiotherapy student became the anguished cynosure of a nation when she was thrown on a Delhi road on a cold December night with her male friend. She had been brutally tortured and raped by six males on a moving bus. She was so grievously injured that her intestines had to be taken out. The woman, now in a Singapore hospital, fights a valiant battle for survival — galvanising as never before perhaps protestors from all segments of society and provoking an entire country to reflect on the position of women, crimes against them and the legal framework to protect them. As parts of the national capital ground to a halt, President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi were amongst those who called for introspection.