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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Low-profile, no fuss: The rise and rise of Mansukh Mandaviya

Many in the BJP in Gujarat view his elevation as Union Health Minister as a reiteration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's confidence in him as well as a move to build a second-rung leaders from his home state.

Written by Parimal A Dabhi , Gopal B Kateshiya | Ahmedabad, Rajkot |
Updated: July 9, 2021 7:17:10 am
Mansukh Mandaviya: India will be first to make DNA-based jabHealth Minister Mansukh Mandaviya on Tuesday told Rajya Sabha that India will be the first country to develop a DNA-based Covid-19 vaccine even as other manufactures are steadily ramping up production. (Twitter/@mansukhmandviya)

Son of a farmer from Hanol village of Gujarat’s Bhavnagar district, it has been a rapid rise for 49-year-old Mansukh Mandaviya ever since he joined the ABVP in 1992, and subsequently moved to BJP Yuva Morcha.

Many in the BJP in Gujarat view his elevation as Union Health Minister as a reiteration of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s confidence in him as well as a move to build a second-rung leaders from his home state.

A close associate of the minister says, “Politics is team work and, therefore, winning and retaining the trust of the leader is key to success. Mandaviya has done that successfully. He has chosen to keep a low profile. He completes works assigned to him and believes in result-oriented work.”

“At such a time [when the country is fighting a pandemic], appointing a new Health Minister is like taking a big risk. He [Mandaviya] must have ticked many boxes before being assigned the Health portfolio,” says the associate.

Mandaviya might have no experience in handling Health and Family Welfare, but in his previous stint as Minister of State for Chemical and Fertiliser, and Ports and Shipping, he intervened to ensure seamless flow of necessary drugs and oxygen.

For instance, when Gujarat went through a shortage of Remdesivir earlier this year, Mandaviya spoke to Zydus Cadila chairman Pankaj Patel to resume sale of the anti-viral drug and subsequently gave clearances for increasing its manufacturing capacities. Also, ports were asked to waive all charges for ships carrying oxygen and related equipment and prioritise their berthing.

Seen as a quiet worker, Mandaviya was credited with boosting the membership drives for the party in Gujarat, especially in late 2014, and leading padyatras, which also helped build his image independently as a leader. “The Gujarat state unit enrolled 1.14 crore new members, the highest in any state. But he never made a fuss about it,” says an insider.

His elevation to the Cabinet rank at the Centre may be a move to help him grow in stature in his state, a section of leaders say. “This elevation could be an attempt to enlarge his profile before putting him eventually as Gujarat Chief Minister. It will help the party cadre and even general public to accept him as a suitable candidate for the top post in the state,” says a party leader.

A postgraduate in political science, Mandaviya contested his first and only assembly election in 2002, when the BJP won 127 out of 182 seats – its highest ever in the state. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 2012 and was re-elected in 2018.

He joined the Narendra Modi government in 2016, as junior minister for Road Transport and Highways, Shipping, Chemicals and Fertilisers. It was during his tenure that Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Kendras, the pharmacy stores selling generic drugs at affordable rates, were launched.

After the BJP won in 2019, Mandaviya retained his berth as a junior minister but with independent charge of Ports, Shipping and Waterways. He was also Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilsers.

From the Leuva Patel sub-caste group of Patidar community, which dominates several constituencies in Saurashtra region, Mandaviya’s rise in the BJP coincided with the exit of stalwarts such as Rajendrasinh Rana and Mahendra Trivedi, who also belonged to Bhavnagar, his home district.

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