Narendra Modi: Chief minister of Gujarat since 2001, the 63-year-old Modi has a proven track record as a development-oriented leader. Gujarat’s transformation under him during the past 12 years has made him arguably the most popular living politician of India. However, the blot of 2002 Gujarat riots in which over a thousand, mostly Muslims, were killed continues to haunt Modi.
With no evidence thus far found against him for his alleged involvement in the riots and some favourable court verdicts has made him more acceptable to even some of the secular parties. Ironically, the man who would make his debut as an MP if elected form Lucknow, the erstwhile constituency of his idol Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Modi stands the best chance to become the new Indian prime minister.
Rahul Gandhi: The 43-year-old vice president of the Congress party could be the next prime minister in case the UPA get another term in office. Enjoys a clean image despite people around him facing corruption charges. Though he has been a parliamentarian for the past 10 years, has no administrative experience.
Gandhi is the fifth generation politician form the famous Nehru-Gandhi clan which has given the nation three prime ministers in his father Rajiv Gandhi, grandmother Indira Gandhi and great grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru. Despite being a charming figure, he has failed in converting his charm into votes and has a dismal track record as star campaigner of the Congress party.
Arvind Kejriwal: The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) is going to polls under the leadership of its 45-year-old chief Arvind Kejriwal, dropping broad hints that he is their prime ministerial candidate. However, it is not yet certain if he would contest the Lok Sabha election. Came to power in Delhi with the outside support of the Congress party and quit after 49 days allegedly to focus on parliamentary polls. Chances of becoming the prime minister not too high considering AAP continues with its strategy of neither offering its support nor accepting support from any other party. The ensuing polls can be both make or break event even for both AAP and Kejriwal. Credited for making corruption the focus point in the polls.
Mamata Banerjee: The 59-year-old West Bengal chief minister’s ambitions have soared to new heights after iconic anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare certified her the best prime minister India can have. A street fighter, Banerjee is known for her simple life and clean image. She has almost served half of her five year tenure as West Bengal chief minister without any major achievement to boast of other than driving the Marxists who ruled West Bengal for 34 straight years out of the state assembly.
Her chances rest on how many seats her Trinamool Congress manages to win from 42 parliamentary seats from her home state, though her party has plans of putting up candidates from other states too. Can play both kingmaker or game spoiler. Famous for her maverick style and swinging moods.
J. Jayalalitha: the 64-year-old Tamil Nadu chief minister has of late been flaunting her national ambitions openly and accepted birthday cake in the shape of the Indian parliament with a smile on February 24. Much will depend on whether the Tamil Nadu voters, who elect 39 MPs, serve parliament to her on the platter too.
Jayalalitha joined the Third Front despite being considered close to BJP’s Modi. Is known as a maverick politician who pulled down the Atal Bihar Vajpayee government in 1998 after withdrawing support for no apparent reason.
Mulayam Singh Yadav: The 74-year-old Samajwadi Party chief fancies his chances of becoming the third socialist leader after Chaudhary Charan Singh and Chandra Shekhar to become the prime minister. Has served as a federal minister and Uttar Pradesh chief minister.
The desire to become the prime minister is so farce that he opted to make his son Akhilesh Yadav the Uttar Pradesh chief minister after Samajwadi Party emerged victorious in 2012 state polls to focus on parliamentary polls. Most acceptable face in the Third Front. His fate will hinge on how many out of 80 Lok Sabha seats of Uttar Pradesh his party manages to win.
Nitish Kumar: The 62-year-old Bihar chief minister is another prime minister aspirant from the Third Front stable. His work as the chief minister of one of the most backward states over the past eight years has made him a national figure. However, fearing that being seen in the company of Narendra Modi would make him unpopular with his Muslim voters, he led the Janata Dal-United to snap ties with the BJP which many feel may prove counterproductive for him. Least chances among all probables to become the next prime minister.