Mansukh L. Mandaviya replaced Dr Harsh Vardhan as Minister of Health and Family Welfare, following the reshuffle of the Union Cabinet by Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week. Who is the new health minister?
A member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Mandaviya represents Gujarat in the Rajya Sabha, elected at the age of 38 after having served as a member of the Gujarati Legislative Assembly. He holds the record of Gujarat’s youngest Member of the Legislative Assembly. After leaving the Legislative Assembly, he became chairman of Gujarat Agro Industries Corporation Limited before his election to the Rajya Sabha.
Prior to assuming the portfolio of Health and Family Welfare, Mandaviya served as Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways and Minister of State for Chemicals and Fertilizers. In addition to serving as health minister, Mandaviya serves as Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers.
According to Mandaviya’s website, “with his decisive and bold leadership, he has helped increasing the per day road construction speed, decreasing the cost of Urea and other fertilizers, establishing more than 5,100 Jan Aushadhi stores to provide more than 850 medicines at affordable rates and reducing the cost of heart stent and knee implants. Above this, he has not left any stone unturned to help the common man, farmers and businesses.”
Mandaviya was born in Hanol, a village in the Palitana taluka of Gujarat’s Bhavnagar district. He holds a postgraduate degree in political science from Bhavnagar University. His political engagement dates back to his youth, with involvement in the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (All Indian Student Council) affiliated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) – a forebearer of the BJP. He served on the organisation’s executive committee.
Following his appointment as Union Health Minister, Mandaviya tweeted “realising the dream of a healthy India, I am determined to serve the people tirelessly.” His appointment came following Vardhan’s resignation amidst mounting criticism of the government’s response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic which has claimed thousands of Indian lives.
His appointment was not wholly celebrated, with some positing that Vardhan was scapegoated for the government’s response. As we noted at the time of the reshuffle, “it remains to be seen as to whether Vardhan’s departure from the Health Ministry and consequent change in leadership will yield results. As the country continues to battle the pandemic, uncertainty is the only certainty – and only time will tell as to whether the cabinet reshuffle will prove to be a game-changer in battling the crisis.” What is clear is that, in his new posting, Mandaviya has much to do.