The Most Famous

POLITICIANS from India

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This page contains a list of the greatest Indian Politicians. The pantheon dataset contains 15,710 Politicians, 238 of which were born in India. This makes India the birth place of the 12th most number of Politicians behind Greece and Japan.

Top 10

The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Indian Politicians of all time. This list of famous Indian Politicians is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Indian Politicians.

Photo of Ashoka

1. Ashoka (-304 - -232)

With an HPI of 85.91, Ashoka is the most famous Indian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 124 different languages on wikipedia.

Ashoka (; Brāhmi: 𑀅𑀲𑁄𑀓, Asoka, IAST: Aśoka), also known as Ashoka the Great, Piodasses in ancient Greece, was an Indian emperor of the Maurya Dynasty, son of Bindusara, who ruled almost all of the Indian subcontinent from c. 268 to 232 BCE. Ashoka promoted the spread of Buddhism across ancient Asia. Considered by many to be one of India's greatest emperors, Ashoka expanded Chandragupta's empire to reign over a realm stretching from present-day Afghanistan in the west to Bangladesh in the east. It covered the entire Indian subcontinent except for parts of present-day Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Kerala. The empire's capital was Pataliputra (in Magadha, present-day Patna), with provincial capitals at Taxila and Ujjain. Ashoka, after the war of Kalinga, got upset with the bloodshed and vowed to never fight again. He embraced Buddhism and patronised Buddhism in his rule and reign. Ashoka waged a destructive war against the state of Kalinga (modern Odisha), which he conquered in about 260 BCE. According to an interpretation of his Edicts, he converted to Buddhism after witnessing the mass deaths of the Kalinga War, which he had waged out of a desire for conquest and which reportedly directly resulted in more than 100,000 deaths and 150,000 deportations. He is remembered for erecting the Ashoka pillars and spreading his Edicts, for sending Buddhist monks to Sri Lanka and Central Asia, and for establishing monuments marking several significant sites in the life of Gautama Buddha.Beyond the Edicts of Ashoka, biographical information about him relies on legends written centuries later, such as the 2nd-century CE Ashokavadana ("Narrative of Ashoka", a part of the Divyavadana), and in the Sri Lankan text Mahavamsa ("Great Chronicle"). The emblem of the modern Republic of India is an adaptation of the Lion Capital of Ashoka. His Sanskrit name "Aśoka" means "painless, without sorrow" (the a privativum and śoka, "pain, distress"). In his edicts, he is referred to as Devānāmpriya (Pali Devānaṃpiya or "the Beloved of the Gods"), and Priyadarśin or Priyadarshi (Pali Piyadasī or "He who regards everyone with affection"). His fondness for a tree is the reason for his name being connected to the "Ashoka tree" or Saraca asoca, and this is referenced in the Ashokavadana. In The Outline of History (1920), H.G. Wells wrote, "Amidst the tens of thousands of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history, their majesties and graciousnesses and serenities and royal highnesses and the like, the name of Ashoka shines, and shines, almost alone, a star."

Photo of A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

2. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam (1931 - 2015)

With an HPI of 82.61, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam is the 2nd most famous Indian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 75 different languages.

Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam ( (listen); 15 October 1931 – 27 July 2015) was an Indian aerospace scientist who served as the 11th president of India from 2002 to 2007. He was born and raised in Rameswaram, Tamil Nadu and studied physics and aerospace engineering. He spent the next four decades as a scientist and science administrator, mainly at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and was intimately involved in India's civilian space programme and military missile development efforts. He thus came to be known as the Missile Man of India for his work on the development of ballistic missile and launch vehicle technology. He also played a pivotal organisational, technical, and political role in India's Pokhran-II nuclear tests in 1998, the first since the original nuclear test by India in 1974.Kalam was elected as the 11th president of India in 2002 with the support of both the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the then-opposition Indian National Congress. Widely referred to as the "People's President", he returned to his civilian life of education, writing and public service after a single term. He was a recipient of several prestigious awards, including the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honour. While delivering a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management Shillong, Kalam collapsed and died from an apparent cardiac arrest on 27 July 2015, aged 83. Thousands, including national-level dignitaries, attended the funeral ceremony held in his hometown of Rameswaram, where he was buried with full state honours.

Photo of Jawaharlal Nehru

3. Jawaharlal Nehru (1889 - 1964)

With an HPI of 81.35, Jawaharlal Nehru is the 3rd most famous Indian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 134 different languages.

Jawaharlal Nehru (; Hindi: [ˈdʒəʋɑːɦəɾˈlɑːl ˈneːɦɾuː] (listen); juh-WAH-hurr-LAHL nay-HROO; 14 November 1889 – 27 May 1964) was an Indian anti-colonial nationalist, secular humanist, social democrat and author who was a central figure in India during the middle third of the 20th century. Upon India's independence in 1947, he served as the country's prime minister for 17 years. Nehru promoted parliamentary democracy, secularism, and science and technology during the 1950s, powerfully influencing India's arc as a modern nation. In international affairs, he steered India clear of the two blocs of the Cold War. A well-regarded author, his books written in prison, such as Letters from a Father to His Daughter (1929), An Autobiography (1936), and The Discovery of India (1946), were read around the world. The son of Motilal Nehru, a prominent lawyer and Indian nationalist, Jawaharlal Nehru was educated in England—at Harrow School and Trinity College, Cambridge, and trained in the law at the Inner Temple. He became a barrister, returned to India, enrolled at the Allahabad High Court and gradually began to take an interest in national politics, which eventually became a full-time occupation. He joined the Indian National Congress, rose to become the leader of a progressive faction during the 1920s, and eventually of the Congress, receiving the support of Mahatma Gandhi who was to designate Nehru as his political heir. As Congress president in 1929, Nehru called for complete independence from the British Raj. Nehru and the Congress dominated Indian politics during the 1930s. Nehru promoted the idea of the secular nation-state in the 1937 Indian provincial elections, allowing the Congress to sweep the elections, and to form governments in several provinces. In September 1939, the Congress ministries resigned to protest Viceroy Lord Linlithgow's decision to join the war without consulting them. After the All India Congress Committee's Quit India Resolution of 8 August 1942, senior Congress leaders were imprisoned and for a time the organization was crushed. Nehru, who had reluctantly heeded Gandhi's call for immediate independence, and had desired instead to support the Allied war effort during World War II, came out of a lengthy prison term to a much altered political landscape. The Muslim League, under Muhammad Ali Jinnah, had come to dominate Muslim politics in the interim. In the 1946 provincial elections, Congress won the elections but the League won all the seats reserved for Muslims, which the British interpreted to be a clear mandate for Pakistan in some form. Nehru became the interim prime minister of India in September 1946, with the League joining his government with some hesitancy in October 1946. Upon India's independence on August 15, 1947, Nehru gave a critically acclaimed speech, "Tryst with Destiny"; he was sworn in as the Dominion of India's prime minister and raised the Indian flag at the Red Fort in Delhi. On January 26, 1950, when India became a republic within the Commonwealth of Nations, Nehru became the Republic of India's first prime minister. He embarked on an ambitious program of economic, social, and political reforms. Nehru promoted a pluralistic multi-party democracy. In foreign affairs, he played a leading role in establishing the Non-Aligned Movement, a group of nations that did not seek membership in the two main ideological blocs of the 1950s. Under Nehru's leadership, the Congress emerged as a catch-all party, dominating national and state-level politics and winning elections in 1951, 1957 and 1962. Nehru remained popular with the Indian people despite India's defeat in the Sino-Indian War of 1962 for which he was widely blamed. He died as a result of a heart attack on 27 May 1964. His birthday is celebrated as Children's Day in India.

Photo of Indira Gandhi

4. Indira Gandhi (1917 - 1984)

With an HPI of 80.94, Indira Gandhi is the 4th most famous Indian Politician.  Her biography has been translated into 120 different languages.

Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi (Hindi: [ˈɪnd̪ɪɾɑː ˈɡɑːnd̪ʰi] (listen); née Nehru; 19 November 1917 – 31 October 1984) was an Indian politician and a central figure of the Indian National Congress. She was the 3rd prime minister of India and was also the first and, to date, only female prime minister of India. Gandhi was the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru, the 1st prime minister of India. She served as prime minister from January 1966 to March 1977 and again from January 1980 until her assassination in October 1984, making her the second longest-serving Indian prime minister after her father. During Nehru's premiership from 1947 to 1964, Gandhi was considered a key assistant and accompanied him on his numerous foreign trips. She was elected president of the Indian National Congress in 1959. Upon her father's death in 1964, she was appointed as a member of the Rajya Sabha (upper house) and became a member of Lal Bahadur Shastri's cabinet as Minister of Information and Broadcasting. In the Congress Party's parliamentary leadership election held in early 1966 (upon the death of Shastri), she defeated her rival Morarji Desai to become leader, and thus succeeded Shastri, after his death, as Prime Minister of India. As prime minister, Gandhi was known for her political intransigency and unprecedented centralisation of power. She went to war with Pakistan in support of the independence movement and war of independence in East Pakistan, which resulted in an Indian victory and the creation of Bangladesh, as well as increasing India's influence to the point where it became the sole regional power of South Asia. Citing separatist tendencies, and in response to a call for revolution, Gandhi instituted a state of emergency from 1975 to 1977 where basic civil liberties were suspended and the press was censored. Widespread atrocities were carried out during the emergency. In 1980, she returned to power after free and fair elections. After Gandhi ordered military action in the Golden Temple in Operation Blue Star, her own bodyguards and Sikh nationalists assassinated her on 31 October 1984. In 1999, Indira Gandhi was named "Woman of the Millennium" in an online poll organised by the BBC. In 2020, Gandhi was named by Time magazine among the world's 100 powerful women who defined the last century.

Photo of Shivaji

5. Shivaji (1627 - 1680)

With an HPI of 79.64, Shivaji is the 5th most famous Indian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 57 different languages.

Shivaji Bhonsale I (Marathi pronunciation: [ʃiʋaˑd͡ʒiˑ bʱoˑs(ə)leˑ]; c.19 February 1630 – 3 April 1680), also referred to as Chhatrapati Shivaji, was an Indian ruler and a member of the Bhonsle Maratha clan. Shivaji carved out an enclave from the declining Adilshahi sultanate of Bijapur that formed the genesis of the Maratha Empire. In 1674, he was formally crowned the Chhatrapati of his realm at Raigad.Over the course of his life, Shivaji engaged in both alliances and hostilities with the Mughal Empire, the Sultanate of Golkonda, Sultanate of Bijapur and the Portuguese colonial power. Shivaji's military forces expanded the Maratha sphere of influence, capturing and building forts, and forming a Maratha navy. Shivaji established a competent and progressive civil rule with well-structured administrative organisations. He revived ancient Hindu political traditions, court conventions and promoted the usage of the Marathi and Sanskrit languages, replacing Persian in court and administration.Shivaji's legacy was to vary by observer and time, but nearly two centuries after his death, he began to take on increased importance with the emergence of the Indian independence movement, as many Indian nationalists elevated him as a proto-nationalist and hero of the Hindus.

Photo of Chandragupta Maurya

6. Chandragupta Maurya (-340 - -297)

With an HPI of 77.52, Chandragupta Maurya is the 6th most famous Indian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 73 different languages.

Chandragupta Maurya (Sanskrit: Candragupta Maurya; Ancient Greek: Σανδράκοττος Sandrákottos; Latin: Androcottus; reign: 321–297 BCE) was the founder of the Maurya Empire in ancient India. Chandragupta built one of the largest empires on the Indian subcontinent. Chandragupta's life and accomplishments are described in ancient Greek, Hindu, Buddhist and Jain texts, but they vary significantly. Chandragupta Maurya was an important figure in the history of India, laying the foundations of the first state to unite most of South Asia. Chandragupta, under the tutelage of Chanakya, created a new empire based on the principles of statecraft, built a large army, and continued expanding the boundaries of his empire until ultimately renouncing it for an ascetic life in his final years. Prior to his consolidation of power, Alexander the Great had invaded the North-West Indian subcontinent before abandoning his campaign in 324 BCE due to a mutiny caused by the prospect of facing another large empire, presumably the Nanda Empire. Chandragupta defeated and conquered both the Nanda Empire, and the Greek satraps that were appointed or formed from Alexander's Empire in South Asia. Chandragupta first gained regional prominence in the Greater Punjab region in the Indus. He then set out to conquer the Nanda Empire centered in Pataliputra, Magadha. Afterwards, Chandragupta expanded and secured his western border, where he was confronted by Seleucus I Nicator in the Seleucid-Mauryan War. After two years of war, Chandragupta was considered to have gained the upper hand in the conflict and annexed satrapies up to the Hindu Kush. Instead of prolonging the war, both parties settled on a marriage treaty between Chandragupta and Seleucus I Nicator. Chandragupta's empire extended throughout most of the Indian subcontinent, spanning from modern day Bengal to Afghanistan across North India as well as making inroads into Central and South India. According to the Jain accounts dated to 800 years after his death, Chandragupta abdicated his throne and became a Jain monk, traveled away from his empire to South India and committed sallekhana or fasting to death. Contemporary Greek evidence however avers that Chandragupta did not give up performing the rites of sacrificing animals associated with Vedic Brahminism, an ancient form of Hinduism; he delighted in hunting and otherwise leading a life remote from the Jain practice of Ahimsa or nonviolence towards living beings. Chandragupta's reign, and the Maurya Empire, set an era of economic prosperity, reforms, infrastructure expansions, and tolerance. Many religions thrived within his realms and his descendants' empire. Buddhism, Jainism and Ajivika gained prominence alongside Vedic and Brahmanistic traditions, and minority religions such as Zoroastrianism and the Greek pantheon were respected. A memorial for Chandragupta Maurya exists on the Chandragiri hill along with a 7th-century hagiographic inscription.

Photo of Aurangzeb

7. Aurangzeb (1618 - 1707)

With an HPI of 76.93, Aurangzeb is the 7th most famous Indian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 70 different languages.

Muhi-ud-Din Muhammad (Persian: محی‌الدین محمد‎) (3 November 1618 – 3 March 1707), commonly known by the sobriquet Aurangzeb (Persian: اورنگزیب‎, lit. 'Ornament of the Throne') or by his regnal title Alamgir (Persian: "Conqueror of the World"), was the sixth Mughal emperor, who ruled over almost the entire Indian subcontinent for a period of 49 years. Widely considered to be the last effective ruler of the Mughal Empire, Aurangzeb compiled the Fatawa-e-Alamgiri, and was among the few monarchs to have fully established Sharia law and Islamic economics throughout the Indian subcontinent. He was an accomplished military leader whose rule has been the subject of praise, though he has also been described as the most controversial ruler in Indian history.He was a notable expansionist; during his reign, the Mughal Empire reached its greatest extent, ruling over nearly all of the Indian subcontinent. During his lifetime, victories in the south expanded the Mughal Empire to 4 million square kilometres, and he ruled over a population estimated to be over 158 million subjects. Under his reign, India surpassed Qing China to become the world's largest economy and biggest manufacturing power, worth nearly a quarter of global GDP and more than the entirety of Western Europe, and its largest and wealthiest subdivision, the Bengal Subah, signaled proto-industrialization.Aurangzeb was noted for his religious piety; he memorized the entire Quran, studied hadiths and stringently observed the rituals of Islam, and "transcribe[d] copies of the Quran." He also patronized works of Islamic and Arabic calligraphy.Multiple interpretations of Aurangzeb's life and reign over the years by critics have led to a very complicated legacy. Some argue that his policies abandoned his predecessors' legacy of pluralism and religious tolerance, citing his introduction of the jizya tax and other policies based on Islamic ethics; his demolition of Hindu temples; the executions of his elder brother Dara Shikoh, King Sambhaji of Maratha and Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur; and the prohibition and supervision of behaviour and activities that are forbidden in Islam such as gambling, fornication, and consumption of alcohol and narcotics. At the same time, some historians question the historical authenticity of the claims of his critics, arguing that his destruction of temples has been exaggerated, and noting that he built more temples than he destroyed, paid for their maintenance, employed significantly more Hindus in his imperial bureaucracy than his predecessors, and opposed bigotry against Hindus and Shia Muslims.

Photo of Rani of Jhansi

8. Rani of Jhansi (1828 - 1858)

With an HPI of 76.64, Rani of Jhansi is the 8th most famous Indian Politician.  Her biography has been translated into 59 different languages.

Lakshmibai, the Rani of Jhansi (pronunciation ; 19 November 1828 — 18 June 1858), was an Indian queen, the Maharani consort of the Maratha princely state of Jhansi from 1843 to 1853 as the wife of Maharaja Gangadhar Rao. She was one of the leading figures of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and became a symbol of resistance to the British Raj for Indian nationalists. She died from wounds received in a battle on 18 June 1858. The rebellion was suppressed by the British forces in November of that year.

Photo of Subhas Chandra Bose

9. Subhas Chandra Bose (1897 - 1945)

With an HPI of 76.47, Subhas Chandra Bose is the 9th most famous Indian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 58 different languages.

Subhas Chandra Bose ( (listen) shuub-HAHSS CHUN-drə BOHSS; 23 January 1897 – 18 August 1945) was an Indian nationalist whose defiant patriotism made him a hero in India, but whose attempt during World War II to rid India of British rule with the help of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan left a troubled legacy. The honorific Netaji (Hindustani: "Respected Leader"), first applied to Bose in Germany in early 1942 by the Indian soldiers of the Indische Legion and by the German and Indian officials in the Special Bureau for India in Berlin, was later used throughout India.Bose had been a leader of the younger, radical, wing of the Indian National Congress in the late 1920s and 1930s, rising to become Congress President in 1938 and 1939. However, he was ousted from Congress leadership positions in 1939 following differences with Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress high command. He was subsequently placed under house arrest by the British before escaping from India in 1940. Bose arrived in Germany in April 1941, where the leadership offered unexpected, if sometimes ambivalent, sympathy for the cause of India's independence, contrasting starkly with its attitudes towards other colonised peoples and ethnic communities. In November 1941, with German funds, a Free India Centre was set up in Berlin, and soon a Free India Radio, on which Bose broadcast nightly. A 3,000-strong Free India Legion, comprising Indians captured by Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps, was also formed to aid in a possible future German land invasion of India. By spring 1942, in light of Japanese victories in southeast Asia and changing German priorities, a German invasion of India became untenable, and Bose became keen to move to southeast Asia. Adolf Hitler, during his only meeting with Bose in late May 1942, suggested the same, and offered to arrange for a submarine. During this time Bose also became a father; his wife, or companion, Emilie Schenkl, whom he had met in 1934, gave birth to a baby girl in November 1942. Identifying strongly with the Axis powers, and no longer apologetically, Bose boarded a German submarine in February 1943. Off Madagascar, he was transferred to a Japanese submarine from which he disembarked in Japanese-held Sumatra in May 1943.With Japanese support, Bose revamped the Indian National Army (INA), which had been founded in 1942 by Major Iwaichi Fujiwara and Captain Mohan Singh and comprised Indian soldiers of the British Indian army who had been captured by the Japanese in the Battle of Singapore. To these, after Bose's arrival, were added enlisting Indian civilians in Malaya and Singapore. The Japanese had come to support a number of puppet and provisional governments in the captured regions, such as those in Burma, the Philippines and Manchukuo. Before long the Provisional Government of Free India, presided by Bose, was formed in the Japanese-occupied Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Bose had great drive and charisma—using popular Indian slogans, such as "Jai Hind,"—and the INA under Bose was a model of diversity by region, ethnicity, religion, and even gender. However, Bose was regarded by the Japanese as being militarily unskilled, and his military effort was short-lived. In late 1944 and early 1945, the British Indian Army first halted and then devastatingly reversed the Japanese attack on India. Almost half the Japanese forces and fully half the participating INA contingent were killed. The INA was driven down the Malay Peninsula and surrendered with the recapture of Singapore. Bose had earlier chosen not to surrender with his forces or with the Japanese, but rather to escape to Manchuria with a view to seeking a future in the Soviet Union which he believed to be turning anti-British. He died from third-degree burns received when his plane crashed in Taiwan. Some Indians, however, did not believe that the crash had occurred, with many among them, especially in Bengal, believing that Bose would return to gain India's independence.The Indian National Congress, the main instrument of Indian nationalism, praised Bose's patriotism but distanced itself from his tactics and ideology, especially his collaboration with fascism. The British Raj, though never seriously threatened by the INA, charged 300 INA officers with treason in the INA trials, but eventually backtracked in the face both of popular sentiment and of its own end.

Photo of B. R. Ambedkar

10. B. R. Ambedkar (1891 - 1956)

With an HPI of 76.34, B. R. Ambedkar is the 10th most famous Indian Politician.  His biography has been translated into 64 different languages.

Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (IPA: [bhɪməɑo ɹæmdʒi ɑmbɛdkɑə]; 14 April 1891 – 6 December 1956) was an Indian jurist, economist, and social reformer who fought economic and social discrimination against the untouchables (now dalits) in India's Hindu society, and who later renounced Hinduism and inspired the Dalit Buddhist movement. Ambedkar served as chairman of the drafting committee of the Constitution of India, and Minister of Law and Justice in the first cabinet of Jawaharlal Nehru from 1947 to 1951. He is also referred to by the honorific Babasaheb (BAH-bə SAH-hayb). Ambedkar was a prolific student, earning doctorates in economics from both Columbia University and the London School of Economics, gaining a reputation as a scholar for his research in law, economics and political science. In his early career, he was an economist, professor, and lawyer. His later life was marked by his political activities; he became involved in campaigning and negotiations for India's independence, publishing journals, advocating political rights and social freedom for Dalits, and contributing significantly to the establishment of the state of India. In 1956, he converted to Buddhism, initiating mass conversions of Dalits.In 1990, the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian award, was posthumously conferred on Ambedkar. The salutation Jai Bhim (lit. "Hail Bhim") used by followers honours him.

Pantheon has 238 people classified as politicians born between 2000 BC and 1987. Of these 238, 62 (26.05%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living politicians include Narendra Modi, Ram Nath Kovind, and Pervez Musharraf. The most famous deceased politicians include Ashoka, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, and Jawaharlal Nehru. As of October 2020, 26 new politicians have been added to Pantheon including Rajaram I, Amrapali, and Balaji Baji Rao.

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