After his party formally joined the United Progressive Alliance on Monday, Rashtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh is likely to be sworn in as a Union Cabinet Minister this week with civil aviation being mentioned as the possible portfolio.
Sources said on Monday night that the swearing-in of the 72- year-old Jat leader from western Uttar Pradesh could take place as early as December 15 morning before Prime Minister Manmohan Singh embarks on an official visit to Russia. Another date being mentioned is December 18 after the prime minister returns from Moscow.
Ajit Singh -- whose RLD has five members in the Lok Sabha -- had a meeting with the prime minister earlier in the day. The meeting took place after RLD formally joined the UPA after he wrote to alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi. The Rashtriya Janata Dal action which will give crucial support for the Congress came ahead of the elections in Uttar Pradesh.
With RLD joining the ruling coalition, UPA's strength in the Lok Sabha has gone up from 272 to 277. It is the first party which is joining the Congress-led alliance after the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and at a time when it appeared to be battered on several fronts.
"Ajit Singh gave a letter to UPA vhairperson Sonia Gandhi stating that RLD would like to join the alliance and the latter has agreed to this," Congress General Secretary Digvijay Singh told the media in New Delhi.
Ajit Singh has been a member of the Congress government in the past when Narasimha Rao was the prime minister. He held the food portfolio then. He was industry minister in the V P Singh government (1989-90) and agriculture minister in the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance regime from 2001-03. He is likely to get the civil aviation portfolio this time, according to sources.
RLD will be the 15th constituent of the UPA, the others being TMC, DMK, NCP, NC, Muslim League, MIM, Kerala Congress (M), VCK, Bodoland Peoples' Front, Nagaland Peoples' Front, SDF, and AIUDF.