Berth talks in trouble, DMK for outside support to UPA (Lead)

May 22nd, 2009 - 12:35 am ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi/Chennai, May 21 (IANS) As talks between the Congress and DMK over sharing of ministerial berths ran into rough weather, the Tamil Nadu party Thursday evening announced outside support to the UPA and indicated it may not attend the swearing in of the new government Friday.
The DMK, a major alliance partner of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance, after failing to wrest seven berths, including three cabinet, said it was prepared to support the government from outside. This was announced by DMK leader T.R. Baalu, who was transport minister in the outgoing cabinet, after daylong negotiations with top Congress leaders.

“After discussions with the prime minister, we have decided to support the Congress from outside. Our leader Karunanidhi (chief minister M. Karunanidhi) will go back to Chennai tomorrow (Friday) and will hold discussions with the party,” he said.

Meanwhile, a DMK MP, privy to the talks, said the party MPs were returning to Chennai Friday morning and wouldn’t attend the swearing in of the new UPA government in the evening.

The DMK MP said the party wanted three cabinet berths, two minister of state (MoS) and two MoS with independent charge. However, the Congress was willing to give two cabinet and five MoS - what it had earlier.

“It is a question of numbers,” said the DMK MP, referring to the improved Lok Sabha tally of the Tamil Nadu party - to 18 this time from 16 earlier.

Congress spokesman Nedurumalli Janardhana Reddy said: “Whatever we proposed, they did not accept and wanted more. So they said they will support from outside, but it does not mean that dialogue with them is over.

“We are still discussing with them,” he said.

The Congress reportedly wants status quo to be maintained in the case of the DMK.

Senior Congress leaders like Pranab Mukherjee, Ghulam Nabi Azad and others held discussions with DMK party leader and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, assisted by senior leaders like T.R. Baalu, Arcot Veeraswamy, M.K. Alagiri, Dayanidhi Maran and others.

Some DMK leaders are hoping there would be no repeat of the 2004 episode.

In 2004, within 48 hours of the UPA ministry being sworn in, the DMK threatened to pull out its nominees on the ground that the promised portfolios were not allotted to its members.

At that time, DMK leader M. Karunanidhi categorically said that continuation of DMK ministers in the government depends on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

He said the DMK ministers will not assume charge if the portfolio allocation issue was not resolved and showed the media the written agreement between him and the Congress general secretary.

His complaint then was that the Congress did not allot DMK the Ministry of Shipping, Ministry of State of Finance with the Revenue Department and the Department of Personnel.

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