Ajit Singh's RLD to join UPA
RLD leader likely to join Union Cabinet
In a bid to strengthen the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and boost the Congress' chances in the Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, the latter has decided to tie up with the five-MP-strong Ajit Singh-led Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD): the deal, party sources said, was that the RLD would get approximately 45 seats in U.P, and Mr. Singh a Cabinet berth. The RLD is the first party to join the ruling coalition after the general elections of 2009.
The negotiations between the two parties have been going on for several months, but they came to fruition only on Saturday evening, when Mr. Singh called on Congress president Sonia Gandhi at her residence.
He expressed his desire to join the UPA and this was welcomed by Ms. Gandhi, said senior Congress leader Mohan Prakash, who was present at the meeting. Later, party general secretary Janardan Dwivedi added that the Congress president had agreed to the inclusion of the RLD in the UPA “in principle” and Mr. Singh was expected to write to Ms. Gandhi, after which all the formalities would be completed.
Mr. Singh will also shortly meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh; Mr. Prakash indicated that Mr. Ajit Singh might join the Union Cabinet, as like other partners in the UPA, the RLD would also “get its share in power.” Current speculation is that Mr. Singh will get the Civil Aviation berth, now held by Vayalar Ravi, who also holds the Overseas Indian Affairs portfolio.
Describing the RLD-Congress alliance for the U.P. Assembly elections as a “game changer,” Mr. Prakash added that the former Union Minister and Samajwadi Party (SP) Rajya Sabha MP, Rasheed Masood, as also several other senior leaders, would shortly join the Congress. Mr. Masood has only completed one year and five months of his six-year term in the Rajya Sabha, but it is expected that he will resign his seat.
Mr. Masood, who has a following in western U.P.'s Saharanpur and neighbouring districts, comes from Lok Dal stock; the Lok Dal was, of course, once led by Ajit Singh's father, Charan Singh. His entry into the Congress will therefore complement the party's tie-up with the RLD and, hopefully, consolidate the Muslim-Jat vote in western U.P.