Berth row solved, DMK to join UPA government (Lead)

May 24th, 2009 - 5:56 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh Chennai, May 24 (IANS) The DMK Sunday decided to join the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the centre and settle for seven ministerial berths, including three cabinet, setting at rest days of wrangling over ministry sharing with the Congress.
“The problem is resolved. We are joining (the UPA government),” Arcot Veeraswami, a senior DMK leader told IANS, here.

“They are working out the finer details. It is only the DMK supremo M. Karunanidhi who can take a final decision on the names for minister,” he added.

According to the agreement reportedly worked out, the DMK will get three cabinet and four Minister of State berths. The names for cabinet rank being floated are of A. Raja, M.K. Azhagiri (Karunanidhi’s son) and Dayanidhi Maran. Among the names for MoS are Kanimozhi, the chief minister’s daughter.

An official announcement of the names will be made Monday, a party source said.

Earlier in the day, Karunanidhi met senior party leaders at his residence to decide on joining the UPA government.

The DMK was demanding nine ministerial berths at the centre - two more over what it had in the previous government, but finally decided to settle for seven, party sources told IANS.

It was also being said that first time parliamentarians would not be given cabinet berths, only MoS. But this has also reportedly been shot down.

Given Azhagiri’s stature within the party - he is the DMK’s organising secretary for the southern districts - and the fact that Maran was offered cabinet rank in the last government - the first time he entered Lok Sabha, the idea of no cabinet rank for first timers seems to have been scrapped.

The DMK move to join the union government comes three days after its announcement Thursday night that it would support the UPA government from outside after its several rounds of talks on sharing of ministerial berths failed.

Manmohan Singh was sworn in as prime minister as well as 19 others as ministers on Friday. The portfolios of six ministers were announced Saturday.

A new round of ministers is expected to be sworn in this week, most probably Tuesday.

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.

The Congress-led UPA commands 322 seats in the new Lok Sabha. The DMK, a major pre-poll ally, has 18 seats and has been bargaining hard for ministerial berths to party leaders, including members of the Karunanidhi family.

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