Bodrato was Minister of Education from 1980 and 1982 (Forlani and Spadolini I/II cabinets), then, in 1982-1983, Minister of Economic Balance in the Fanfani V cabinet. After a period as DC's vice-secretary under Ciriaco De Mita and then Arnaldo Forlani, he was again minister, this time of Industry and Commerce, in 1991-1992 (Andreotti VII Cabinet).
During the Mani Pulite scandal that wiped out DC and other Italian traditional government parties, he supported the renovation of new secretary Mino Martinazzoli, and the foundation of the new Italian People's Party (Partito Popolare Italiano, PPI). From 1996 to 1999 he was director of the party's newspaper Il Popolo. Bodrato was elected in the PPI's lists at the European Parliament in 1999-2004.