India's new Foreign Affairs Minister, 59-year-old Salman Khurshid, is on familiar ground.
He was the junior minister for External Affairs from 1993 to 1996. His father, Khurshed Alam Khan, had also served as Foreign Affairs Minister.
Mr Khurshid's huge promotion - he was Law Minister and was also looking after Minority Affairs till today - has been bestowed by his party at a time when he has been accused of running an NGO that embezzled lakhs meant to empower the differently abled. Mr Khurshid is known for his proximity to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son, Rahul. Their families have a long and close political association. His elevation to one of the Big 4 Ministries (Foreign, Home, Defence and Finance) is the Congress' way of adrenalizing his defense and of proving that it will not surrender to the agenda of opposition parties, which have been asking for Mr Khurshid's immediate dismissal.
The NGO accused of financial irregularities is named the Dr Zakir Hussain Memorial Trust, after Mr Khurshid's maternal grandfather and India's third president.
The charges against the non-profit organization, headed by Mr Khurshid and run by his wife, Louise, were broadcast first by a Hindi news channel and appropriated soon by activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal, who has launched a new anti-graft party.
Mr Khurshid has sued the TV channel for defamation in multiple courts. Mr Kejriwal has been demanding his resignation. Reacting to the minister's elevation today, Mr Kejriwal tweeted,
"Reshuffle exposes this govt. Corrupt are not just protected but also
The activist-politician has also vowed to lead a rally against the minister in his constituency of Farrukhabad in Uttar Pradesh. Mr Kejriwal's decision to take the battle to the minister's turf had resulted in an unsavoury moment for Mr Khurshid, usually considered among the more suave leaders of his party and of the political tribe in general.
Surrounded by supporters at his residence, Mr Khurshid had threatened, "Let him go to Farrukhabad. But how will he return?" He also declared, "As the Law Minister, I am trained to play by the book. But I can also work with blood."
The district administration of Farrukhabad, has allowed Mr Kejriwal to hold his promised rally in the minister's constituency on November 1.
Mr Khurshid recently got top billing in two other controversies. In January, while campaigning for his wife Louise who was contesting the state elections from Farrukahabad, and in a speech aimed at wooing Muslim voters, he violated the model code of conduct and promised that the Congress would introduce a new reservation sub-quota of 9% for minorities out of the existing 27% quota for Other Backward Castes. After being censured by the Election Commission, Mr Khurshid vowed to highlight the quota "even if they hang me." He later apologized. The Supreme Court has declared that quota invalid. Louise Khurshid lost the election.
During the same campaign a few days later, Mr Khurshid said that his party president, Sonia Gandhi, "wept when she saw pictures of the Batla House encounter." Mr Khurshid revealed this in Azamgarh, where Muslim families decry attempts to brand their home a breeding-ground for young terrorists. The Batla House encounter is an emotive issue here - in September 2008, the Delhi Police stormed the area known as Batla House after it allegedly received information that a group of terrorists from the Indian Mujahideen were hiding here. Two young men were killed; another two were arrested; all four were from Azamgarh. A Delhi police inspector was also killed.
Cops raided Azamgarh in the weeks after, provoking local resentment. Human rights groups have demanded a judicial inquiry into what they describe as a fake encounter.
His party said that Mr Khurshid's incorrectly represented Mrs Gandhi's reaction; he said he had been misquoted.
Mr Khurshid has three sons and a daughter. He has studied English and Law and was a student of St Stephen's and then Oxford; he taught Law at the famous Trinity College in Oxford. He enrolled at the Supreme Court bar in 1997. He controversially represented the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), accused of repeated terror attacks, when the organization appealed against its ban.
He began his career in politics in 1981 when Indira Gandhi was Prime Minister; he was made an Officer on Special Duty in her office.
He won his first parliamentary election in 1991.
His official profile as a Lok Sabha member lists his interests as wildlife, theatre, cricket and squash.