New Aviation Minister Ram Naidu To NDTV

TDP MP Ram Mohan Naidu is the new Union Civil Aviation Minister (File).

New Delhi:

Passenger care and comfort will be one of the priorities in the Modi 3.0 government, the new Civil Aviation Minister, Ram Mohan Naidu told The HindkeshariTuesday, a day after he was allocated the high-profile portfolio previously held by the BJP’s Jyotiraditya Scindia. Mr Scindia, a former Congress member, has been given charge of two ministries – Telecommunications and Development of the North-Eastern Region. 

At 36, Mr Naidu is the youngest member of the new cabinet, but he has experience already as a three-time Lok Sabha MP from Andhra Pradesh’s Srikakulam, a seat held by his father Kinjarapu Yerran Naidu.

“I am very excited… I always knew this ministry had a lot of potential, and that was reiterated to me by PM Modi in a brief one-on-one meeting with me. He said, ‘See, you are one of the youngest in this cabinet and this is a promising ministry… which has the eyes of the world on it. So, you have to take charge…'”

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“I felt super-charged after that discussion. I have 10 years of experience in Parliament and will utilise that to do wonders for this ministry,” Mr Naidu told NDTV.

New Aviation Minister’s Challenges

On the first of the two big facets of his new job – passenger care – Mr Naidu said, “Taking care of passengers is a priority. I fly frequently myself, so I understand concerns. We are going to create a system where grievances are addressed, and customers are satisfied.”

On, perhaps, the thornier question of dealing with airlines, Mr Naidu was more circumspect, saying he would prefer to comment after a first discussion with the companies. “I still have to take charge…” he pointed out, explaining he would do so after Wednesday, when party boss Chandrababu Naidu takes oath as the new Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister.

Mr Naidu will take charge at a time when multiple incidents, including those related to the safety of planes and passengers, have made headlines in the aviation space. 

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The most recent of these was multiple delays – over 30 hours – to an Air India Delhi-San Francisco flight caused by “technical delays and operational constraints”, the airline said.

Then, last week an Air India Delhi-Vancouver flight was delayed by nine hours.

Speaking to The Hindkesharion these and other such delays, then Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia had said, “If the flight delay extends beyond a period… you (the airline) must cancel the flight and reschedule…”

READ | “Can’t Keep Passengers Waiting Indefinitely”: Minister On Air India Delay

And on Monday there was a scare at the Mumbai airport after two aircraft came alarmingly close to each other on the runway; there were only 509 metres separating them.

READ | Mumbai Airport Scare: IndiGo, Air India Planes Just 509 m Apart

The TDP-BJP Alliance

The new Aviation Minister is from the Telugu Desam Party that dominated the 2024 Lok Sabha election in Andhra Pradesh, winning 16 of 25 seats to emerge as a critical ally of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party at the centre; a stuttering BJP fell 32 short of the 272-seat majority mark and needed the TDP’s 16 MPs, and 12 from Nitish Kumar’s JDU, to form the union government for a third straight term.

As reward for its role in government formation, the TDP was allotted a cabinet berth (Mr Naidu as Aviation Minister) and two junior minister, or Minister of State, posts. 

P Chandra Sekhar was given dual charge of Rural Development and Communications.

In the hours immediately following the election results, when it became clear the BJP could not form the government without support from the TDP and JDU, there was speculation the Congress-led INDIA bloc would try to poach one or both parties to stump the saffron party.

TDP boss Chandrababu Naidu had then made it clear his party would not leave the BJP, even as all its allies, the Andra party included, jostled and negotiated for plum ministerial berths.

“We have supported the NDA unconditionally. We are very happy with the allocation… Chandrababu Naidu is also interested in this ministry as Andhra Pradesh has lots of airports. In fact, I have one coming up right next to my constituency, so I have lots to gain too.”