Union Health and Family Welfare minister Mansukh Mandaviya has been in recent news for his letter to top Congress leader Rahul Gandhi. The advisory of sorts, was to seek RaGa’s cooperation either in following “all Covid-19 guidelines” during his ongoing Bharat Jodo Yatra or suspend it “in national interest.”
Not many know that Mandaviya first shot into prominence on account of two padyatras (foot marches) that he undertook during his stint as a BJP MLA (2002-2007) in his Palitana constituency in Gujarat.
Belonging to the Leuva Patel sub-caste group of the Patidar community, which dominates several constituencies in the Saurashtra region, Mandaviya’s upswing rise in the BJP has coincided with veterans such as ex-state party chief Rajendrasinh Rana and ex-home minister Mahendra Trivedi, who hail from Bhavnagar district, moving out of the mainstream organisation.
Son of a farmer from Hanol village in Gujarat’s Bhavnagar district, Mansukh Mandaviya has had a meteoric rise since he joined the RSS’ students wing ABVP in 1992 and the BJP Yuva Morcha in 1996.
After he was elected youngest MLA in the Gujarat Assembly in 2002, Mandaviya led a 123-kilometres Kanya Kelavani Jyot Padyatra in 2004 across 45 villages in Palitana for raising awareness about girl child education. He also undertook a similar padyatra for the same cause and against substance abuse, in his constituency in 2006. In 2019, as a Union Minister, he led another padyatra to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, covering 150 villages in his home district Bhavnagar.
Considered close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he rapidly rose to become a Rajya Sabha member at the age of 40. He represented India at a United Nations event in 2015, where he delivered a speech on sustainable development. Mandaviya was allotted Health following the major Cabinet reshuffle in July 2021, when the country was battling a new Covid wave. He replaced Harsh Vardhan.
After the Russia-Ukraine war broke out earlier this year, Mandaviya, who is also the Union Minister of Chemicals and Fertilisers, went to attend the 25th International Economic Forum at St Petersburg. He returned to advise the Gujarati businessmen to “immediately seize the opportunity” as European companies were exiting Russia.
Tight-lipped BJP insiders share how the party high command favour’s his name each time there is a buzz about a leadership change in Gujarat. A senior functionary shared Mandaviya’s USP is his organising skills and his ability to present himself as a “humble party worker” to the saffron party leadership.
“He has demonstrated adaptability by managing to win trust of BJP leaders of the previous Keshubhai Patel period as well as the Narendra Modi era,” shared the minister.
Seen as a quiet BJP worker, Mandaviya was made in charge of the party’s membership drive for Gujarat in 2014, when the state unit enrolled 1.14 crore new members, the highest in any state.
A postgraduate in political science, Mandaviya was elected to the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat for his first term in 2012 and then, was re-elected to the Upper House from the state in 2018. He was inducted into the Modi-led Central government in 2016 as an MoS for Road Transport and Highways, Shipping and Chemicals and Fertilisers. It was during his stint then that Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Kendras, the pharmacy stores selling generic drugs at affordable rates, were launched.
After the BJP returned to power following its triumph in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Mandaviya retained his berth as a junior minister for Chemicals and Fertilisers and as an MoS with the independent charge of Ports, Shipping and Waterways.