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Harsh Vardhan returns in Modi's second govt as Health Minister

New Delhi: It's a ghar wapasi for Union Minister Harsh Vardhan, who has returned in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's second government as a Cabinet minister with the portfolio of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. It's the same portfolio that he had been divested off in November 2014 after being allocated the department in May.

According to sources in minister's office, Vardhan will take charge of the ministry on Monday. Vardhan will also continue to hold Science & Technology and Earth Sciences portfolios.

He was appointed as the Union Health minister in May 2014 and was later given the charge of the Ministries of Earth Sciences and Science and Technology.

The only BJP MP from Delhi to get a representation in the Modi-led second NDA government, Vardhan is also a key face for the party ahead of the assembly election in the capital next year.

Asked what the minister's emphasis was likely to be, an official in the ministry said, "There are many things that have to be looked at. However, nothing is of more importance than Ayushman Bharat and its implementation."

As per BJP leaders, health would be a key factor in the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) versus BJP battle.

In May 2017, he was given the additional charge of the ministry of environment, forest and climate change following the death of Union minister Anil Madhav Dave.

As the environment minister, he had initiated the Green Good Deeds Movement in 2018, in which he had appealed to people to take small, positive steps to protect the environment. He also oversaw the National Clean Air Programme, a bid to reduce particulate matter pollution by 2024.

As a health minister in Delhi from 1993-1998, he had undertaken a polio prevention programme that was replicated across the country, following which he was awarded the Director-General's Polio Eradication Champion Award Commendation Medal by the World Health Organisation in 1998.

He was also behind the battle against drug and tobacco abuse and enacted the Delhi Prohibition of Smoking in Public Places and Non-Smokers Health Protection Act.

The 64-year-old was re-elected to the Lok Sabha from Chandi Chowk, by a winning margin of over two lakh votes. Vardhan has retained the Chandni Chowk seat in Delhi, defeating Congress' Jai Prakash Agarwal and AAP's Pankaj Gupta in a triangular battle.

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