Former IAS officer and engineer from Odisha get key portfolios in Cabinet
Ashwini Vaishnaw, a bureaucrat-turned-politician who was inducted on Wednesday into the Union Cabinet in charge of railways, electronics, and information technology, is known as a backroom boy. A 1994 batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer, he first came into prominence in June 2019 when the ruling Biju Janata Dal in Odisha and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) supported his candidature in Rajya Sabha polls.
Born in Jodhpur, Vaishnaw, 50, graduated from Rajasthan’s Jai Narain Vyas University in 1992 with a gold medal in electronics and communications engineering. Two years later, he joined the IAS. His work was recognised when days before the super cyclone hit Odisha in 1999, Vaishnaw tracked a US Navy website to know its path to keep top officials informed about it and help them deal better with the natural disaster. His timely evacuation of 10,000 people in Balasore despite a lack of shelters also earned him much acclaim.
Former Odisha chief secretary Sahadev Sahoo, who worked with Vaishnaw, described the minister as meticulous. “He was a copybook officer, never kept work pending. (He) talks little and did not belong to any faction in bureaucracy. Though he stayed mostly outside Odisha, his Odia speaking skills are proof of his eagerness to learn,” said Sahoo.
Vaishnaw worked in Odisha till 2003 when he joined Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s office as deputy secretary. In 2006, he became the deputy chairman of Mormugao Port Trust, where he worked for two years before pursuing a Master of Business Administration course from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He later quit IAS and worked in private companies until 2012. He was in Gujarat to set up two components manufacturing units of automobile companies Maruti and Honda in 2012. Vaishnaw lived in a container for seven months so that the work could be finished in record time.
Sudhanshu Mani, former Integral Coach Factory general manager, said the railway ministry’s functioning will improve under Vaishnaw, a technocrat. “I had the fortune to know him and see him work closely as a senior executive of GE Transportation and Siemens. He knows Indian Railways in and out and I could see that he was cut out for much higher things. Indian Railways are in for a genuine makeover,” Mani tweeted.
Bishweswar Tudu, the other new minister from Odisha in the council of ministers, is also a former government servant. He took voluntary retirement to successfully contest the 2019 national polls from the tribal-dominated Mayurbhanj. Tudu has been associated with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram. He was an engineer in the Odisha water resources department before he quit in 2019. A Santhal tribal, Tudu’s inclusion is also seen as part of an attempt to reach out to the tribal community in Odisha ahead of next year’s panchayat polls.