DMK-Congress berth sharing talks run into trouble

May 21st, 2009 - 11:05 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi/Chennai, May 21 (IANS) Talks on sharing of ministerial berths in the new UPA government ran into rough weather Thursday evening with major alliance partner, the DMK after failing to wrest seven berths, including three cabinet, said it was prepared to support the government from outside.
DMK leader T.R. Baalu, who was transport minister in the outgoing cabinet, came out of the Congress ‘war room’ in New Delhi after daylong negotiations with top Congress leaders and announced that his party had decided to offer outside support to the government.

“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.

According to a DMK MP, privy to the talks, the DMK 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.

Congress leaders Pranab Mukherjee, Ghulam Nabi Azad and others held long discussions with DMK party leader M. Karunanidhi and others on the issue.

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.

According to a DMK leader, the party this time wants additional ministerial berths as compared to the previous government as its tally of Lok Sabha members has gone up.

In the last government the DMK had seven ministers, two of them with cabinet rank.

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