RLD chief Ajit Singh was today inducted into the Union Cabinet in a bid by Congress to strengthen itself ahead of the UP elections where it has tied up with his party.
The swearing-in of the 72-year-old Jat leader from western Uttar Pradesh took place a week after his party formally joined the UPA, the first political outfit to do so since the alliance came to power for the second time in May 2009.
The expansion of the Council of Ministers by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is the third such exercise since the UPA-II came to power.
Tipped to become Civil Aviation Minister, Ajit Singh, became the 33rd minister in the Union Cabinet and 77th in the Council of Ministers.
Vice-President Hamid Ansari, Congress President and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and a number of Union Ministers and party leaders were present when President Pratibha Patil administered the oath of office to Ajit Singh at a brief ceremony in the Ashoka Hall of the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who played a key role in bringing RLD into the UPA ahead of the Uttar Pradesh elections scheduled in the next few months, was present on the occasion.
He was seen sitting along with Jayant Chaudhary, son of Ajit Singh, who is also an MP and represents Mathura.
With RLD joining the ruling coalition, UPA’s strength in the Lok Sabha has gone up from 272 to 277.
This is the fourth time Ajit Singh has become a Union Minister. Singh was a member of the P V Narasimha Rao-led Congress government. He held the Food portfolio then.
The Jat leader, whose RLD has five members in the Lok Sabha, had a meeting with the Prime Minister last week and also with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.
Ajit Singh joined government for the first time in the V P Singh cabinet. He was in-charge of the industry portfolio from 1989 to 1990.
The 72-year-old MP from Baghpat in Uttar Pradesh became a Cabinet Minister for the second time when he was given the Food portfolio from February 1995 to May 1996 in the Narasimha Rao government.
Later, Singh became the Agriculture Minister in the BJP-led NDA regime from 2001-03.
RLD became the 15th constituent of the UPA. Other major UPA allies include TMC, DMK, NCP, NC, Muslim League and Kerala Congress (M).