New Delhi: Mansukh Mandaviya, India’s new Health Minister, takes over the country’s Covid fight at a critical time when the government is working on a strategy to stave off a third wave of infections by ramping up vaccinations.
Notably, in the past six days, Mansukh Mandaviya, as Minister of State for Chemicals and FertiIizers, visited the facilities of three vaccine-makers in the country – Serum Institute of India in Pune, Zydus in Ahmedabad and a Covaxin-producing facility in the same city.
The 49-year-old parliamentarian from Gujarat, who famously rode a bicycle to parliament, is among the seven ministers promoted to the Cabinet on Wednesday. He retains the Chemicals and Fertilisers ministry.
Mr Mandaviya studied veterinary science at the Gujarat Agricultural University and later completed a masters in political science.
He began as a member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and rose through the ranks in the BJP. At 28, Mr Mandaviya became the youngest MLA in 2002.
In 2012, he was elected to the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat.
He joined Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government first in 2016. He was Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways, Shipping and Chemical and Fertilizers.
“Narendra Modi-ji and Amit Shah-ji have shown trust in me once again and invited me to be a part of this government. I am grateful to both of them,” he said today.
Mr Mandaviya’s predecessor Harsh Vardhan, who was the face of the government’s efforts to fight COVID-19, was asked to resign along with his deputy Ashwani Chaube.
Harsh Vardhan paid for the government’s massive struggle to check rising cases in the devastating second surge of Covid in April-May, when cities ran out of oxygen and hospitals were overwhelmed. India’s Covid handling drew criticism and was seen to dent the government’s image.