As Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his 19-member cabinet were taking oath at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Friday evening, the DMK leadership stayed closeted in a meeting in Chennai to review their decision to extend only outside support to the government in New Delhi.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi, his eldest son MK Azhagiri and senior leaders like TR Baalu and Arcot Veeraswami had returned to Chennai after a deadlock over the distribution of ministerial berths, but instructed MPs to stay back in New Delhi and attend the swearing in ceremony.
Karunanidhi had left for Chennai on Friday morning, saying the DMK would give only outside support to the Congress-led government.
"We will give outside support to the central government as the formula given by Congress has to be discussed at the party's executive council meeting," DMK chief Karunanidhi told reporters at Delhi airport before leaving.
However, the Congress continued to be a "friend", said Baalu who left the national capital to reach Chennai early in the morning after talks between the two failed on Thursday night.
"Congress is a friend and DMK MPs will attend the swearing-in ceremony of the Manmohan Singh government in Delhi on Friday evening," he said at Chennai airport.
The DMK, it is learnt, was asking for nine ministerial berths - five cabinet-rank and four ministers of state (MoS). The Congress, sources claimed, would give no more than three cabinet rank ministers and four MoS.
When asked if the DMK's wishes would be granted, Congress spokesperson Janardhan Dwivedi told reporters in New Delhi: "There is a solution to every problem."
He denied speculation that the Congress objected to accommodating former ministers TR Baalu and A Raja in the ministry and said: "We have nothing to do with individuals. It is the party's (DMK) prerogative to choose its representatives."
The negotiations are still on, a Congress leader told IANS.
Congress sources said the party would send its general secretary Ghulam Nabi Azad to Chennai to mollify the DMK, which has contributed 18 seats to the United Progressive Alliance's (UPA) kitty of 322 - including outside support from the Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD).
Party spokesperson in Chennai Nedurumalli Janardhana Reddy said on Thursday evening: "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."
Thursday night's talks featured senior Congress leaders like Pranab Mukherjee and Ghulam Nabi Azad. Karunanidhi led the DMK team, assisted by Baalu, Arcot Veeraswamy, Dayanidhi Maran and others.
There had been a similar deadlock in 2004, when 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.