Praful Patel elevated to Cabinet rank

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New Delhi, Jan 19 (PTI) After his vigorous attemptsto try to revive ailing Air India, Praful Patel, the man whoopened up the Indian aviation sector, would now have to makesimilar efforts to infuse some life into sick public sectorindustries.

The Minister of State (Independent Charge) of theCivil Aviation Ministry since 2004 was today elevated to theCabinet rank but was shifted to the Ministry of HeavyIndustries and Public Enterprises.

With beleaguered Air India approaching the Bureau ofPublic Sector Enterprises (BRPSE) for a revival package, itwould be easy for Patel now to help it out as the BRPSE fallsunder his new Ministry.

Talking to reporters after taking oath as a CabinetMinister, Patel said "I am very happy that I am a CabinetMinister now. It was time to move on and I have been sayingthis for some time, not because I was unhappy with theaviation portfolio."

"Aviation was very challenging and a toughresponsibility. People may look at aviation as very glamorousbut it is a very complex subject. Fundamental changes havebeen made in that sector and it has converted into a vibrantsector", he said.

Patel, a close associate of NCP supremo Sharad Pawar,expressed gratitude to the Prime Minister saying he would dohis best in whatever responsibility he was given.

53-year-old Patel is credited with changing the Indianaviation scene after being at the helm for nearly seven yearsbut faced flak for not being able to turn around thestate-owned Air India to help restore its lost glory.

During Patel''s stint, the aviation sector saw abooming air traffic, increased low-cost operations,modernisation of airports in several cities with privateparticipation and major expansion in domestic andinternational air connectivity.

Born in a political family on February 17 1957, Patelis a four-time Lok Sabha member from Bhandara-Gondia inMaharashtra''s Vidarbha region. He has been a Rajya Sabhamember for two terms.

His political graph saw an upswing in the last decadeafter he parted ways with the Congress and joined SharadPawar''s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

A close associate of Pawar, Patel is currently theVice President of NCP at the national level.

His family runs Ceejay Group which has businessinterests in sectors as diverse as bidis, tobacco,pharmaceuticals, finance, real estate and packaging.

Patel is also the President of the All India FootballFederation.

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