German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff were the only women who figured ahead of the 66-year-old Gandhi in the list of 72 politicians, heads of state and business leaders. (Agencies)
Gandhi was also ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who came in seven slots below her.
In a separate list of the world's 100 most powerful women, Forbes ranked Gandhi in the ninth position.
"As president of the Indian National Congress, Gandhi heads the ruling political party of the world's second largest population," read her brief profile on the Forbes website.
"Rumors persist of a rift between her and soft-spoken Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, with many expecting Singh to leave office before the 2014 general elections," it said.
The profile noted that Rahul, described as the "heir apparent in the nation's most famous political dynasty", had recently "snubbed Singh publicly".
Singh's profile noted that the 81-year-old Prime Minister was "credited with shaping India's economic and social welfare reforms". But it also said his "quiet intellectualism renders him a timid public figure".
Rahul's recent criticism of Singh over an ordinance to protect convicted lawmakers was indicative of Singh's diminishing coterie; rumour has it he will soon resign, the profile said.
Soon after the criticism, Rahul had acted to mend fences with Singh. The Forbes list was topped by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was followed in second position by US President Barack Obama.
"This year the votes for the World’s Most Powerful went to Russian President Vladimir Putin. He climbs one spot ahead of US President Barack Obama, who held the title in 2012," the magazine said.
"Putin has solidified his control over Russia while Obama's lame duck period has seemingly set in earlier than usual for a two-term president — latest example: the government shutdown mess."
The most powerful people list is an "annual snapshot of the heads of state, financiers, philanthropists and entrepreneurs who truly rule the world", Forbes said.
This year’s list features 17 heads of state who run countries with a combined GDP of USD 48 trillion and 27 CEOs and business leaders who control over USD 3 trillion in annual revenues.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff were the only women who figured ahead of the 66-year-old Gandhi in the list of 72 politicians, heads of state and business leaders.