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India Singh Expands Cabinet to Include Ally as Aviation Minister

India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inducted a minister into his cabinet today to accommodate a regional party that joined the federal ruling coalition last week.

Ajit Singh, 72, the leader of the Rashtriya Lok Dal party that has a voter base in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, was sworn in today as the minister for civil aviation, according to an e-mailed statement from President Pratibha Devisingh Patil’s office. Vayalar Ravi was the minister for aviation, in addition to being the minister for overseas Indian affairs, before today’s appointment, according to the prime minister’s website.

The Congress party, which heads the national coalition government, forged the alliance with the Rashtriya Lok Dal to boost its prospects in Uttar Pradesh, where elections are due in the first half of 2012. Rahul Gandhi, scion of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, has started a campaign to help return the Congress to power in India’s most-populous state, 23 years after his party lost to regional groupings.

The Rashtriya Lok Dal’s five members in the lower house of parliament will also help increase the strength of Manmohan Singh’s coalition to 268, which is four short of a majority.

Ajit Singh had earlier served as the farm minister in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s cabinet between 2001 and 2003.

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