DMK sulks over cabinet berths for Karuna’s kin; Mamata mollified | india | Hindustan Times
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DMK sulks over cabinet berths for Karuna’s kin; Mamata mollified

india Updated: May 22, 2009 02:19 IST
Saroj Nagi

Five days after a stunning victory, the United Progressive Alliance hit its first roadblock on Thursday with the Dravid Munetra Kazagham threatening to stay out of government after failing to get the cabinet berths it wanted.

“We will give outside support,” said DMK’s T.R. Baalu.

A resurgent Congress is adamant on having its way on government formation, particularly in keeping out of cabinet people with dubious track record.

DMK patriarch and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, 84, may not be in town for the swearing-in of the UPA government on Friday.

He plans to leave for Chennai with his retinue of family and friends: 18 MPs.

This was the first sign of things not being all hunky-dory for the UPA. The other allies — the Trinamool and the Nationalist Congress Party —also put up their demand.

While Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool has settled, talks continue with the NCP.

Karunanidhi had sought four cabinet positions — one each for son M.K. Azhagiri, 58, grand-nephew Dayanidhi Maran, 42, T.R. Baalu, 68, and A. Raja, 46 – and two ministers of state, including one for daughter Kanimozhi, 41.

“They are demanding more than is their due. We cannot concede what they want. But it does not mean the dialogue has stopped,’’ said spokesman Janardan Dwivedi, 63.

But here are four reasons why Congress won’t concede more:

Congress is in a position to hold its own. It has won 61 more seats than in 2004, while DMK has improved its tally by only three and the Nationalist Congress Party, the other ally, stayed where it was, at nine.
Congress has serious doubts about the performance of Raja and Baalu, DMK’s cabinet berth nominees.
Manmohan Singh is keen on using the mandate to give the country a clean and efficient government.
If the Congress concedes more, other allies, such as NCP and Trinamool, may get greedy too.

DMK’s threat to stay out of government may well be just that, a threat. But, no one was willing to find out.

Congress went into a huddle on how best to get the sulking ally back to the negotiating table.

Sonia consulted her senior colleagues, including those who were talking to Karunanidhi and the DMK leaders: Pranab Mukherjee, 73, Ahmed Patel, 59, A.K. Antony, 68, and Ghulam Nabi Azad, 60.

But it’s going to be a long night for Congress negotiators. Congress negotiators struck a late night deal with the Trinamool — one cabinet berth for Mamata and six ministers of state slots for her party. She had earlier demanded one more ministerial seat than DMK (as it won one more than DMKs 18).

The NCP, the other ally, wants two cabinet berths and one minister of state position; it had one cabinet position, one minister of state with independent charge position and one minister of state position in the last government.

Talks continue.