Rajya Sabha member and BJP candidate from Odisha Dharmendra Pradhan will have an expanded role in the new Modi government with the former Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister retaining this key Ministry while given additional charge of the Steel Ministry.Pradhan, known as the Bharatiya Janata Party's face in Odisha also held the portfolio of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship in the last government. While skill development has been given a new face, Pradhan has been given additional responsibility of the steel sector that requires special nurturing from the new minister given sluggish market conditions and an onslaught of cheap steel imports.Pradhan, 50, is serving his second consecutive term in the Rajya Sabha to which he was first elected in 2010. He was elected to the Lok Sabha from Deogarh, Odisha in 2004.Considered the party's chief ministerial candidate at one time, Pradhan had steered one of the Modi government's most talked about schemes Pradhan Mantri Ujjawla Yojana, an initiative to provide free cooking gas connection to poor women.The scheme was able to increase the LPG customer base by two-fold, to 26 crore in five-years time and is widely believed to have bore rich dividends to the BJP in the 2019 elections.Pradhan's tenure as the Petroleum Minister featured deregulation of diesel prices, daily price revision of petrol and diesel. He also unveiled the new Hydrocarbon Exploration and Licensing Policy (HELP) that provides investor-friendly regime to boost country's oil and gas exploration activities under an open acreage policy.During his tenure as Petroleum Minister, the country also witnessed record high levels of petrol and diesel prices on the back of high crude oil prices. However, the matter was never let to go out of hand.
He has also been a vocal proponent of inclusion of both petrol and diesel under the ambit of goods and services tax an exercise that is expected to be followed all over again in the new government to see volatility in petroleum products is avoided and customers are rewarded with economic pricing regime.An M.A. in Anthropology from Utkal University in Odisha, Pradhan started his political carrier as an Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) activist in 1983. He became the president of student union in Talcher in 1985. Later, he became the national secretary of ABVP.Son of former Union Minister of State for Surface Transport, Debendra Pradhan, he became an MLA from Pallahara constituency in 2000 when the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) came to power in Odisha in alliance with the BJP.The challenges before Pradhan in the new term would be to boost exploration and production activity in the country so as to reduce heavy dependence on energy imports.Also Ujjwala scheme will be further expanded to take LPG coverage to 100 per cent while allowing easier option for refill under the scheme using smaller sized cylinders.Pradhan would also be required to maintain a check on petrol and diesel prices in the event global oil price surge again. He would also have to deal with issues concerning oil import restrictions from Iran and Venezuela.