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DMK sorts family feud, back in fold

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam patriarch M. Karunanidhi has finalised his list of three nominees for the Union Cabinet: eldest son MK Azhagiri, grandnephew Dayanidhi Maran and A. Raja. Party veteran TR Baalu didn’t make it, report MR Venkatesh and Varghese K George.
Hindustan Times | By M.R. Venkatesh and Varghese K George, Chennai
UPDATED ON MAY 25, 2009 01:16 PM IST

Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) patriarch M. Karunanidhi (85) has finalised his list of three nominees for the Union Cabinet: eldest son M.K. Azhagiri (59), grandnephew Dayanidhi Maran (42) and A. Raja (46). Party veteran T.R. Baalu (67) didn’t make it.

Though no official announcement was made till late night, Maran is likely to get IT and Communications, Azhagiri chemicals and fertilizers and Raja textiles or labour.

The council of ministers will be expanded on Tuesday, followed by the announcement of portfolios for all.

Karunanidhi had to reconcile competing claims between party seniors and loyalists who have slogged it out for the DMK for years, and the new emerging equations around Azhagiri as the Congress refused to increase its offer of three cabinet and four ministers of states to the southern ally.

Karunanidhi strained every nerve in adjudicating rival claims and had to take an epidural injection on Saturday night for his back pain. He’s been in a wheelchair since major spinal surgery last February.

DMK senior K. Anbazhagan managed to persuade Baalu to opt out, assuring him of a government position befitting his experience, according to party sources. Karunanidhi’s poetess-daughter Kanimozhi (41) may also opt out in a matching concession from the family.

The reconciliation between Azhagiri and Dayanidhi Maran — who were undercutting each other till Sunday — became apparent later in the night as they, along with the other cabinet-hopeful Raja, drove together in the same car from Karunanidhi’s Gopalapuram residence to his other home in the city for a possible final round of talks.

Senior Congress sources told Hindustan Times in Delhi the party never objected to any particular member of the DMK being nominated to the Union council of ministers.

But the coalition leader told the DMK in no uncertain terms that it couldn’t expect anything more than it had in 2004 — three cabinet ministers and four ministers of state — and would have to settle for some changes in portfolios.

The DMK was also told that the Congress would take the ministry of road transport and highways — which was with the DMK in the previous government. Obliquely referring to this, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had said on Friday that "infrastructure needed some focused attention".

Congress sources told HT that the partners discussed performance-related issues of some DMK ministers, but the party never talked about keeping anyone out. Under Baalu, the National Highways Authority of India has had four chairmen in 21 months. "That the Congress objected to particular ministers was perhaps a smokescreen created by the DMK elements to settle its internal matters. We have offered them three cabinet berths, and it’s for the DMK to decide who will occupy them," he said.

The source specifically rejected as baseless reports that Raja, Baalu and Azhagiri were asked to be kept out of the ministry. "It’s for Karunanidhi to decide,” he said.

"Congress has been generous to its pre-poll allies,” the source said, adding, “We got 61 seats more than our 2004 tally and could have claimed more ministries. But the party was willing to give NCP and DMK what it had in the previous ministry.”

Congress leader Gulam Nabi Azad, aided by a Chennai businessman, is in touch with the DMK leadership. National Security Advisor M.K. Narayanan met Karunanidhi in Chennai to smoothen out the rough edges, and there was nothing between the Congress and DMK to be settled, said the source. “It was an issue within the DMK.”

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