To brighten the Congress prospects in the coming Uttar Pradesh polls, RLD chief Ajit Singh was inducted in the cabinet as the civil aviation minister on Sunday.
A week ago, the RLD had forged an alliance with the Congress, in which party general secretary Rahul Gandhi had played a pivotal role. And he was there to witness the swearing-in, sitting with Singh’s son Jayant. In Lok Sabha, the ruling coalition’s tally has gone up from 272 to 277. The half-way mark stands at 272.
Singh’s induction in the cabinet was necessary given his unstable track record. He has allied with almost every party in the state and the Centre. He became Union minister thrice, during the National Front, Congress and NDA governments.
While the aviation sector is currently reeling under mounting costs and financial losses, politically, the Congress has everything to gain from the alliance with RJD.
The Congress won barely three seats each in the 2007 Vidhan Sabha and 2009 Lok Sabha elections in western Uttar Pradesh. This time, it has allotted one-third of the 130-odd assembly seats in the area for the RLD.
It has also inducted prominent local Muslim leader Rasheed Masood. The Jat-Muslim combination, it hopes, will help win western Uttar Pradesh. The two groups hold veto power in around 90 assembly seats.
“Jats are unhappy with Ajit’s political somersaults, but a chunk would still support him as they have no alternative,” said Dr Ashok Shastri, academician and political observer from Meerut.
Congress leaders Pradip Mathur, the only MLA in Agra division and Raj Babbar, MP from Ferozabad are upbeat. “The alliance would improve our tally in Agra division,” said Mathur.
Jayant, Singh’s son and a parliamentarian of the party, said, “The RLD-Congress alliance is a winning combination”.
The BJP, with whom the RLD had an alliance for 2009 Lok Sabha elections, is not happy. “Going by caste politics here, RLD-BJP are natural allies,” said BJP leader Satpal Mallick.
But the expected downturn in BJP fortunes is nothing to the damage the SP may sustain, since the Congress is likely to take away a large chunk of its Muslim support base.
Mayawati is expected repeat her strategy of packing this area with Muslim and Jat candidates.