Bhubaneswar: Bureaucrat-entrepreneur-turned-politician Ashwini Vaishnaw’s entry into the Union cabinet comes two years after he surprised all in Odisha’s political circles when he was elected to the Upper House of Parliament as a BJP candidate despite the saffron party lacking the required numbers to send a member to Rajya Sabha.
The 51-year-old BJP leader Vaishnaw, born in Rajasthan’s Jodhpur, is a suave and former Odisha-cadre IAS officer from the 1994 batch. He managed to obtain support from the ruling BJD president and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik despite being in the rival camp.
This happened in spite of criticisms and objections by many within the ruling BJD.
Allegations were traded that the BJD supremo succumbed to Narendra Modi-Amit Shah’s pressure in supporting Vaishnaw. He was inducted into the saffron party barely six days ahead of the Rajya Sabha elections June 28, 2019.
Just about two years later he has landed himself a job in the country’s Cabinet ahead of veteran saffron leaders from Odisha.
His batch-mate and Lok Sabha member from Bhubaneswar, Aparajita Sarangi, who won the 2019 elections after defeating BJD candidate and former Mumbai police commissioner Arup Patnaik, was among the front runners in the race for a berth in the Union government.
During his stint as an IAS officer, Vaishnaw worked as the District Magistrate-cum-Collector of Balasore and Cuttack districts. His bureaucratic acumen, in fact, came to the fore when the Super Cyclone hit Odisha in 1999 killing at least 10,000 people.
As the Collector of coastal Balasore district, Vaishnaw collected information on the cyclone from a US Navy website and sent reports to the then Chief Secretary at regular intervals. His information helped the state government to take advanced measures in order to save lives.
Vaishnaw worked in Odisha till 2003, before being appointed as deputy secretary in the office of former Prime Minister Aatal Bihari Vajpayee. He was later appointed as Vajpayee’s private secretary after the NDA lost the election in 2004.
A product of IIT, Vaishnaw, quit government service in 2008 and went to Wharton University in USA to pursue an MBA. On his return, after working for top firms, he set up his own automotive components manufacturing units in Gujarat.
Interestingly, in April, Vaishnaw was nominated as a member of the Press Council of India, for three years.