After three years of five-star performance, PM Narendra Modi gave two of his government’s poster boys — Dharmendra Pradhan and Piyush Goyal their due by elevating them to Cabinet rank but also indicated he expects much more from them by giving new tasks.
Pradhan continues at the helm of petroleum ministry but also has the challenging task of skilling India for the new-age world economic order through the skill development ministry.
Goyal, the eloquent coal, power, renewable energy and mines minister, keeps the coal portfolio but his main responsibility will be to restore public confidence in the Indian Railways, which suffered quite a dent from a spate of recent accidents.
Pradhan and Goyal’s performance as custodians of the government’s energy plan, one of the key elements of BJP’s political outreach, had turned them into mascots of development politics promised by the prime minister.
Both took upon themselves the task of fulfilling Modi’s promise to rid poor women of smoke from ‘chulhas’ and light up their homes through two flagship schemes — Ujjwala and Deen Dayal Upadhyay Gram Jyoti Yojana.
While Pradhan pushed hard with Ujjwala, the scheme to provide LPG connections free of cost to poor households, Goyal cut through the bureaucracy and political dispensations in states to rapidly electrify villages.
Both these schemes changed the lives of beneficiaries and established a direct connect with people about the PM’s development politics plank, yielding rich dividends for BJP in recent state polls, including in UP.
While Pradhan can leverage the empire of blue chip public sector entities under his command to speed up skill development, Goyal may find the railways a different cup of tea altogether, especially due to the wellentrenched mindsets and unions.
It does not, however, take too much to point out what his primary task at the ministry will be — improve safety and punctuality.
Undoubtedly, Goyal leaves a solid foundation for his successor, bureaucrat-turnedpolitician R K Singh, at the power and renewable energy ministries.
Singh comes in at a time when growth in demand for power is below expectation and the turnaround of distribution sector will depend largely on how well the Centre can keep up the momentum in states as elections near.
There are also issues in the renewable sector, mostly unwillingness of states to buy solar or wind power on old rates and integration of green power into the grid.