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General Secretary, Communist Party of India (Marxist)
For a man who has never held national office, Prakash Karat is among the most powerful kingmakers in India as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). The CPI (M) has been part of several coalitions; it left the current government in July because of its long-standing opposition to a nuclear deal with the U.S. Seen by many as the intellectual force of the party, Karat is on the editorial board of the The Marxist, India's leading communist theory journal. His rise to national prominence is the stuff of Indian political legend—from student union leader, to underground resistance against Indira Gandhi's suspension of democratic rule in the 1970s, and then, eventually to jail as a political dissident.