M A I N   N E W S

DMK threatens to pull out
Seeks promised berths, final decision today
Arup Chanda
Tribune News Service

Chennai, May 24
Within 48 hours of being sworn in the Congress-led United People’s Alliance (UPA) ministry has run into rough weather with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) threatening to pull out of the Central Government unless its ministers are allotted the promised portfolios.

The DMK President, Mr M Karunanidhi, said here today, “The continuation of the DMK ministers in the government depends on the Prime Minister and they will not assume charge unless the problem over allocation of portfolios is resolved.”

Displaying the written agreement between him and the Congress General Secretary, Mr Janardan Reddy, a visibly disturbed Mr Karunanidhi said his party would take the final decision tomorrow.

He said, “The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, today spoke to me over telephone and requested our ministers to take charge and said the problem would be resolved within 10 days. He asked us to be patient but I would be happy if it was resolved by tomorrow.”

He said the DMK’s highest body would meet tomorrow to take stock of the situation and take a final decision.

Mr Karunanidhi said that after eight days of discussion regarding allocation of portfolios he returned from New Delhi with the impression that the agreement was sealed.

“But they did not allot us the Ministry of Shipping, Ministry of State for Finance with the Revenue Department and the Department of Personnel in the Ministry of Home Affairs. They did not even inform me about the changes and I do not know the reason behind such changes,” he said.

The veteran Dravidian leader was the first coalition leader to accuse the new Prime Minister and said, “If such an agreement can be reversed as soon as I leave Delhi, it can mean the Prime Minister is in the grip of a coterie.”

However, he refused to identify the coterie.

Mr Karunanidhi stuck to his stand that the newly-sworn in DMK ministers would not assume office and said, “We are ready to talk until the problem is resolved. I am not in the habit of setting deadlines and issuing threats but I fail to understand how a decision reached after eight days of discussion can be changed just like that.”

He said, “In retrospection we feel our earlier decision of not joining the government was wiser but we were compelled by leaders like Ms Sonia Gandhi, the CPM General Secretary, Mr H.S. Surjeet, the CPI General Secretary, Mr A.B. Bardhan and a former Prime Minister Mr V.P. Singh.”

Mr Karunanidhi felt that the DMK’s decision would not affect the stability of the Central Government and the party’s relations with the Congress.

However, the Congress seemed to be getting the first taste of coalition politics with many others like the Union Minister for Chemicals, Fertilisers and Steel, Mr Ram Vilas Paswan, too, expressing unhappiness over allocation of ministries.

The Congress’ own leaders like Mr K. Karunakaran of Kerala and Mr Giridhar Gomang of Orissa had also expressed unhappiness over the formation of the Union ministry.

While Mr E. Ahmed of the Indian Union of Muslim League, elected from Kerala, had been made the Union Minister of State for External Affairs, no Congress leader from Kerala and Orissa had been allotted a ministerial berth in the present Central Government.

The feeling in DMK circles here was that it would be very difficult for the Prime Minister to allot the shipping ministry to the Union Minister for Surface Transport, Mr T.R. Balu as it had already been given to the another coalition partner leader, Mr Chandrasekhar Rao of the Telengana Rashtriya Samity.

The Departments of Surface Transport and Shipping had always been under one ministry but the last government split it following the Golden Quadrangle project under the Surface Transport Department, which needed exclusive attention.

However, in the absence of a Union Minister of State for Finance in charge of revenue it could be allotted to Mr S.S. Palanimanikkam who had been made the Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry.

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