An IIT Kharagpur alumni and Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) leader Ajit Singh was yesterday inducted into the Union cabinet and given charge of the Civil Aviation Ministry. Singh had joined the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) a week ago.

Those present at the swearing-in ceremony included Vice President Hamid Ansari, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi and a number of Union ministers and senior Congress leaders.

He was administered the oath of office by President Pratibha Patil in the Ashoka Hall of the Rashtrapati Bhawan. 

Singh wields considerable influence in western Uttar Pradesh and his induction in the government is expected to strengthen electoral prospects of the Congress Party in the upcoming elections in UP.

Coming out of Rashtrapati Bhawan, Singh said that the Congress-RLD would provide voters an alternative that they didn't have till now.

"People are fed up with Mayawati. However, they didn't have a clear alternative. With Congress and RLD coming together, people will now have the much-needed option," Singh said. He added that the outcome of the UP election would have a great impact on national politics.

It has to be noted that Singh has struck an alliance with all prominent parties in the state -- including Congress, BJP, BSP and the SP -- to be in power.

Also, the RLD had contested the 2009 Lok Sabha elections as an ally of the BJP.

The 'chair' man
Son of former Prime Minister Chaudhary Charan Singh, Ajit Singh entered politics in 1986 after returning from United States. Since then he has won the Lok Sabha elections six times and had lost only once in 1998.

This is the fourth time Ajit Singh has become a union minister. He became a cabinet minister for the first time in the VP Singh government in 1989 and served as the Industry Minister. He was also part Narasimha Rao government and joined his government in 1995. 

His third stint as a cabinet minister was in the BJP-led NDA government, when he became the Agriculture Minister in '01.