Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD), with five members in the Lok Sabha, on Monday formally joined the UPA amid speculation that its chief Ajit Singh would be included in the Cabinet as Civil Aviation Minister.
With RLD joining the ruling coalition, its strength has gone up from 272 to 277 MPs.
“Ajit Singh gave a letter to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi stating that RLD would like to join the alliance and the latter has agreed to this,” Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh told reporters in New Delhi.
In the backdrop of speculation that Mr. Ajit Singh will be inducted into the Cabinet, Mr. Digvijay Singh was asked who will be the next Civil Aviation Minister. “You are addressing this question to the wrong person,” he said.
Mr. Ajit Singh also met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday, adding more fuel to talks of his imminent induction into the Union Cabinet.
Mr. Digvijay Singh is in charge of Congress affairs in Uttar Pradesh. Former Union Minister and Samajwadi Party MP Rasheed Masood also joined the Congress ahead of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections.
This is likely to help the party woo Muslim voters. “I have taken this decision in view of the way communal forces were trying to gain strength by using the issue of corruption,” Mr. Masood said. He said that his decision was also prompted by Samajwadi Party Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s “controversial” statement to the effect that giving reservation to Muslims within the OBC quota would affect the share of other OBCs.
RLD will contest 45 of the 403 seats in Uttar Pradesh Assembly in the forthcoming polls in alliance with Congress.