NEW DELHI: A politician with an uncanny knack for sensing which way the wind is blowing, Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan has a rare distinction of serving as a minister in the cabinets of six prime ministers.
Paswan Thursday took oath as Cabinet minister.
The septuagenarian had started off as a member of the Bihar legislative assembly in the 1960s and shot to fame in the 1977 post-Emergency Lok Sabha polls when he won Hajipur seat by over four lakh votes, then a record margin.
Another emphatic victory in 1989 earned him his first stint in the cabinet of V P Singh, who appointed him as labour minister. Less than a decade later, he was back as railway minister in successive governments headed by H D Deve Gowda and I K Gujaral which together lasted for a couple of years.
The Janata Dal faction, with which he was associated in the 1990s, sided with the BJP-led NDA and Paswan was made the minister for communications, and later coal in the government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Later, he floated his own party with a view to exploring the possibilities as the foremost Dalit leader in Bihar after Babu Jagjivan Ram.
The Gujarat riots of 2002 saw him quit the NDA in protest and gravitate towards the Congress-led UPA, which came to power two years later. He was appointed the minister for chemicals and fertilizers and steel under Manmohan Singh.
His relations with the Congress got strained during the UPA-2 when he was denied a ministerial berth following his party's debacle in the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. Paswan himself was defeated at his own citadel of Hajipur.
Ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls the BJP, which was looking for allies in Bihar so they could help it make up for the loss of Chief Minister Nitish Kumars JD(U), welcomed him with open arms and offered him seven seats to contest.
The LJP won six, including Paswan, his son Chirag and brother Ram Chandra.
As the minister for food and public distribution and consumer affairs under Narendra Modi, Paswan made his mark as a stout votary of the government whenever it came under attack on issues of social justice.
He handled efficiently the pulses and sugar sector crisis besides bringing reforms in the Public Distribution System. He did not contest the recent Lok Sabha polls.
His younger brother and Bihar minister Pashupati Kumar Paras won from Hajipur. Paswan is now set to enter the Rajya Sabha, most likely from Bihar.