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Praful Patel

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A senior MP of the Maharashtra-based Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Praful Patel is minister for heavy industries and public enterprises in the UPA government. For the seven years from 2004 to 2011, he was minister for civil aviation, in a period that saw the Indian aviation sector soar to unprecedented heights, even if it flew into more than one controversy.

A businessman with interests in tobacco, Patel was first elected to the Lok Sabha in 1991, when only 34. He is the NCP’s best known face nationally after Sharad Pawar and is regarded as a reformist, business-friendly politician, impatient with bureaucracy and quick to take decisions. However, some of his initiatives, such as the merger of Air-India and Indian Airlines have been criticised as hasty and have run into problems in the medium term.

A keen follower of sport, Patel is president of the All-India Football Federation and at the forefront of attempts to rejuvenate the sport and make it more attractive to spectators and sponsors alike. Given the state of Indian football, this could be Patel’s toughest challenge yet. Nevertheless, this is the man who negotiated his way through employee unions when pushing through the privatisation of Delhi airport. He’s used to scoring difficult goals.

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