Allies bargain hard for berths, PM puts off meet with president

May 21st, 2009 - 1:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, May 21 (IANS) A meeting scheduled between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Pratibha Patil Thursday morning on government formation was postponed, reportedly because the list of the council of ministers was yet to be finalised, sources said.
According to a top government source, the Congress led United Progressive alliance’s key allies that included the DMK (which won 18 seats) and the Trinamool Congress (19) intensified their demand for more ministerial positions than they had been offered.

Once the list of council of ministers has been sorted out, the prime minister is expected to call on Patil later in the day. Manmohan Singh will be sworn in Friday as prime minister of India for the second consecutive term.

The DMK has reportedly sought seven posts, including four cabinet portfolios, while the Trinamool Congress (TMC) wanted six.

Highly placed sources told IANS that DMK chief M. Karunanidhi’s wish list included cabinet posts for his son M.K. Azhagiri, daughter Kanimozhi, grand nephew Dayanidhi Maran and Helen Davidson, the only woman elected from Tamil Nadu in the just-concluded Lok Sabha polls.

The DMK is making a bid for key ministries including surface transport, railways, IT and communications and tourism.

Veteran Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee, who is spearheading discussions with the DMK, has already had a “lengthy session” with Karunanidhi once and will be meeting him again to firm up the ministerial berths.

TMC leader Mamata Banerjee who is eyeing the railways portfolio for herself is also keen on coal and mines and civil aviation ministries. Party insiders said Dinesh Trivedi, Sudip Bandopadhyay, Sultan Ahmed and Mukul Roy of the TMC are likely to become ministers. With 19 seats, the TC is now the UPA’s second largest member after Congress.

The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) with nine seats is hopeful of retaining the agriculture and civil aviation ministries but is reportedly not averse to be given the power ministry in the event of civil aviation being handed over to the TMC.

The Congress party is expected to retain all the top five cabinet posts including finance, home, external affairs, defence and commerce.

The UPA has the support of 322 MPs, including the 48 MPs from the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi met the president at Rashtrapati Bhavan Wednesday evening to stake claim to form the government.

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