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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

NOVEMBER 5, 1999 VOL. 25 NO. 44

Rakesh Sahai for Asiaweek
I N D I A:
Priyanka Gandhi Vadra
Chandrababu Naidu

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra
Born 1972

It is a wondrous moment when Priyanka Gandhi Vadra walks onto a makeshift stage and delivers a campaign speech. The crowd shrieks in electrified adulation. When she waves to people on the street, the mobs rush forward, drawn to her. When she speaks, they listen, hanging on her every word. As witnessed in stop after stop during the recent elections in India, Priyanka has emerged a luminescent political star. "When she hits the [campaign trail], it is mad but magical," says one spell-bound journalist. The 27-year-old possesses the rare ability to inspire hope and a belief in better things to come. Priyanka is seen by many as the reluctant but rightful heir to the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty. With her illustrious lineage, her powerful personal charisma - and the right opportunity - it is not inconceivable that one day she could be the elected leader of over one billion people.

Priyanka has yet to express her intention to be in public office herself, but her natural magnetism and ability to reach out to common people is much-vaunted by those who want her to join politics. Some see her as a probable savior of the once-powerful but now much-diminished Congress faction. Stumping for her mother, the head of the party, Priyanka proved to be more than a crowd-drawer. Her presence helped water down some of the controversy around Sonia's Italian origin. "Priyanka moves the masses," says former minister H.R. Bharawaj. Though her older brother, Rahul, was also visible and active during the polling season just passed, the spotlight was trained on the mild-mannered Priyanka.

A new breed of politicians and activists are ready to break the shackles of the past, here listed by country:

The People Power Century
Combining idealism and pragmatic political instincts, these leaders are repudiating politics-as-usual

Hong Kong Leung Chun-ying

India Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and Chandrababu Naidu

Indonesia Andi Mallarangeng, Munir, and Emmy Hafild

Japan Noda Seiko, Shii Kazuo and Watanabe Yoshimi

Malaysia Hishammuddin Tun Hussein and Lim Guan Eng

Philippines Manuel Roxas II and Michael Defensor

Singapore Teo Chee Hean and George Yeo

South Korea Choo Mi Ae, Kim Min Seok and Nam Kyung Pil

Taiwan Ma Ying-jeou and Chen Shui-bian

Thailand Chaturon Chaisang and Abhisit Vejjajiva

Business & Finance
Journeying Beyond the Crisis
Born amidst unparalleled prosperity and tempered by adversity, a new generation of business leaders is poised to take the region to new levels of success in banking, commerce and industry

She is the image of her grandmother, murdered ex-premier Indira Gandhi, daughter of the late Jawaharlal Nehru, architect of modern India. Priyanka is also a visual reminder of her father Rajiv, who was also killed by an assassin. "She is Rajiv resurrected," says her father's long-time friend Mani Shankar Aiyer. For many, Priyanka's distinguished forebears survive in her. In total, the Nehru-Gandhis ruled as prime ministers for 35 out of the 52 years of an independent India.

Will Priyanka herself ever become a political candidate? "I cannot decide either way," she recently told reporters. "I have seen politics from close quarters, both the good and the bad." It is noteworthy that both her parents were hesitant about their own entries into public service. And just as Priyanka was a key aide to her mother during the campaign, now that Sonia is a member of Parliament, the daughter is an important adviser. Otherwise, she is said to be keen to be of more help to her husband of three years, Robert Vadra, in running his export business. Having studied psychology at Delhi University, Priyanka continues to be active in social work and in supporting charitable causes - suitable ground for honing her gift of political magic. As history has witnessed, the Nehru-Gandhi family legacy is a powerful force.

Chandrababu Naidu
Born 1950

Rakesh Sahai for Asiaweek

These are heady days for Chandrababu Naidu. With his Telugu Desam party's stunning success in India's recent parliamentary elections, Naidu has become an indispensable component in the 24-party ruling National Democratic Alliance. One would expect him to position himself as a mover and shaker in New Delhi - yet he has chosen not to participate in the central government. This is all in character for the man, who twice before turned down the opportunity to become prime minister. ("At that time I realized I didn't have the ability to run a country," he says candidly.)

Naidu's priorities are focused on his home state Andhra Pradesh, where he is chief minister. He is neither a great orator nor a charismatic leader who can move the masses with the wave of a hand. Instead, Naidu leads the hard way: by sheer diligence. "He works all the time," says an aide. That Naidu has gained his people's trust is shown by the fact that he advocates economic reform - widely seen in India as hurting rather than helping ordinary people - and still wins elections.

A computer enthusiast, Naidu is always seen with his laptop and is constantly looking for ways information technology can help his people. His efforts to turn state capital Hyderabad into another Silicon Valley have attracted the attention of several global software companies, including Microsoft. "I want to prove to the world that Indians can perform," he says.

The focus on his home turf, however, doesn't mean Naidu lacks a larger vision. "I am making Andhra Pradesh a pilot project for the rest of the country to follow." And if successful, Naidu might just decide that he has the ability to run things at the national level.

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