Karunanidhi battles to end family impasse over Cabinet berths

May 24th, 2009 - 3:44 pm ICT by ANI  

Manmohan Singh Chennai, May 24 (ANI): Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president M Karunanidhi was meeting senior party leaders individually at his residence here on Sunday before taking a final call on whether the DMK would join the Congress-led UPA government or continue to offer outside support.

“The party chief is meeting senior party leaders individually and a final decision on joining the UPA government is expected be known this (Sunday) evening,” a DMK senior leader said, requesting anonymity.

“Our demand was nine ministerial berths. The Congress may settle down for seven,” the leader said, adding that first time parliamentarians may not be given cabinet rank but only Minister of State.

After several rounds of talks on sharing of ministerial berths failed, the DMK had announced last Thursday that it would support the UPA government from outside.

The DMK leader said the Congress wants to keep the infrastructure portfolios like shipping, surface transport and power. However, the DMK is keen to complete the Sethu Samudram project and it feels that if a party member is not given the shipping portfolio then the project to create a shipping canal in the Palk Strait will remain in limbo.

However, the general feeling in the leadership is that the DMK will join the government.

He said if the DMK decides to participate, then a Congress leader would come down to Chennai and both the parties would jointly announce the DMK’s joining the government.

Senior Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader and eldest son of party supreme M. Karunanidhi, M. Azhagiri, created a political controversy of sorts on Sunday, when he said that the Congress leadership had not discussed portfolio allocation with the DMK during their meetings in New Delhi last week.

He said that the decision on portfolios would only be determined after the Congress contacts his party leadership in Chennai.

Azhagiri’s controversial comment came as Karunanidhi was locked in discussions with senior party leaders till late Saturday night, grappling with the question of whether the DMK should accept ministerial berths and portfolios offered by the Congress.

With the second expansion of the cabinet taking place on Tuesaday (May 26), sources say the deal with the Congress could be clinched today.

Karunanidhi is faced with the dilemma of dividing the cabinet berths currently on offer between the family and the party.

Meanwhile, key Congress negotiator, Ghulam Nabi Azad, has said there are no differences of opinion with the Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (DMK) party.

“There is no problem whatsoever with DMK (Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam). We had mutually decided that we would fix some other day to talk to each other because this time we did not have much time. The date of swearing in ceremony was already fixed. And it needed two-three sittings and even DMK itself also said that we’ll sit on some other occasions,” Azad said.

Durai Muruga, a DMK leader, said: “We have discussed all the issues of the party, you asked about joining the Centre and that was also discussed in the meeting and I cannot reveal all the discussed matter to press at the moment.”

Emerging as the third biggest party in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) after the Congress and the Trinamool Congress with 18 seats, DMK is believed to have demanded seven ministerial posts, which was not acceptable to the Congress.

Karunanidhi visited New Delhi on May 19 and held discussion with Prime Minister-elect Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, but the talks were stalled over allocation of cabinet berths.

While the move will not deprive Congress of a majority in parliament, it is seen as a blow to the coalition after it won a sweeping victory in the general election.

Other regional parties in the 543-member Lok Sabha have assured support to the Congress-led coalition of 274 members. (ANI)

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