Dharmendra Pradhan on Friday took charge of petroleum and steel ministries. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader from Odisha, whose politically rewarding Ujjwala Yojana earned him the coveted oil and gas portfolio for the second term, is set to become the longest-serving oil minister. Under the Ujjwala scheme, free cooking gas connections are provided to below poverty line (BPL) families. After taking charge, Pradhan said that the government’s scheme to provide clean cooking fuel to the poor would continue, which has already benefited over 70 million households across the country. Pradhan is the only petroleum minister after Ram Naik [in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government] to have completed a full five-year term. He is the first oil minister to get a second stint in the ministry after completing a five-year term.Pradhan said he would continue the energy security policy that was initiated since May 2014 and the work which had been done in the recent past, would be taken ahead in a “comprehensive and coordinated” manner. “We are starting a new innings, with a new energy and new spirit. Our team has gained a lot from the prime Minister’s vision and leadership,” he said.He hinted that India would leverage its clout as one of the largest energy importers in the world for trade negotiations. Energy has become an international diplomacy handle, and many countries look towards India, he said. India is the third largest crude oil importer after the US and China.“Increasing domestic oil and gas production will be our priority,” he said.Pradhan said his priorities would be to raise domestic oil and gas production, expedite creation of market-friendly infrastructure and set up a national gas grid and distribution network. Speaking about his other portfolio, he said, “Steel is a strong pillar of development. We have to take this pillar to new heights,” Pradhan said.