Ex-IAS, Technocrat, Entrepreneur, And Now A Cabinet Minister: Who Is Ashwini Vaishnaw?

by Swarajya Staff - Jul 8, 2021 03:36 PM +05:30 IST
Ex-IAS, Technocrat, Entrepreneur, And Now A Cabinet Minister: Who Is Ashwini Vaishnaw?(Source: @AshwiniVaishnaw/Twitter)
Snapshot
  • Fifty-one year old Vaishnaw is a former IAS officer who first came to limelight for his meticulous service in Odisha during the 1999 super cyclone

Ashwini Vaishnaw, newly sworn-in member of the union cabinet, will head the Ministry of Railways, the Ministry of Communications, and the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, the government announced yesterday.

He has been a member of Rajya Sabha (BJP) since June 2019.

Vaishnaw has been passed on the baton at a time when India is involved in a battle with social media giants like Twitter over the issues of competitive internet space, law and order, privacy, free speech, sovereignty etc. Vaishnaw's predecessor Prasad had vociferously defended the government's moves to exert control over the inordinate power of the American internet-based corporations.

Fifty-one year old Vaishnaw is a former IAS officer. He was born in Jodhpur, Rajasthan and completed his B Tech degree in Electronics and Communications from MBM Engineering College (JNVU), Jodhpur in 1991 with a gold medal. He, then, got his M Tech from IIT Kanpur, before cracking UPSC Civil Services Examination in 1994 with an all-India rank of 27. He was allotted Odisha cadre.

He first came to limelight for his meticulous service in Odisha during the 1999 super cyclone. At the time, he spent his long shifts tracking the cyclone on US Navy website and followed it up by intimating Chief Secretary’s office on regular intervals.

“He tracked the cyclone every hour and sent a report to the chief secretary at regular intervals, which became a major source of information for the Odisha government about the cyclone,” an official who then worked in the chief secretary’s office recalled.

Not only Vaishnaw, as the district magistrate, garnered praise for the relief work in cyclone-hit Balasore, but also for improving the law and order machinery, among other things, in Cuttack. He handled important responsibilities over a span of 15 years of service. He was particularly known for his contribution to the public-private partnership (PPP) framework in Infrastructure.

Thanks to his meticulous work in the state, Vaishnaw reportedly enjoys a solid backing from the ruling BJD.

While BJP with just 23 MLAs in Odisha did not have enough numbers to put up a candidate of its own for Rajya Sabha polls, Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik offered outright support after PM Modi and Union Home Minister made it clear that they want Ashwini Vaishnaw in the Upper House.

At the turn of the millennium, Vaishnaw served the Prime Minister's Office during Atal Bihari Vajpayee's stint. He also served as his personal secretary after the NDA lost the 2004 general elections.

In 2006, he became deputy chairman of Marmugoa Port Trust, where he worked for next two years, and then left for US to pursue an MBA from Wharton School, Pennsylvania University.

"Ashwini was one of the most brilliant people in my Wharton MBA class," said Nipun Mehra, chief executive officer of the Sequoia Capital-backed e-commerce and fintech startup Ula, which he co-founded. "He was older than most of us and had accomplished so much before coming to Wharton so the class learned quite a lot from him," the Singapore-based Mehra was quoted as saying by NDTV.

Vaishnaw then went on to hold leadership roles across major global companies such as General Electric and Siemens. In 2012, he quit the corporate sector and set up automotive components manufacturing companies in Gujarat.

Ashwini Vaishnaw thanked PM Modi on Twitter for "giving me the opportunity to serve the nation." On Twitter where he has 79,000 followers, the new minister thanked PM Modi for "giving me the opportunity to serve the nation."

He tweeted that he would take charge on Thursday and "work relentlessly."

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