Commerce and Industries minister Suresh Prabhu was on Saturday given the additional charge of the Civil Aviation Ministry, two days after TDP’s Ashok Gajapathi Raju resigned amid the strategic disinvestment plan of debt-laden national carrier Air India.
“As advised by the Prime Minister, President Kovind has directed that Shri Suresh Prabhu, Cabinet Minister, shall be assigned charge of the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation, in addition to his existing portfolio,” the President’s Office said in a tweet.
President Ram Nath Kovind accepted the resignation of Ashok Gajapathi Raju from the position of civil aviation minister on Friday. The TDP leader resigned after a rift between his party and the ruling-BJP over the demand for special status to Andhra Pradesh.
The change in the portfolio of the civil aviation ministry has come amid the on-going plan for the strategic disinvestment of money-guzzling Air India marred with inefficiencies and mismanagement and a debt of Rs 52,000 crore. Last year, the Union Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had approved the in-principle stake sale of the state-owned airline.
On January 10, the cabinet approved Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) up to 49% under approval route in Air India. According to media reports, Tata Group, IndiGo, and Bird Group have shown interest in either buying the troubled national carrier or parts of it.
The civil aviation ministry is yet to officially announce a date for inviting initial bids but has indicated that some decisions may be announced in a couple of weeks. Earlier, the Narendra Modi government had set the early-2018 target for completing the entire process.
Suresh Prabhu will also be handling the Commerce and Industries ministry, which he was given after he resigned from the Railway ministry last year. Besides Air India stake sale, expansion of the affordable flying plan UDAN and development of infrastructure are among top priorities for the ministry.