Dharmendra Pradhan, BJP's Social Strategist and Odisha Face, to Take Charge as Minister of Petroleum
Pradhan, 49, would have been the BJP’s first choice for the chief minister’s post if the saffron party had come close to forming the government in Odisha.
File photo of Dharmendra Pradhan/Reuters
New Delhi: Dharmedra Pradhan will be taking charge as the Minister of Railways and Minister of Commerce and Industry as part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new Cabinet on Thursday.
Pradhan was the BJP’s face in Odisha. His move to announce a dal-salt-rice package for the poor after the first phase of polls ended in the state was widely considered a masterstroke. The announcement had taken many by surprise as it had not figured in the BJP’s manifesto for the state, which was released a week before the promise.
Pradhan, 49, would have been the BJP’s first choice for the chief minister’s post if the saffron party had come close to forming the government in Odisha. He played crucial roles in building up the party organisation across the coastal state in the past five years. Pradhan also charted out the BJP’s campaign strategies for the state.
An avid Twitter user with more than a million followers, Pradhan also guided the BJP’s social media strategy during the polls in the state.
Pradhan’s proven organisational skills, lauded after the BJP’s spectacular victory in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls in Bihar, were on display as he handpicked several candidates for the party in Odisha that gave the ruling BJD a tough fight.
Soon after becoming a Union minister in 2014, Pradhan had started focussing on Odisha and is widely credited for dislodging the Congress as the state’s main Opposition party. In the local body polls in 2017, the BJP won 306 of the state’s 853 zilla parishad seats, reducing the ruling BJD from 651 in 2012 to 460. The Congress was pushed to a distant third, its strength dwindling from 126 to 66 seats in zilla parishads.
As Union minister of petroleum and natural gas, Pradhan led the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) from the front in Odisha, which saw a sharp rise in LPG households from 20 lakh in 2014 to almost 78 lakh in February 2019. It was due to his single-minded focus on the state that the scheme, launched in Odisha in June 2016, gave a boost to LPG usage in Odisha. The overall LPG penetration in Odisha went up to 73% from 20% in 2014 under his watch.
Pradhan also displayed similar enthusiasm in the manufacture and distribution of Ujjwala sanitary napkins in the state. His plan, according to his aides, was to win over the state’s women, who are known to have been voting largely for BJD.
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