NEW DELHI: The Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) leader, Mr Ajit Singh was Sunday inducted into the union cabinet and given charge of the civil aviation ministry, days after his party joined the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) ahead of upcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh. Mr Ajit Singh is an instinctive deal-maker and can quickly see on which side the grass is greener.
This technocrat-turned-politician, son of a former prime minister, is set to fly high again with his swearing in Sunday as India's new civil aviation minister. He returns to the union cabinet after seven years, during which he nursed his party's base in western Uttar Pradesh.
This uncanny instinct for spotting a winning opportunity will be, however, tested as he takes over his new job at a time when national carrier Air India and private airlines are under great stress. But those who have known him in his younger days are hoping that he will put some of the skills he acquired as a computer professional in the US to turn around the fortunes of the airline industry.
Just about everyone in Indian politics cutting across the political spectrum knows him as he has hopped on to disparate alliances with the agility of an acrobat. Ajit Singh has created a record of sorts as he becomes a minister who has worked with four prime ministers from three different political groupings.
Son of a formidable farmer leader Charan Singh, who helmed the country for six months in 1979-1980, the 72-year-old Ajit Singh worked 15 years in the computer industry in the United States before he returned to the country to inherit the political fief of his father in the prosperous western Uttar Pradesh. Ajit Singh joined the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) earlier this month after forging an alliance with the Congress for next year's assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh. RLD has five MPs in the Lok Sabha and one in the Rajya Sabha. Officials said RLD joining the UPA will take the strength of the combine in the Lok Sabha from 272 to 277.
An alumnus of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, and Illinois Institute of Technology, Chi cago, Mr Ajit Singh was first elected to Rajya Sabha in 1986.
A six-time member of Lok Sabha, Ajit Singh represents the family's pocketborough of Baghpat in the lower house of parliament. His RLD wields influence in Jat-dominated western Uttar Pradesh.
Mr Ajit Singh has forayed from Lok Dal to Congress and has allied with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Samajwadi Party.
Perceived as a fairweather friend or an opportunist by his critics, Mr Ajit Singh has switched alliances in an effort to remain on the winning side. The attempts have not been successful always but Mr Ajit Singh has made way into union ministries half way into their tenures.
Mr Ajit Singh was inducted as union minister of industry in the V.P. Singh government. He joined the P V Narasimha Rao government as food minister but resigned from the Congress in 1996.
Mr Ajit Singh formed RLD and joined the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government as agriculture minister in 2001. He was part of the Nati onal Democratic Alliance (NDA) government till May 2003.
Ajit Singh's son, Mr Jayant Chaudhary, is an MP from Mathura.
The RLD had contested the last Lok Sabha elections in alliance with the BJP.